Exclusive: Joker movie director Todd Phillips discusses taking cues from The Hangover trilogy: "Those movies are as dark as shit"

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Despite the name and the permanent smile, few previous movie incarnations of the Joker have actually had us laughing – rather, the likes of Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson have had us cowering in our seats, praying that Batman saves the day sooner rather than later. Yet, for their Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker, Warner Bros has employed Todd Phillips, best known for helming The Hangover trilogy, to direct. And, perhaps surprisingly, Phillips is taking queues from those comedy movies for the forthcoming comic book adaptation. 

“I always think that the Hangover movies are as dark as shit,” Phillips tells Total Film magazine, our sister publication. “Everybody always attacks me for the Hangover movies, saying they’re nihilistic. And I’m like, ‘What do you mean? That’s what makes it funny. Nastiness is funny, if you say it right.’” 

Phillips goes on to stress how the leap from alpha-male ‘banter’ to the Clown Prince of Crime is not, actually, all that far. "The whole reason I ever got into comedies is because of the subversive and irreverent nature of them," he continues. "Now, it’s very hard to make comedies and to not offend people. The world has become so touchy about so many things that it’s not fun to be funny any more. So it’s like, ‘You know what? You can have your comedies. I’m going to go over here and try this.’ Because there are other ways to be irreverent. You could take the comic- book genre and turn it on its head.”

The director spoke at length with Total Film magazine about the Joker for new issue's cover feature, with Phillips also touching on how they managed to get Phoenix on board as the eponymous character, the movies that influenced them, and touched upon whether there could be a sequel. The new issue of  reaches store shelves on August 23. Check out more from Total Film's Joker cover feature here. Meanwhile, Joker reaches cinemas October 4.

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Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.