‘The People’s Joker,’ Unauthorized Trans Batman Movie, Dropped from TIFF Over Rights Issues

The trans origin story set in the Batman universe was not licensed by DC or Warner Bros. Discovery.
The People's Joker
"The People's Joker"

The People’s Joker,” an unauthorized movie set in the Batman universe that reimagines the Joker via a trans origin story, has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival over “rights issues.” This is according to a message posted on the festival’s ticketing page for “The People’s Joker,” informing attendees that all forthcoming screenings of the movie would be canceled.

The message on TIFF’s website reads, “The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience. Current ticket holders will receive an email from TIFF Customer Relations with information on their purchase.”

Directed by Vera Drew, “The People’s Joker” is not licensed by DC or Warner Bros.

Representatives for the film had no comment. IndieWire reached out to Warner Bros. Discovery representatives as well. A source close to the matter told IndieWire that Warner Bros. informed the filmmakers of a copyright issue, as “People’s Joker” uses characters including the title villain and a Harlequin a la DC’s Harley Quinn, and so the unlicensed movie was withdrawn from the fest.

The movie, per an official synopsis, follows “an unfunny aspiring clown who, after years numbing herself with irony and an inhalant called Smylex, grapples with gender identity, first love, and old foes all while founding an illegal comedy theater in Gotham City. This heartfelt and absolutely bonkers film features the work of 200 independent artists on three separate continents, all made during a global pandemic!”

Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based director, editor, and writer Vera Drew also stars in the film, which was programmed at the festival as part of its Midnight Madness lineup.

The film first screened on Tuesday night to positive reactions but all following screenings — including Wednesday and Saturday public presentations and a Thursday morning press and industry screening — have been canceled. UTA is repping the movie in Toronto.

Per Variety, Canadian Press said on Wednesday that during the post-screening Q&A, Drew talked about editing scenes from Todd Phillips’ 2019 “Joker” out of “The People’s Joker” that she had included.

Warner Bros. Discovery and Todd Phillips are meanwhile at work on their own return to the Joker universe, with the sequel “Joker: Folie à Deux,” going into production later this fall. The movie reunites the director with Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, and this time he’s joined by the likes of Brendan Gleeson, Catherine Keener, and, of course, Lady Gaga.

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