Warner Bros’ Joker didn’t exactly have folks rolling in the aisles when it world premiered in competition this evening at the Venice Film Festival, but it did have them firmly on their feet. The Todd Phillips-directed DC origins story was met with an eight-minute standing ovation and shouts of “Bravo!” at its conclusion.
The response was anticipated after early morning press screenings were SRO and reporters later greeted Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Zazie Beetz with hoots and hollers at the press conference.
Joker‘s Venice presence indicates an eye on awards season. It’s already generated early Oscar buzz before arriving here, and as Pete Hammond says in his review, Phoenix is expected to figure heavily in the Best Actor mix.
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The original reinvention of the familiar mythology is a unique standalone story that introduces Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night, but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events.
Earlier today, Phoenix said he was drawn to the project because “we were going to approach it in our own way. I didn’t refer to any past iterations of the character. It just felt like it was our creation.”
Phillips described his take on Arthur as “a guy who is searching for identity who mistakenly becomes a symbol. His goal genuinely is to make people laugh and bring joy to the world.” He also noted that with co-screenwriter Scott Silver, they had “a lot of freedom because Joker never really had an origins story in the comics. We thought it was really liberating because there really were no rules or boundaries, Scott and I just pushed each other every day to come up with something totally insane.”
Warner Bros begins overseas Joker rollout on October 2 with domestic following on October 4.
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