The People’s Joker, an unauthorized queer coming-of-age movie set in the Batman universe, has been pulled from Toronto International Film Festival after a single screening “due to rights issues.”
Helmed by and starring Los Angeles-based director Vera Drew, the film was scheduled for three more showings at TIFF following its premiere as part of the festival’s Midnight Madness programming on Tuesday, September 13th.
Billed in the description of its trailer as “completely unlicensed by DC and Warner Bros.,” The People’s Joker was likely trying to operate under US fair use laws for parody. According to IndieWire, however, Warner Bros. Discovery informed the filmmaker of “a copyright issue” over the movie’s use of characters including Joker and “a Harlequin a la DC’s Harley Quinn.”
The film centers around an unfunny clown grappling with her gender identity while aspiring to be cast in a TV sketch show alongside a cast of Jokers and Harlequins. “With comedy criminalized in Gotham City, the show is the only government-sanctioned space for funny people, but only those who will toe the party line,” reads the official TIFF synopsis. “Disillusioned by a botched audition, Vera partners with a birdlike slacker to found their own alternative comedy troupe, attracting not only a rogues’ gallery of would-be comics, but also the ire of a fascistic caped crusader.”
Check out the teaser trailer below.
Drew hinted there could be trouble afoot with a mysterious tweet ahead of the film’s first screening, writing, “I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague…but whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know…if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”
According to The Canadian Press, Drew revealed she had edited out scenes from Todd Phillips’ 2019 film Joker ahead of her film’s premiere at TIFF.
Meanwhile, Phillips is already at work on his upcoming Joker sequel, titled Joker: Folie à Deux. Joaquin Phoenix will return for the titular role, with Lady Gaga set to star as Harley Quinn. The film is slated for release on October 4th, 2024.