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Todd Phillips screens dark Joker footage at CinemaCon, describes film as 'a tragedy'

By Christian Long
Joker Poster Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix

Just hours after the first poster dropped for Todd Phillips' Joker, the director was at CinemaCon to hype the film as part of the Warner Bros. presentation. While the first trailer for the film is expected to drop tomorrow, con attendees were treated to a teaser ahead of time. 

Phillips told the crowd of film exhibitors that his DC movie is "still taking shape," but commented on the online conversations it inspired, per a report from Deadline. "Most of it hasn’t been very accurate. I guess that’s what happens when you set out to do an origin story about a character that doesn’t have a definitive origin."

As far as the footage screened, it's been compared to the work of Martin Scorsese, particularly Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, which both painted New York City as a trash-strewn dystopia in earthy sepia tones. Scorsese himself was attached to Joker as an executive producer at one point, but had to bow out last summer due to other obligations. 

There's still a connection to The Kings of Comedy, however, as Robert De Niro will be playing late night host Murray Franklin, who was inspired by his character in the 1982 film. 

In the teaser, Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck says, "My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose, to bring laughter and joy to the world," which explains the "Put on a happy face" tagline on today's poster. Then he goes on to say, "Is it just me or is it just getting crazier out there? I used to think my life was a tragedy, but it’s a comedy."

Though Fleck clearly has a sense of twisted optimism, Phillips definitively described the film as "a tragedy." Given that the story will follow Fleck from a down-on-his-luck comedian as he transforms into the Clown Prince of Crime, that seems like a fair assessment. 

Joker will hit theaters on Oct. 4 this year.