Though Martin Scorsese has caused quite an uproar with his recent criticisms of Marvel movies, there’s another comic book film the legendary director was very nearly involved with. That would be Joker, the controversial origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix.
When Joker was first announced in 2017, reports indicated that Scorsese would be on board as a producer, but he ultimately decided not to join the project, though his frequent collaborator Emma Tillinger Koskoff did produce the film. (Koskoff has produced several of Scorsese’s films, including his latest, The Irishman.) Now Scorsese has finally spoken out about his decision, explaining his reasoning in an interview with the BBC.
“I thought about it a lot over the past four years… and I decided that I didn’t have the time for it,” Scorsese said, adding, “It was personal reasons why I didn’t get involved. But I know the script very well.
“For me, ultimately, I don’t know if I make the next step, which is to this character developing into a comic book character,” he continued. “He develops into an abstraction. That doesn’t mean it’s bad art. It could be, but it’s not for me.”
Joker, which recently became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, follows a mentally ill aspiring comedian named Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), who eventually becomes the titular supervillain. The film, as many observers have noted, is deeply indebted to Scorsese’s films, drawing on such works as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy in its story line, gritty urban setting, and portrayal of its central character. In the BBC interview, Scorsese called Joker “a remarkable work,” saying it is “very different” from superhero films.
On that note, Scorsese also clarified his comments regarding Marvel, saying, “The superhero films, as I’ve said, are like another art form. They’re not easy to make. There are a lot of very talented people doing good work, and a lot of young people really, really enjoy them. But I do think it’s more of an amusement park, extension of the amusement park.”
He added that his concern has more to do with the effect superhero movies have on the industry than the films themselves. “The filmmakers need the theaters… People like me need the theaters,” he said, adding, “You can’t tell [studios] to stop making their money, but on the other hand, they have to give something back to the culture. They have to create a space for the filmmakers to have their films on screen.”
You can watch a clip from the interview above. Scorsese’s The Irishman is currently playing in select theaters, and will arrive on Netflix on Nov. 27.