Vera Drew was planning on making her Toronto International Film Festival debut with a movie she wrote, directed and starred that's inspired by the legendary DC villain The Joker. Well, this will be another example of a DC movie villain that didn’t get their own light to shine... kind of. This transgender version of the Joker got pulled from TIFF, but its trailer still exists online.
When The People’s Joker was still in development, Vera Drew made sure to spread awareness about her upcoming movie on Twitter. However, Deadline reported that the indie filmmaker pulled her film, The People’s Joker, from TIFF due to “rights issues” over its copyright protection. Warner Bros. Discovery has not said anything yet about whether the studio declared its rights to copyright protection over the use of The Joker.
Despite the movie being pulled from TIFF, the trailer still exists out there for the world to see. Get a taste of what The People's Joker has to offer below:
From the looks of this wild preview, it seems like this is supposed to be a parody of the first trailer for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. We see an aspiring clown ready to take on the world. The only difference is that this movie focuses on the origin story of this character discovering their transgender identity. In the film’s taglines, we see that Drake is aware that this film is illegal for its use of The Joker, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the controversy that would follow from that. This is obviously not a movie that takes itself seriously.
The first screening of The People's Joker took place in Toronto as part of the Midnight Madness program. But not long after the film’s premiere, an announcement of the film’s withdrawal was posted on the festival’s website. While further screenings were supposed to take place, they’ve now been cancelled. If a controversial movie has faced cancellation, maybe it should be considered a sign that some things are meant to stay in the world of YouTube as a fan video compared to trying to make a profit off of it. Current ticket holders were notified that they would receive an email from TIFF Customer Relations about their ticket purchases.
After The People’s Joker got pulled, Drew spoke in a Zoom interview about how she knew she entered a legal gray zone and is fully aware that she has no ownership of The Joker or Batman. On the other hand, she clarified that her film was meant to be a parody. The Supreme Court does say that parody movies, like Scary Movie, are protected by the First Amendment as a form of expression and rely on the exception of fair use to avoid copyright infringement. So it’s possible this filmmaker thought the movie would be allowed if called a parody. But it also doesn’t help that the upcoming DC movie Joker: Folie à Deux starring Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga will be getting a lot of hype, so this may not be the best time to test copyright laws.
The People’s Joker may not have the TIFF premiere that Vera Drew was hoping for, but who knows? Maybe this movie could still be a reality if it’s released as a fan video on YouTube. If not, the trailer will have to be enough for everyone to get Drew’s vision of The Joker.