Todd Phillips Reveals the Plot of Joker is Entirely Original

The plot for Todd Phillips‘ Joker has been a well-guarded secret for a long time now. Even the excellent trailer left us with way more questions than answers. The script was co-written by Phillips and Scott Silver, and only the broad strokes have been more or less known for a while now. The film centers on Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, a man “disregarded by society” per Warner Bros.’ synopsis, which will show his transformation from a nobody to Batman’s iconic nemesis. The trailer revealed that the look and feel of Phillips’ Joker is not only different, but it also appears to have been shot in a style as bracingly fresh as Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman (and Gotham) when Batman Begins hit theaters in 2005. Now, thanks to an interview in Empirewe know that Joker is truly an original—it doesn’t even derive from any particular storyline from the comics.

“We didn’t follow anything from the comic books, which people are gonna be mad about,” Phillips told Empire. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”

While this might rankle some comic purists—what, nothing from “The Killing Joke” or “A Death in the Family”?—it fits with Phillips vision for a gritty, stripped down origin story. The talent involved, beginning with Phoenix and extending to fellow castmembers Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Brian Tyree Henry, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy (as Arthur’s mother, Penny—a crucial character), and Bill Camp is reason enough to be excited. It’s also refreshing going into a superhero (or in this case, supervillain) film with absolutely no idea what you’re going to get. There will be clown paint and, we’re guessing, incredible performances. The rest is completely unknown. That’s exciting.

For Phillips, the script was also built around the idea of nabbing Phoenix in the title role. “I think he’s the greatest actor,” he told Empire. “We had a photo of him above our computer while we were writing. We constantly thought, ‘God, imagine if Joaquin actually does this.’” Phoenix did it, and now the rest of us will get to see what a film about the man who becomes the Joker, pegged to nothing but the imagination of the filmmakers, looks like. That’s no joke.

Joker hits theaters on October 4, 2019.

Featured image: ‘Joker’ theatrical poster. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.