There was a huge amount of skepticism when it was first announced that the director of The Hangover trilogy would be tackling a standalone Joker movie, even with Martin Scorsese attached to produce during the earliest stages of development. After all, an R-rated psychological thriller tracing the origins of the iconic comic book villain seemed completely unnecessary, and Warner Bros. appeared to agree.
In fact, the studio had so little confidence in the project that they refused to stump up the entire budget, despite the $55 million costs being positively meager by the standards of the genre. That decision came back to haunt them in spectacular fashion, of course, as Joker wound up earning over a billion dollars worldwide to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history, leaving WB to split the takings on the most profitable comic book adaptation ever made after co-financing the production with Bron Studios and Village Roadshow Pictures.
Joker was one of the defining films of last year and a firm awards season favorite thanks to racking up eleven Oscar nominations, with Joaquin Phoenix sweeping the board by claiming the Best Actor trophy from almost every major ceremony. And now, a new report reveals that Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich was so against the project at first that he tried his best to stop it from being made at all, and even cut the budget in the hope that Phillips would walk away.
“Film studio chief Emmerich was not a fan of the project, it was defended by worldwide marketing president Blair Rich, who was recently pushed out. Emmerich low-balled on the budget to discourage director Todd Phillips from making it, and when the filmmaker persisted, sold off half the movie.”
Jared Leto definitely wasn’t happy about the fact that Joker existed, but the higher ups at the studio would have adopted an entirely different position on the movie when the first weekend’s box office numbers came in, while Emmerich has likely been ruing his decision to show such little faith in a subversive thriller that wound up recouping the budget almost 20 times over.