‘Joker’ director Todd Phillips “not prepared” for controversy, calls it “baffling”

"Representation has never equalled endorsement, so it was baffling"

Joker director Todd Phillips has said that he was “not prepared” for the controversy that followed the film’s release.

Upon Joker‘s release last October, the film was criticised for its potentially dangerous impact on young viewers, and was even strongly accused of being “dangerous, irresponsible and morally bankrupt”.

Phillips himself was also called out by victims of a shooting in the US for condoning the violence showing in the film.


Speaking to Empire, Phillips dismissed the criticism as “baffling”.

Asked if he was expecting such a level of criticism, Phillips said: “I was not prepared, quite frankly.

“I was taken aback by people talking about the level of violence in the movie as if it was irresponsible, when to Joaquin [Phoenix] and me, it had felt like the most responsible portrayal of violence I’d seen in a long time in movies.”

Phillips continued: “When you put real-world consequence on violence, isn’t that a responsible way of dealing with it? Isn’t showing violence to be disgusting and horrible more effective and responsible than celebrating violence? And then it snowballed into other things about ‘incel’ culture – a term I had to actually look up on the internet.”

Todd Phillips
Todd Phillips. Credit: Getty Images.

Phillips then referred to a previous comment he made, where he accused the “far left” of “so easily sounding like the far right when it suits their agenda.”

“What I meant by that is this – we all get up in arms about climate change deniers, right? We all go, ‘How can you deny this?’ But to me it’s the same thing,” he said. “Do we want to pretend that we’re not failing as a human experiment? Do we want to pretend that these people don’t exist? What is the harm in shining a light on that? Isn’t that a good thing?”

The director continued: “So I was surprised at that, becoming a tool to be used against the movie when it’s like, isn’t that what’s great about being filmmakers – that we are able to explore these things in a safe environment? It’s a movie, ultimately – and representation has never equalled endorsement, so it was baffling.”


Joker became both the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, and the most profitable comic book movie ever shortly after its release.

It was recently announced that the film is getting a theatrical re-release after receiving 11 Oscar nominations.