The family of a shooting victim doesn't think Joker director Todd Phillips has taken their concerns seriously
The family of a victim in the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises are outraged over Joker director Todd Phillip’s “flippant” remarks about their concerns.
Since opening, Joker has gone on to gross over $1 billion, and has landed its star Joaquin Phoenix at the front of the Oscar race for Best Actor. But the dark thriller has also stirred controversy for its violent storyline and centering on a villain.
When Phillips addressed the backlash on a recent episode of NPR’s “Fresh Air” podcast with Terry Gross, the director said people just like to be outraged.
“We knew our intentions in making the movie. It kind of bummed us out that it was so divisive,” he said, according to IndieWire. “But it does seem to be that we live in an age of outrage now and people look for things to be outraged about and they’re going to be outraged just about that comment, probably. It’s become a thing.”
Now the parents of one shooting victim, who previously signed a letter to Warner Bros. that called for the studio to discontinue profiting off movies that feature gun violence, don’t feel the director is taking their concerns seriously.
“We are outraged because in the face of such carnage, Warner Bros. continues to profit from movies that depict fictional acts of gun violence while donating to lawmakers and candidates who make it easier for individuals to obtain firearms and commit acts of violence in the real world,” Sandy and Lonnie Phillips said in a letter shared on Tuesday on Twitter. “We are outraged at your flippant and dismissive remarks about our very real concerns and we are outraged that Warner Bros. has refused to meet with survivors of gun violence.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, family members of those killed in the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 sent Warner Bros. a letter ahead of the movie’s Oct. 4 release date.
“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” the letter reportedly read.
Though the group didn’t propose pulling the movie’s release, it did reportedly ask the studio behind the film to “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”
After the letter went public, the studio released a statement.
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” it read. “Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Phoenix also addressed the controversy during a press conference before the film’s release, saying he believes audiences will know it’s just a movie.
“Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” he said, according to IGN. “And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”
Phoenix won the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama at the Golden Globes for Joker and is up for best actor at both the SAG and BAFTA awards. He’s highly expected to earn an Oscar nomination, the fourth of his career, on Monday when the list is announced.