Joker was a serious unchallenged moneymaker after it came out. Sure, it courted controversy, and it wasn’t a popular idea when it was pitched, supposedly – just ask Jared Leto.
From the beginning, the movie was one of those the studio had little faith in, based on reports. According to a new one by The Hollywood Reporter, higher-ups at Warner Bros. – especially chairman Toby Emmerich – weren’t keen on making it, although Todd Phillips really wanted to.
Here’s the way THR tells it, “Film studio chief Emmerich was not a fan of the project; it was defended by worldwide marketing president Blair Rich, who was recently pushed out. Emmerich lowballed on the budget to discourage director Todd Phillips from making it, and when the filmmaker persisted, sold off half the movie.”
Joker’s budget was just $55 million. That was a lot of dough to be throwing around at one time – like when Superman IV and Masters of the Universe were considered expensive. Today, it’s closer to the cost of a modest indie, nowhere near the price of your average Marvel movie.
Phillips was eager to make the film with Joaquin Phoenix because he wanted to prove filmmakers and studios can still do what Marvel and the Mouse House “can’t do.” Thus, Joker was shot in New York at real locations without the benefit of visual effects – not that it hurt the end product.
Joker grossed over $1 billion worldwide, becoming the most profitable R-rated comic book movie ever, and trouncing competition this time last year including Terminator: Dark Fate and Doctor Sleep.
When award season rolled around, the picture became the darling and racked up nominations everywhere. Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for Best Actor at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards and won at all those ceremonies.
Joker was also victorious in the category of Best Music – a boon to the career of the score’s Icelandic composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir.
Sadly for WB, they were left with egg on their face. The studio pocketed a small profit, splitting the take with co-producers Village Roadshow and upstart Bron Studios.
It’s interesting to reflect on how Toby Emmerich sounded all in for Joker in 2019 when he stated WB wasn’t going to do things the Marvel way anymore – that is, shared universes. Instead, he expressed confidence in the visions of individual directors.
It’s even more interesting to see how quickly that ship sailed with the studio crawling back to Zack Snyder and one-upping the shared universe concept with a shared multiverse. The Flash, featuring Michael Keaton’s Batman, will usher in the multiverse cinematically in 2022.
Joker’s success is rumored to have earned it a full trilogy in a pocket of that vast continuum. Joaquin Phoenix, who’s reportedly offered a huge raise, shall allegedly return.