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Robert De Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin in Joker

Part of what has stood out about Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker origin movie and has made it so intriguing is the level of talent it has attracted. The film stars three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix, who has eschewed comic book movies in the past, as well as two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro. For De Niro, it seems that it was Todd Phillips’ and Scott Silver’s script that brought him to Joker, as the director explained:

Bob really loved the script. I met with him and said, ‘I’d be lying to you if I said we weren’t influenced by a lot of your movies.’ I talked with him about Taxi Driver and about The King Of Comedy, which is one of my favourite movies of all time.

It’s encouraging to hear that Robert De Niro was so high on the script written by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver because he’s a veteran actor. And, while he doesn’t necessarily always star in the best movies, he presumably knows quality when he sees it. The actor clearly saw something he liked and dug the script enough to sign on for Joker, which is a comic book-inspired movie and not a genre Robert De Niro generally finds himself in.

Despite it being a comic book movie, Joker doesn’t look entirely dissimilar from some of Robert De Niro’s most iconic films. As Todd Phillips said to Empire, he told the actor that Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, both of which starred De Niro, were a huge influence on Joker. It’s easy to see this influence in the first trailer, with Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck walking a similarly tragic path as Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin.

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Robert De Niro has addressed these parallels in the past. In Joker, he plays talk show host Murray Franklin, who, in a key sequence in the film, interacts with Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck. While Murray Franklin is not King of Comedy’s mentally deranged wannabe stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin years later, and Joker is not an unofficial sequel to that film, De Niro admits that it is connected in an obvious way.

That’s certainly cool to hear, and should add some nice poetry to the rest of Robert De Niro’s career. It’ll be interesting to see those connections and just how great the script for Joker is. Deadpool 2 actress Zazie Beetz, who stars as Sophie Dumond in Joker, has said that the entire script was rewritten during filming, with the actors joining Todd Phillips and Scott Silver in a trailer to help mold the script during production, and we'll see how well that worked out in just a few months.

Joker is set to give us a completely different version of Batman’s iconic nemesis than we are used to seeing and Todd Phillips has said that he expects backlash because his film doesn’t follow anything from the comics. Normally, I’d say he’s probably right, but anecdotally, it weirdly feels like DC fans are just really open to wherever Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix take us in this movie.

In addition to his appearance in Joker, Robert De Niro will also be reuniting with Martin Scorsese later this year for Netflix’s The Irishman. Joker opens in theaters on October 4, and you can check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all this year’s biggest movies.

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