Robert De Niro starred in the seminal film ‘The King of Comedy’ about a struggling stand-up comedian who kidnaps a talk show host in hopes of scoring his big break. Now the show is on the other foot, as De Niro plays talk show host Murray Franklin in Todd Phillips‘ upcoming ‘Joker’. Joaquin Phoenix plays the struggling comedian this time, known as Arthur Fleck. Over the course of the film, Arthur spirals into a world of crime and corruption.
Director Phillips describes working with De Niro, saying:
“Bob really loved the script. I met with him and said, ‘I’d be lying to you if I said we weren’t influenced by a lot of your movies.’ I talked with him about ‘Taxi Driver’ and about ‘The King Of Comedy’, which is one of my favorite movies of all time.”
The veteran actor wasn’t even daunted when an explosive device was sent to his Manhattan production office at the start of filming.
“We had FBI guys showing up to search the set, and I thought, ‘Oh god, what’s he gonna be like?’ And he comes in like it’s nothing, just ready to rock, knew his shit. He’s amazing.”
You can read more about Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’ in the new issue of Empire magazine. Meanwhile, here is a photo of De Niro from the film:
In addition to directing, Phillips co-wrote the script with Scott Silver. ‘Joker’ also stars Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Brian Tyree Henry, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, and Josh Pais. The film is loosely inspired by the DC Comics character.
Living in Gotham in 1981, Arthur Fleck struggles with his mental health while taking care of his mom (also mentally unstable), a woman who was a housekeeper for the Wayne Family for 12 years and cannot get a response from Thomas Wayne, who she has been trying to get in touch with for some time. Arthur has a social worker that he sees regularly, tends to bursts into weird laughing fits when nervous, and is living in a Gotham that is dirty from a garbage strike and an inordinate amount of crime, desperately in need of cleaning up. Hence why Thomas Wayne has decided to run for Mayor, which not everyone is happy with. After losing his job, Arthur loses it and ends up killing three business-men types on the subway after he sees them harassing a woman and sparks a “resist” movement of the poor against the wealthy, with Wayne as a symbol for the rich. After a disastrous try at stand-up comedy, Fleck catches the attention of the host of a show called ‘Live With Murray Franklin,’ who later invites him on the show. Before that show, Fleck discovers a letter his mom has written to Wayne claiming Arthur is Wayne’s son (making him a half-brother to Bruce Wayne). Eventually Arthur finds out it was a lie, and that his mom allowed him to be sexually abused as a child, so he heads to Arkham Asylum and kills her before fully embracing the Joker persona, going on Murray Franklin’s show, shooting the host, and making a speech which incites a full-on riot in the city, which leads to the Crime Alley shooting of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of young Bruce Wayne. The film ends with the police chasing and then catching the Joker after he is hit by a taxi, and he is then locked up in Arkham Asylum, where we last see him dancing around his cell, fully insane.