Much digital ink has been shed on discussing Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker adaptation as a hardboiled, grim-and-gritty character study in the vein of classic 1970s and ‘80s cinema. While that idiosyncratic take more than assures it won’t be a four-quadrant smash in the MCU mold (though its record-shattering box office intake may beg to differ), it’s still important to note that Joker is, at the end of the day, a comic book movie. One that references Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, sure, but a comic book movie nonetheless. And if there’s one thing comic book movie makers and fans alike love, it’s Easter eggs! Those tasty little in-jokes and winks to larger pieces in the comic book culture! Remember the pic of Jim Morita in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Fun! There are surely some equivalent Easter eggs in Joker, right?
Well… maybe not. When Collider’s own Steve Weintraub spoke to Phillips and Phoenix for an interview during the film’s press day, Phillips revealed his general disdain for the idea of hiding comic book in-jokes in his movies. And Phoenix, true to form of his character, trolled the hell out of everyone.
TODD PHILLIPS: I don’t do Easter eggs. Any Easter eggs anybody finds is a mistake. I don’t understand.
JOAQUIN PHOENIX: I was saying to the last press, they asked me this thing about the clock and 11:11 and I said, “Paul is dead.” And he was like, “What?” I said, “Paul is dead.” He’s like, “I don’t know.” And the other guy that was like my age was like, “It’s a Beatles reference, dude.” It’s these fucking 22-year-old kids, they don’t know “Paul is dead.” I go, “You see what you want to see, you hear what you want to hear.” Everybody thought it said “Paul is dead” backwards and shit.
PHILLIPS: But that 11:11 is not an Easter egg to me.
So if you noticed multiple clocks in the film set to 11:11, and started concocting a theory on how this proves the film is set in Bizarro World and Arthur Fleck will actually wind up becoming Batzarro, Phillips and Phoenix are here to bring you back to earth. As for the “Paul is dead” of it all — Phoenix is referring to an infamous Beatles urban legend that Paul McCartney died in a car crash before the release of Revolver, and the other band members replaced him with a lookalike. The rest of their albums contain clues to the grim truth — why is McCartney the only member walking down Abbey Road with no shoes on? He must be dead! What a Joker-esque plot!
It seems like Phillips and Phoenix want their work to be taken as its own piece, without any connections or links to the DC universe beyond the obvious connections made between, say, Arthur and young Bruce Wayne. And even after all of this, if any intrepid fan swears they find an Easter egg lurking in Joker’s frames, Phillips swears it’s the “art department sneaking something in that would make me crazy if I knew about it.”
Then again, Phoenix did later say, “There’s a Wonder Woman Easter egg in there, but you probably didn’t catch it.” Was he trolling again, or serious? Good luck, sleuths.