Director Todd Phillips on Joker: “You’re Not Supposed to Be Rooting for Him”

NOTE: The following article may reveal some very minor spoilers about Joker.

Joker director Todd Phillips answered some questions after screening the film at Toronto International Film Festival, including one with regards to how the audience is supposed to perceive the character.

Phillips clarified that the actions of Arthur Fleck aren’t supposed to be adored, but that the audience is meant to slowly find their moment at which to lose support for the film’s main character:

We approached it, quite honestly, like we’re doing an origin story of a villain. But the villain is
the hero and you root for him until you can’t root for him any longer. And that point is different for
certain people but Arthur’s actions in this movie are abhorrent by the end, you’re not supposed
to be rooting for him.

The idea behind the character, Phillips said, is for the audience to slowly experience Arthur’s transformation between someone it may get behind to someone it absolutely can’t.

So there’s this idea of like ‘what happens if the villain is a hero’ at the beginning and then, because of Joaquin’s brilliant acting, I kind of describe it as a volume knob from 0 to 11. And he’s slowly, slowly turning. It’s not like somebody said to me ‘well when does he turn into the Joker?’. It’s like ‘he goes into a phone booth and comes out as the Joker’. It really, when you watch the movie again if you ever do, you can really notice this kind of slow transformation that happens. The idea was to sort-of to do it almost as an origin story of a hero where you’re really rooting for him and you feel for him and then there’s a point – and it’s different for everyone – where you’re like ‘I’m out’!

You can see hear that quote on the Q&A video from TIFF below:

Joker opens in theaters this October.

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

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