Joker director Todd Phillips recently told Empire magazine that some people will be “mad” after watching his movie’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime. He believes that might be the case because the origin story doesn’t originate within the comic book source material but, instead, follows Phillips and screenwriter Scott Silver’s reimagining of the origins of Arthur Fleck, a mentally-ill, failed stand-up comedian who goes on to become one of the most terrifying supervillains in pop culture history. The Joker is a master of chaos, and Robert De Niro, who plays talk show host Murray Franklin, dealt with a real-life taste of chaos as filming commenced.
Phillips, in talking further with Empire, revealed how De Niro received a pipe bomb on the first day of filming. This development was part of the so-called “MAGA bomber” wave of explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats and news organizations that have been critical of President Trump. The Hangover trilogy director said that the investigation spread to the Joker set:
“We had FBI guys showing up to search the set,” Phillips recalls. “And I thought, ‘Oh god, what’s he gonna be like?’ And he comes in like it’s nothing, just ready to rock, knew his shit. He’s amazing.”
As Phillips described what a total pro De Niro was on the set (showing up immediately after receiving a pipe bomb might even demonstrate an absurd level of dedication), he also revealed that the veteran actor “loved the script.” Phillips said that he confessed to De Niro that the film was indeed influenced by some of his classic films, including Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The film’s first trailer definitely throws vibes from the former film, and with Joker, De Niro’s character eerily appears to be the counterpart to his The King Of Comedy character — a hopeful comedian who abducts a talk show host while trying to gain a shot at stardom.
Joker, which (obviously) stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role and co-stars Zazie Beetz and Marc Maron, opens on October 4.