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Todd Phillips Originally Pitched ‘Joker’ as the First of Three Comic Book Character Studies

Phillips had three movies, three comic book characters, and three directors in mind when he pitched Warner Bros.' on the DC Dark label.



Warner Bros.

Long before “Joker” went into production at Warner Bros., it got its start as a pitch from Todd Phillips as the first film to make under a proposed subdivision of the studio’s DC Comics banner. The pitch was to create a movie label called DC Black that would specialize in producing comic book movies that are lower-budget character studies. In a new interview with IGN, Phillip says that he pitched DC Black with three movies in mind. In some sense, “Joker” was pitched as an anthology trilogy with two other comic book characters receiving their own “Joker”-like character study films.

“I pitched it as three movies, ‘Joker’ being the first with me, and then these two other movies, with two other directors,” Phillips said. “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.”

According to Phillips, Warner Bros. did not move forward with his DC Black pitch for a simple reason: “Their argument — well, it wasn’t an argument — their thing is, there’s no reason to create its own label, there’s no reason to go to all that trouble,” the director said. “Just when we want to [make] one of these kind of movies, we’ll do it, just like ‘Joker’ is. I get that, but I also thought it was just kind of cool if it became a thing.”

Phillips maintains the DC Black label is “still a great idea.” Now that “Joker” has grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office to become the highest-grossing R-rated release in history and the most profitable comic book film ever made, there stands a good chance that Warner Bros. will want to make not just a “Joker” sequel but also perhaps the two character study comic book films Phillips originally pitched alongside “Joker.” Phillips told IndieWire last month he had not signed any contract yet to do a second “Joker” film, although discussions are being had considering the film’s blockbuster success.

“A movie doesn’t make a billion dollars and they don’t talk about a sequel,” Phillips said. “Joaquin and I have publicly said we’ve been talking about a sequel since week two of shooting because it’s a fun thing to talk about.”

“Joker” was recently named one of the best films of the year by the American Film Institute. The film is expected to pick up Golden Globe and SAG nominations next week for Phoenix’s leading turn.

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