Wikinews attends US debut of film The People's Joker

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

A profile photo of Drew smiling, wearing Joker make-up
Drew posing after the film.
Image: Justin Anthony Knapp.

On July 15, Wikinews attended the US general debut, and second general showing, of The People's Joker — an unauthorized film adaptation of the comic book villain for what Decider described as a coming-of-age comedy — in Los Angeles' Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, part of the LGBT film festival Outfest, with filmmakers Vera Drew and Bri LeRose present.

This was director Drew's first feature film, but she previously edited and otherwise been employed on a variety of television productions.

Drew described The People's Joker as "autobiographical" for her, as the main character, whom she played, aspires to break into comedy and experiences gender dysphoria. She undergoes a gender transition, like Drew, becoming known as Joker the Harlequin, an anti-humor comic and villain.

Cowriters Drew and LeRose took to the stage to answer questions from a moderator and the audience. Of Saturday Night Live, both screenwriters expressed their onetime affection for the program, yet criticized it, with Drew calling it "part of the military–industrial complex". On working with actor and puppeteer David Liebe Hart, Drew called him a "Yoda" who offered advice on this production.

The remaining cast declined to appear on stage in solidarity with an actors' strike.

Drew made final edits to The People's Joker minutes before boarding a plane for its debut at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). After that showing, she received a letter from Warner Bros., which did not make cease and desist demands, but said "copyright law prohibits appropriating the Batman character and universe as the vehicle for" her autobiographical purposes. The film had several subsequent private screenings.

Drew said her team was planning a distribution scheme for The People's Joker.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, LeRose commissioned Drew for US$12 to re-cut the Todd Phillips film Joker into a comedy. The duo eventually collaborated on a version including all prior portrayals of The Joker on film. This led to a script telling a fictionalized version of Drew's life, which became The People's Joker.

Outfest ran from July 13 to Sunday.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.