When Todd Phillips' Joker was first announced, way back in ye olden days of 2017, there was one very intriguing detail: Martin Scorsese was attached to produce and possibly even direct the film, which was influenced by the filmmaker's classics like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. It was difficult to believe that Scorsese, of all people, would be involved with making a comic book movie – even an unconventional one – but there was also a time not too long ago when it was nigh-impossible to envision Scorsese making a movie for Netflix. By the time Joker was officially greenlit in 2018, Scorsese was no longer involved; presumably the prolific director was too busy with other projects, like The Irishman (coming soon to a Netflix near you). In the weeks since Phillips' film hit theaters, Joker has become a huge box office hit and Scorsese has spent an inordinate amount of time making headlines for having an opinion about superhero movies.
In a recent interview with the BBC (via IndieWire), Scorsese finally took a break from trying to explain his opinions about Marvel to discuss why he stepped away from Joker. The director revealed that it was ultimately "personal reasons" that took him away from the project, which he was involved with for four years:
I know the film very well. I know [director Todd Phillips] very well. My producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff produced it. I thought about it a lot over the last four years and decided I did not have the time for it. It was personal reasons why I didn’t get involved. But I know the script very well. It has a real energy and Joaquin. You have remarkable work.
Scorsese went on to say that he struggled with the character of Arthur Fleck – a failed, mentally ill comedian who's repeatedly rejected by society until he finally snaps and embraces the nihilistic Joker persona. The filmmaker explains that his biggest issue with Phoenix's character was the moment when he becomes an actual comic book character, or an "abstraction":
For me, ultimately, I don’t know if I make the next step into this character developing into a comic book character. You follow? He develops into an abstraction. It doesn’t mean it’s bad art, it’s just not for me…The superhero films, as I’ve said, are another art form. They are not easy to make. There’s a lot of very talented people doing good work and a lot of young people really, really enjoy them.
The real takeaway here is that journalists should stop asking Scorsese what he thinks about Marvel movies and start asking him to rank the Hangover movies.