L-R – Phoenix, Phillips/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures(LOS ANGELES) —  In an interview with The Wrap, director Todd Phillips takes on the controversy surrounding his upcoming movie Joker, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Batman baddie.

The comments came after a group of victims, and family members of the victims, of the 2012 Aurora Dark Knight movie massacre blasted Warner Bros. for releasing Joker. Some feel it could inspire a gunman like the one who killed 12 and injured 70.

Regarding the controversy, a “surprised” Phillips tells The Wrap, “Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?”

Phillips added, “I think it’s because outrage…has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this…is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”

He explained, “We didn’t make the movie to push buttons. I literally described to Joaquin at one point…as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’”

Warner Bros. responded to the victims’ letter by writing in part, “Make no mistake…It is not the intention of the film…to hold this character up as a hero.”

Phoenix recently walked out of an interview when he was asked if he thought it could inspire another Aurora. He later told IGN that he disagreed with that notion. He said in part, “Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong. And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”

Joker opens October 4.

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