Michael Mann Pens Letter Praising ‘Joker’ as a Difficult, Brilliant Achievement

Michael Mann's "Heat" was a big inspiration behind "The Dark Knight," but it's "Joker" and Joaquin Phoenix's performance that has the director overwhelmed.
Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886118az)Robert De NiroTaxi Driver - 1976Director: Martin ScorseseColumbiaUSAScene StillDrama
Editorial use only. No book cover usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock (5881626c)
Robert De Niro
The King Of Comedy - 1982
Director: Martin Scorsese
20th Century Fox
Scene Still
La Valse des pantins
Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/Dc Comics/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885982bl)Heath LedgerThe Dark Knight - 2008Director: Christopher NolanWarner Bros/DC ComicsUSAScene StillAction/AdventureThe Batman - Dark KnightThe Dark Knight, Le Chevalier Noir
Editorial use only. No book cover usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5882314k)
Barbara Eda-Young, Al Pacino
Serpico - 1973
Director: Sidney Lumet
Scene Still
17 Images

Michael Mann was supposed to interview “Joker” director Todd Phillips after a recent private screening of his comic book drama in Los Angeles, but a scheduling conflict got in the way. “Hostiles” and “Out of the Furnace” director Scott Cooper filled in as moderator, but Mann wasn’t going to let his absence stop him from showering “Joker” with praise. Mann sent a letter to Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix, and the entire “Joker” team that Cooper read aloud before the Q&A session with the “Joker” filmmaker began. To call Michael Mann a “Joker” fan would be a big understatement.

“I love this movie,” Mann’s letter begins. “I think it’s brilliant and not only Todd’s best film but it’s exciting because it’s on a frontier. And that’s usually where very good things happen. Todd and Scott [Silver’s] screenplay has that relevance that occurs when work is authentic and not derivative. We find Arthur disturbing and poignant simultaneously. He’s both child victim and adult perpetrator. Both are true, as is the case with most schizophrenics. That both are true is uncomfortable. We find ourselves in a fugue state. It’s counterpoint. It’s why Arthur and the film’s impact sustains so strongly in memory. To build on all of this, and for Joaquin, Todd, and Scott, to impact upon on this powerfully is a difficult accomplishment. Congratulations, Todd!”

Phillips appeared awestruck over Mann’s praise. “That’s amazing to hear a letter from Michael Mann,” the “Joker” director told Cooper. “I’m such a huge Michael Mann fan. He knows that, we’ve spoken about it.”

Mann is far from the only Hollywood heavyweight to weigh in with praise for “Joker.” Last month after “Joker” was released, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain took to social media to call Joaquin Phoenix’s leading performance one of the “greatest pieces of screen acting” she’s ever seen. That “Joker” is making fans out of Hollywood legends is important as the film enters the thick of Oscar season. Phoenix has been widely considered a frontrunner to land a Best Actor nomination, but industry “Joker” love could result in a Best Picture nomination.

“Joker” has been a worldwide box office juggernaut with over $1 billion and counting. If one of the Academy’s top priorities is to get viewers to tune into the Oscars telecast, then the more “Joker” love the better.

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.