In a letter to Warner Bros. ahead of the highly anticipated release of Joker, family members of those killed during a 2012 mass shooting at a Dark Knight Rises screening in Colorado have urged the studio to join the fight for gun law reform.
"We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe," the THR-obtained letter, signed by five family members and backed by the nonprofit Survivors Empowered and the gun safety advocacy organization Guns Down America, stated.
Notably, the letter does not include requests for the film's release to be called off, nor does it urge a boycott. The families are instead pushing for Warner Bros. to cease contributions to politicians who are in bed with the NRA and/or actively vote against sensible gun reform measures.
"Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers," the families said, adding that the 2012 Aurora shooting was the work of "a socially individual who felt wronged by society." That individual, James Eagan Holmes, is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Letter signees include Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, Heather Dearman, Theresa Hoover, and Tiina Coon. Read more on the letter, as well as comments from Aurora survivors, right here.
A Warner Bros. rep issued a statement that concludes by declaring “neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind” and that the studio and filmmakers have no intention “to hold this character up as a hero.”
The company's full reply:
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Though the original letter does not call for any change to the theatrical release plans for the critically acclaimed film starring Joaquin Phoenix, both THR and TMZ noted Tuesday that the Century Aurora and XD (i.e. the remodeled site of the 2012 shooting) will not be screening the film.
The father of Katherine Senecal, a victim of the 2012 Aurora shooting, relayed his thoughts on the controversy to TMZ. Mike Senecal insisted that his daughter, who died by suicide last year, would have watched Joker. He went on to say that people should be able to separate what happens in films from what goes on in the real world and voiced support for the statement released by Warner Bros.
In a recent Telegraph interview, Phoenix—who's received high praise for his work in Joker—walked out of an interview when asked if the film could "end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it's about, with potentially tragic results." Phoenix, according to the Telegraph, called a Warner Bros. PR rep to discuss the question and later returned to the interview after about an hour.
Joker is out Oct. 4.