Joaquin Phoenix's Joker: Warner Bros. Chief Reportedly Lowballed Budget In Attempt To Scrap DC Film

By Richard Nebens Updated:
Joker, Warner Bros logo

While Warner Bros is about to throw itself back into the heart of mainstream media with the long-awaited release of Wonder Woman 1984 , the movie mogul also has an interesting recent track record with their last few major superhero releases. The DCEU expanded with the convoluted and disappointing Justice League in 2017, followed by the successful release for both 2018's Aquaman and then the lukewarm showing of Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey . In the middle of the two latter films came Todd Phillips' Joker , which, while not a part of the DCEU, became one of the most monumental wins in superhero movie history.

Not only did Joker perform well financially with a $1 billion box office return, it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 2020 and won two for Best Score (Hildur Guðnadóttir) and Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). Much of this success was pushed along by director Todd Phillips' vision for the movie, although recent reports are detailing how much of a struggle it was to keep him involved with the movie.


According to an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter , Warner Bros chairman Toby Emmerich had some issues with the making of 2019's Joker and did not support its production. Emmerich is said to have lowballed the movie's budget to discourage director Todd Phillips from taking on the project. Warner Bros. worldwide marketing president at the time, Blair Rich, helped Phillips get the movie into production, resulting in Emmerich selling off half of the movie other production companies.


Even though nobody could have expected the overwhelming success that Joker became upon its release, it's somewhat suprising to fans that Toby Emmerich was so vehemently against the film being made. No details were released as to why Emmerich felt the way he did, and there are no signs pointing to if the movie's success has changed his opinions over the past year since its release.

Going so far as to cut down substantially on the budget to stop the movie's progress is a bold step for any studio executive to take, although Phillips and leading actor Joaquin Phoenix made the absolute most of what they were given. The final reported budget for Joker turned out to be only $55 million in total , which is on the low side for today's comic book movies. For perspective, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Ant-Man had the lowest budget in the franchise's twelve-year history at only $130 million, nearly three times that of Joker .

Thanks to the movie's success both financially and critically, Joaquin Phoenix is reportedly in talks for two sequels to Joker , although it's unclear if Phillips would return for another run. No matter what happens, it will be interesting to see what tactics Toby Emmerich uses going forward on planning and approving future Warner Bros features .

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.