Director David Fincher Slams Oscar-Winning Joker as 'a Betrayal of the Mentally Ill'
Acclaimed director David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club) isn't afraid to share his harsh thoughts about the Academy Award-winning Joker.
In an interview with The Telegraph to discuss his new Netflix film, Mank, the Gone Girl director slammed Joker, which won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for Best Actor for playing the film's titular villain.
The psychological thriller has been accused by some for showing sympathy to its murderous main character, as well as for reinforcing the perception that those who suffer from mental illness are prone to violence. Fincher echoed these criticisms while noting that the film was only made popular by the Batman films that came before it.
"I don’t think anyone would have looked at that material and thought, 'Yeah, let’s take Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill and trot it out for a billion dollars," he said in the interview.
Bickle, the disturbed character played by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, and Pupkin, the delusional stand-up comedian also portrayed by De Niro in The King of Comedy, inspired director Todd Phillips' vision in Joker.
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"Nobody would have thought they had a shot at a giant hit with Joker had The Dark Knight not been as massive as it was," Fincher added.
Additionally, the Panic Room director said major filmmakers only make movies that they know will be huge hits.
"None of them want to be in the medium-priced challenging-content business. And that cleaves off exactly the kind of movies I make," he said. "What the streamers are doing is providing a platform for the kind of cinema that actually reflects our culture and wrestles with big ideas: Where things are, what people are anxious and unsure about. Those are the kinds of movies that would have been dead on arrival five years ago."
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Joker tells the unnerving origin story of the DC Comics super-villain and Batman’s arch-nemesis. Released in October 2019, the film earned $93.5 million in its opening weekend.
Ahead of its official release, the movie also garnered critical acclaim at its debut at the Venice Film Festival in late August 2019— it won the Golden Lion award at the festival — and was again applauded at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019.
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Phoenix previously defended the film amid backlash that it would incite copycats.
"Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong," he said.
"And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to,” Phoenix added, speaking at a press conference for the film in 2019, according to IGN. "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."
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