Ah, So That's Why Joaquin Phoenix's Joker is Set in 1981

Director Todd Phillips has explained why he threw it back for the new film

Why is the new Joker film set in 1981? It's a fair question. Maybe there's a reticence to add in a scene where Joaquin Phoenix gets filmed doing something wild on the subway and an unnamed passerby says something like, "Woah! That'll go viral on TikTok!" Which is entirely understandable.

A few other theories have been thrown around. The early '80s would place Joker closer to the two films that clearly inspired itTaxi Driver and The King of Comedyin cinematic history, and the grimy pseudo-New York cityscape of Gotham looks more like the early 80s New York of those films too.

But director Todd Phillips says that the decision to do a throwback Joker was key to getting the film off the ground in the first place.

"But the time for me... one reason was to separate it quite frankly, from the DC universe," he told CinemaBlend. "When I pitched to Warner Brothers, and handed the script in, to sort of make it clear, this isn't fucking with anything you have going on. This is like a separate universe. So much so, it takes place in the past, before everything else."

Which makes absolute sense. The continuing efforts to make a DC extended universe work as well as Marvel's have been fairly underwhelming, and with such a clearly singular idea of what Joker ought to be, Phillips decided to insulate it against having to awkwardly reference and connect to otherslightly rubbish, let's be honestDC films.

Photo by Niko Tavernise/DC Comics.

This story originally appeared on Esquire UK.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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