With the public, and various industry figures, still talking about director Martin Scorsese’s remarks pertaining to comic book movies, it’s a good time for two things to be kept in mind. The first is that Scorsese himself is actually tied to a comic movie himself, as the executive producer/inspiration for director Todd Phillips’ take on a classic DC villain in Joker. But the latest, and more important thing to think about is how The Irishman’s helmer almost brought the film to life himself, as he’d thought of directing the film himself for a handful of years.
In a recent discussion while promoting his brand new Netflix original movie, Martin Scorsese admitted as much as he recounted how connected he truly is to the project:
I know the film very well. I know [director Todd Phillips] very well. My producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff produced it. I thought about it a lot over the last four years and decided I did not have the time for it. It was personal reasons why I didn’t get involved. But I know the script very well. It has a real energy and Joaquin. You have remarkable work.
With Joker starting its development history roughly four or five years ago, it sounds like at one point this project could have derailed the long delayed Martin Scorsese passion project Silence, which was finally realized as a film in 2016. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be, because there was one key factor that stumped Scorsese in turning DC’s clown prince of crime into a reality.
As he admitted to BBC Cinematic, the legendary director was more interested in turning the character into an abstract depiction of the Batman baddie, rather than making a film that lead to Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck turning into the Joker. While we now know that Fleck’s character very much isn’t the figure that will terrorize Rober Pattinson’s variant of the role in director Matt Reeves’ The Batman, history has shown us why this idea simply wasn’t on the table previously.
During Joker’s development cycle, the DC Extended Universe was still trying to adapt the Marvel Studios playbook into their own stable of characters. With the prevailing sentiment being that Jared Leto’s incarnation of The Joker from Suicide Squad would be the one to front any sort of spin-off, there looked to be no choice but to let this project connect to the world at large.
It wasn’t until the stability of the DCEU came into question, in a post-Justice League debacle release slate, that Joker was able to exist in its current state. By which point, Martin Scorsese had been working on another project he’d been meaning to get around to in this lifetime: The Irishman.