David Fincher has has slammed Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips' movie Joker, branding it 'a betrayal of the mentally ill'.
The director of movies like Fight Club and Se7en also took a swipe at the 'five families' – a reference to both The Godfather and the five major movie studios – for not being willing to take risks on movie that 'can't make them a billion dollars'.
Joker found Phoenix playing failed comedian Arthur Fleck, a character who seemed to be an amalgam of Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver and Rupert Pupkin from King of Comedy, both films by Martin Scorsese, and similarities not wasted on critics at the time of the movie’s release.
Watch: Joker trailer
Fincher told The Daily Telegraph: “Nobody would have thought they had a shot at a giant hit with Joker had The Dark Knight not been as massive as it was. I don’t think anyone would have looked at that material and thought, ‘Yeah, let’s take Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill, and trot it out for a billion dollars.’”
Read more: Fincher says he should have made more movies
Despite divisive reviews, the DC Comics adjacent movie did make just over a billion dollars for Warner Bros, the biggest box office haul for an R-rated title of all time.
“The reality of our current situation is that the five families don’t want to make anything that can’t make them a billion dollars,” he went on.
“None of them want to be in the medium-priced challenging content business. And that cleaves off exactly the kind of movies I make. What the streamers are doing is providing a platform for the kind of cinema that actually reflects our culture and wrestles with big ideas: where things are, what people are anxious and unsure about. Those are the kinds of movies that would have been dead on arrival five years ago.”
Fincher adds that after making Fight Club, studio executives believed 'our careers were over', and that it was 'a miracle' that the film was made.
However, Fight Club went on to cement Fincher's career after indie and crossover hits like Se7en and The Game, following an iffy start to his studio career with Alien 3.
He's currently doing the press rounds for Mank, his Netflix movie which tells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman, and the trials of writing Citizen Kane with Orson Welles.
Watch: The trailer for David Fincher’s Mank