Whatever you think of Joker (it’s fine!), you have to admit that Todd Phillips’ dark, violent take on Batman’s arch-nemesis owes a considerable debt to the work of director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was even mentioned as a possible producer at one point. You would think that might inspire The Irishman filmmaker to watch the movie, but you’d be wrong. According to Scorsese himself, he has yet to watch Joker, and probably never will.
Before we get into this, let me just say that I mostly enjoyed Joker. I thought the script was rather weak, but Joaquin Phoenix’s performance was great, and it was certainly the best thing Todd Phillips has ever directed. Of course, a lot of the things Phillips does in the film are borrowed heavily from the work of Martin Scorsese. But that hasn’t inspired Scorsese to sit down and watch the whole thing. In a new, sprawling interview with The New York Times, the subject of Joker came up, leading Scorsese to reply:
“I saw clips of it..I know it. So it’s like, why do I need to? I get it. It’s fine.”
Scorsese has a point. He knows exactly how Joker plays out primarily because it’s so indebted to his own movies – specifically Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The director’s statement also ties into the interview’s theme as a whole – which is the passage of time. It’s actually a rather poignant, and even melancholy interview. Scorsese realizes he’s a man nearing the end of his life, and he’d rather devote time to things he has a major interest in.
“I would love to just take a year and read,” he says. “Listen to music when it’s needed. Be with some friends. Because we’re all going. Friends are dying. Family’s going.” He adds:
“I’ll read a book or I’ll meet a person and I’ll say, ‘Ah! I’m going to make a film on this.’ Over the years I’ve been able to do it. Now it’s narrowing way down.”
In other words: yes, Martin Scorsese understands that Joker pays homage to his work, but he really doesn’t care much about that, thank you very much. In the meantime, the filmmaker is already hard at work on his next project, Killers of the Flower Moon. As for Joker, that arrives on Blu-ray next week, January 7. Maybe someone can send Martin Scorsese a copy and he can finally watch it. Or use it as a beverage coaster.