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Joker director Todd Phillips says tales of a sequel are greatly exaggerated

At a screening for Joker, Phillips claimed reports of a sequel caught him off guard.

Joaquin Phoenix applying face paint in the movie “Joker.” Courtesy of TIFF
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Joker director Todd Phillips has denied rumors of a sequel, stating that an earlier report by the Hollywood Reporter that the follow-up was confirmed “came out of nowhere.”

As reported by The Playlist, Phillips made the comments at a WarnerMedia awards screening of Joker in New York Wednesday night. He claimed that, contrary to THR’s reporting just earlier that day, no meetings to discuss the sequel with Warner Bros executives had taken place, and that neither he, nor screenplay writer Scott Silver, nor star Joaquin Phoenix had deals in place to create a second film.

“I thought it was anticipatory at best,” Phillips reportedly stated in reaction to THR’s report, which was later refuted by Deadline.

Notably, however, Phillips didn’t rule out the possibility of another Joker movie down the line. “Obviously, sequels have been discussed when a movie that cost $60 million made $1 billion, but we have not had any serious conversations about it,” he said.

Phillips didn’t address THR’s further reporting that he was seeking to oversee an entire portfolio of DC character origin stories. Instead, he seemed clearly focused on the still-warm media frenzy surrounding Joker.

“We were not really prepared for the level of discourse,” he said.

“Joaquin and I went to theaters around New York the night it opened, and there were six cop cars parked outside of every theater. There were armed police in the theaters. We were like, ‘This is what we’re up against? For real?’ But this is something that was created, not to sound like a wacko, but created by the media.”

Phillips compared the journalistic worry surrounding the film to the 1989 premiere of Spike Lee’s now-venerated film Do the Right Thing, which provoked similar alarmist media coverage that the movie might stoke violence.

But Phillips also hand-waved attempts to definitively state the film’s politics, claiming that both right-wing fans and left-wing fans “see it as an indictment of the other side, which speaks to our times more than anything.”

Phillips also commented on the recent furor from comics fans surrounding director Martin Scorsese, who said that he almost produced Joker, and whose films Taxi Driver and Kings of Comedy are notable influences on the movie. Scorsese recently called Marvel movies non-cinematic, a statement he later attempted to clarify. Phillips didn’t exactly disagree with Scorsese, but said, “my only issue ... is that he’s lumping a lot of movies into one thing, and I think that’s a tough thing to do.”

Clearly, Phillips wanted to downplay the rumors of a Joker sequel and move on. But with awards buzz high for Joker, and the movie recently topping $1 billion worldwide, if a “serious conversation” hasn’t happened yet, it’s only a matter of time.

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