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LI-raised director of 'Joker': Film's depiction of violence 'very responsible'

Todd Phillips attends the 57th annual New York

Todd Phillips attends the 57th annual New York Film Festival in Manhattan's Lincoln Center on Wednesday. Credit: Getty Images for Film at Lincoln Center / Theo Wargo

Filmmaker Todd Phillips addressed the controversy surrounding his new film, “Joker,” after a screening at the New York Film Festival Wednesday night, calling its depiction of violence “very responsible.”

“Isn’t it a good thing to put real-world implications on violence?” the 48-year-old Phillips said, according to Variety.

“Joker,” which opens Friday, features Joaquín Phoenix as an isolated, mentally ill man who transforms himself into Batman’s arch-nemesis. The film has raised concerns that its R-rated bloodshed — which includes several shootings and a brutal stabbing — may inspire other lone-wolf types to commit real acts of violence. Landmark theaters will be banning masks, face-paint and costumes at “Joker” screenings. The U.S. Army went so far as to send an email to service members to be on alert for possible mass shootings where the film is playing.

AMC Theatres, which operates numerous venues on Long Island, has not announced any new policy changes regarding "Joker" screenings. "The safety of our guests and associates is AMC’s top priority," the company said in a statement. "Working with law enforcement, AMC has a number of safety and security protocols in place at all of its theatres. To help ensure that safety, we do not discuss specifics."

Many early reviews of the film have objected to its sympathetic portrait of a disturbed anti-hero. The families and friends of those killed in a 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado — which took place during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” — have also expressed concerns about “Joker.” In a letter to Warner Bros., which is releasing the film, they wrote: “When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called ‘Joker’ that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause."

At the New York Film Festival, the Huntington-raised Phillips defended his film's realistic depiction of violence. "Isn’t that a good thing to take away the cartoon element of violence that we’ve become so immune to?" he said, according to Variety. "So I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it seems irresponsible because to me it seems actually very responsible to make it feel real and make it [have] that weight.”

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