The director of "Joker," an upcoming film that has drawn criticism for its violent and lurid take on the supervillain, is forcefully pushing back against detractors.
Todd Phillips, best known for directing raunchy comedies like "The Hangover" trilogy, said in a newly published interview with The Wrap that complaints about his R-rated comic book drama are driven by people looking for reasons to feel aggrieved.
"I think it's because outrage is a commodity. I think it's something that has been a commodity for a while," Phillips told the entertainment news website in a Sept. 20 interview published Wednesday. "What's outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda."
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"It's been really eye-opening for me," Phillips added.
"Joker," starring Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled stand-up comedian who descends into madness in Gotham City, made headlines this week after relatives of people killed in the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, sent a letter to the film's distributor, Warner Bros., expressing unease.
"When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie ... that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause," the five family members say in the letter, according to a copy shared with NBC News by the group Guns Down America.
The families pressed the AT&T-owned film studio to donate to funds that support victims of gun violence and lobby for gun reforms in Congress. They stopped short of calling on the company to cancel plans to release the film nationwide Oct. 4.
In a statement to NBC News, Warner Bros. said it believed gun violence is a major issue and extended condolences to families touched by tragedy. The company said it had "a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora."
"At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues," the studio said in the statement.