Todd Phillips Wanted Joker to ‘Feel Like It Came Out in the Summer of 1979’

Joker Easter eggs King of Comedy Robert De Niro Taxi Driver Todd Phillips 1979

Todd Phillips says his hit film Joker is supposed to “feel like it came out in the summer of 1979.”

Joker is heavily inspired by the Martin Scorsese films Taxi Driver (1976) and King of Comedy (1982). That has led to lots of speculation that Joker is set sometime in-between the Scorsese films. Phillips told director Ivan Reitman in a recent Directors Guild of America interview that he had a very specific time period in mind.

“My sort of edict to the crew in general was, I want the movie to feel like it came out in the summer of 1979—if they made comic book movies in 1979, which, thankfully, they didn’t. … not a movie about that time but a movie that felt like it came out at that time,” Phillips told Reitman.

Also read: 13 Joker Easter Eggs and Inspirations

Phillips is of course right that comic-book movies weren’t as prevalent in 1979 as they were in, say, 2019. But the first big-budget comic-book movie, Superman, came out in 1978.

It’s also interesting that Phillips wanted the film to look like it came out in the summer of 1979 because two films on a theater marquee near the end of Joker seem to indicate that the film takes place in 1981. The marquee is showing the 1981 films Blow Out and Zorro, the Gay Blade.

Reitman noted that Gotham, the setting for Joker, is a stand-in for New York City, where Reitman shot Ghostbusters in 1983 and 1984.

Also read: Why Robert De Niro Likes a Lot of Takes

You can listen to Reitman’s interview with Phillips on the “Director’s Cut” podcast, brought to you by the DGA. We highly recommend subscribing.

In the episode released Friday entitled “Joker With Director Todd Phillips and Ivan Reitman,” the two directors discuss how Reitman became a champion of Phillips after meeting him at the Sundance Film festival though Reitman’s son, director Jason Reitman. They also talk about why there’s so much dancing in Joker.

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