Several individuals who were victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting have signed a letter to Warner Bros., raising concerns over the release of Joker. The upcoming DC Comics adaptation stars Joaquin Phoenix as the titular villain, with Todd Philips (The Hangover) directing. While the movie has yet to be released, early reviews have noted its extreme violence. That has raised concerns and those concerns are already having a ripple effect.
The letter in question was sent to several publications and was addressed to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff. The studio has not, as of this writing, formally responded to the letter. However, it's been reported that the Cinemark Aurora theater where the July 20, 2012, mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises took place will not be screening Joker. The letter, in part, reads as follows.
"We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe."
The letter is not calling on the studio to cancel the release of Joker. Instead, those who signed are asking that Warner Bros. "end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform." It also calls on the studio to utilize its "political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform." The letter draws comparisons to Phoenix's character, Arthur Fleck and James Holmes, the man who committed the shooting, which saw 12 people killed and 70 injured.
"As a result, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that no other family ever has to go through the absolute hell we have experienced and the pain we continue to live with. Trust us, it does not go away."
The letter was signed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi died in the shooting, as well as Theresa Hoover who lost her son Alexander J. Boik; Heather Dearman, whose cousin Ashley Moser, lost an unborn child and a daughter; and Tiina Coon, whose son witnessed the shooting. One report states that several victims and family members of those affected by the Aurora shooting who were approached about the letter opted not to sign it.
Joker has been praised by many critics following its debut at several prestigious festivals. It even took home the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, which put it on a path to awards season. Joaquin Phoenix is expected to be in contention for Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance. Warner Bros. has high hopes for the R-rated DC adaptation.
The October 4 release will come after a string of deadly shootings that took place in the U.S. The timing has left many to question whether now is appropriate for a movie like Joker. Controversy aside, the movie is looking at a debut of $80 million or more next month, which should make it a financial success. Though, it is surely going to inspire a lot of conversation and debate for months, if not years, to come. This news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter.