Phillips made his name directing comedies like Old School and The Hangover, and feels the environment where you can't start a movie with a gay slur— which happens in the first Hangover— was too restrictive. He told Vanity Fair that he still wanted to bring a sense of irreverence to his movies, and that flipping a comic book movie into a prestige drama-style film was one way to do that.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” Phillips said. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’”
He said that the potential of being piled on by social media users led him away from the genre. Luckily for Phillips, saying "it's too hard so I quit" was apparently the sort of spirit the minds behind Joker were looking for.
“It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies—I think that what comedies, in general, all have in common—is they’re irreverent," he shared. "So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but fuck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from."
In spite of the negative press around the film, and Phillips' antagonistic response to some of the backlash, Joker is on pace to take in $155 million globally in its first weekend. Deadline shared the projected take, and noted that it would be good enough for the second best box office opening ever in October, behind 2018's largely derided Venom.