‘Joker’ Director Todd Phillips Details His Original Pitch to Warner Bros.

Since Joker arrived in theaters in October 2019, we’ve learned a lot about how the film came together. The behind-the-scenes stories of how Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips created Arthur Fleck are just as intriguing as the finished product. And seeing how Joker has resonated with audiences, these exuberant stories probably aren’t going to stop anytime soon.

No one — including Phillips and Phoenix — could have predicted the cultural phenomenon their film would create. Much like Arthur unleashed a revolution in Gotham City, Joker has shaken up the industry with its billion-dollar success story. In fact, Phillips is almost certainly not done with the DC Comics’ stable of characters.

Todd Phillips at a screening of 'Joker'
Todd Phillips at a screening of ‘Joker’ | Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences

The distinctive vision for ‘Joker’

The impact left by Joker began before the film even hit theaters. With a bleak, hopeless tale told from a twisted perspective, some feared Joker would lead to real-life violence. But for Phillips, the goal was simply to strip the theatrical supervillain of his comic book artifice.

That approach has left Joker strangely immune to brimming criticisms of the superhero genre. The Clown Prince of Crime is arguably the most popular comic book baddie of all time. And Phillips found a way to tap into his fan base without sacrificing the violence and pathos inherent in the character’s nature.

But this wasn’t his only goal. Phillips has since discussed how he approached Warner Bros. with an idea to bring such dark turns to other famous DC characters. Now he’s offered a bit more detail about it all.

Todd Phillips was thinking bigger

Although a Joker sequel isn’t happening (yet), Phillips disclosed his concept of beginning a label of edgier comic book stories at Warner Bros. Essentially, this would be the cinematic equivalent of the comics’ DC Black Label series. In a recent chat with IGN, Phillips expanded on this concept with the full extent of his idea.

[The label pitch] wasn’t freeform. I pitched it as three movies, Joker being the first with me, and then these two other movies, with two other directors. But I don’t really want to name them, because then it’ll become a thing and I’m pulling these directors into it when I’ve never even told them about it. It was just me telling Warner Bros. about it.

A trio of DC Black films doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now that Joker is a hit. But before its release, it stands to reason Warner Bros. wouldn’t be ready to sign on for such a risky proposition. Still, Phillips does sound like he had a pretty clear idea of what this three-film slate could be.

DC Films is working on something

Since Phillips declined to name the two directors he mentioned, we can only speculate on which filmmakers and characters he included. Likely, these would also center on either DC villains or anti-heroes. As such, it’s a safe bet that rumored Lex Luthor film was one of them.

Of course, Joker has changed everything. Not only are Phillips and Phoenix probably coming back for a sequel at some point. But we can only imagine Warner Bros. will have a very different response to Phillips’ DC Black ideas now.

Granted, discussions still need to take place, and contracts need to be worked out. Yet, Joker fans can rejoice in the fact we have seen far from the last of this darker side of DC Films. Until then, the digital and Blu-ray release of Joker is just around the corner.