'Joker' gets backlash for featuring song by disgraced glam rocker Gary Glitter

Ben Arnold
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (Credit: Warner Bros)
Joaquin Phoenix's Joker includes a controversial song choice. (Photo: Warner Bros)

Some movie-goers are pretty horrified at Todd Phillips’s new movie Joker, and not least because of Joaquin Phoenix's unsettling performance.

The movie features Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2 in a key scene, during which Phoenix's failed comedian, Arthur Fleck, makes his transformation into his psychotic alter ego.

The song plays for around two minutes as Phoenix walks down a long flight of stairs.

Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, was convicted in 1999 for downloading thousands of images of child pornography, and was deported from Cambodia in 2002 on suspicion of child sexual abuse. He was jailed in Vietnam in 2006 for molesting two girls, and on his return to the U.K. was placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Gary Glitter  headshot, former British rock singer, photo
Gary Glitter's song appears in the new Joker film. (Photo: AP)

Then in 2015, Gadd was found guilty of attempted rape, several counts of indecent assault and another count of having intercourse with a girl under the age of 13, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. In the wake of his criminal charges, several sports teams that heavily used the instantly recognizable 1972 song during contests, removed “Rock and Roll Part” from their playlists.

Now movie-goers are concerned that the singer will receive royalties for the song's inclusion in the movie. However, a music industry expert says that is unlikely to be the case.

“Artists are usually paid a one-off ‘synchronization fee’ when their songs are used on movie soundtracks,” Ray Bush, managing director of The Music Royalty Co. tells Yahoo Movies U.K.

“It can range from £500 (about $615 U.S.) for smaller acts up to £250,000-£500,000 ($307,000 to $615,000 U.S.), depending on the artist and the importance to the narrative of the film. There are many middlemen involved, including the record label, Glitter’s agent and sometimes a ‘synchronization’ agent, with artists sometimes only receiving a measly amount from the deal.”

He added that Glitter’s current status wouldn’t have given him much leverage to push for a big payday from the deal.

Glitter would receive residual royalties from the film’s success if the song was included in an album release to promote the film, but as of now, the only soundtrack available for the film is an album featuring Hildur Guðnadottir’s orchestral score. The song is likely to receive a listening boost from its inclusion in unofficial fan-curated soundtrack playlists, but streaming services are likely to pay out only a nominal sum.

English pop singer Gary Glitter on stage in London, 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Gary Glitter on stage in London in 1975. (Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Many who saw the movie over the weekend have expressed their amazement that the track was cleared for use by producers given the rocker’s conviction.

The bungle is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the movie.

Joker has become the focus of the debate over movie violence in recent weeks after a cinema in Aurora, Colo., which was the scene of a mass shooting in 2012, said it would not be showing the film.

Parents of the shooting victims also signed a letter to Warner Bros calling for more “social responsibility in the violence it portrays on screen.

Nonetheless, the movie broke October records on its release over the weekend.

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