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Robert De Niro confirms his Joker character's connection to an earlier Scorsese role

By Brian Silliman

It's a small moment, but you can see Robert De Niro very briefly in the newly released first trailer for Joker. Comparisons are already being made between this film and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and De Niro's involvement only stokes that flame. His character here is a television host, however, and it is drawing more comparison to another one of the actor's collaborations with Scorsese.

De Niro's Joker character is named Murray Franklin, and since the film is set in 1981, there's more than a little resemblance to De Niro's character in the 1981 film The King of Comedy. De Niro confirms the connection in a new interview with Indiewire.

“There’s a connection, obviously, with the whole thing,” De Niro said, adding, “But it’s not as a direct connection as the character I’m playing being Rupert many years later as a host.”

Rupert Pupkin is the name of De Niro's character in the Scorsese classic, a man who is obsessed with a TV host played in the film by Jerry Lewis. Rupert ends the film landing a dream job after going to jail, though whether that is or isn't real is a subject for debate. De Niro confirmed that this new creation of Murray Franklin was conceived in the spirit of Rupert, but that it is not the same character.

If Joker had decided to go that way, and actually feature a successful Rupert from a completely different film, would De Niro have done it? “If they would’ve proposed that to me, I would’ve said, ‘That’s interesting, maybe we’ll try to do that,’” De Niro said. He also said that by making a film like this, "it is connected in a way, as you’ll see.”

Exactly how it's connected is anyone's guess. With this movie, Joker and De Niro could start talking about milking cats and the circle of trust and we'd probably go along with it.

Joker is expected to smile wide on Oct. 4.