L-R Phoenix, Phillips/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures(LOS ANGELES) — Oscar-nominated Hollywood filmmaker Todd Phillips has worked on a range of movie genres, but his latest hit, Joker, broke a box office record and set a high bar for awards season.

Phillips, who directed, co-wrote and produced the Batman villain origin story, told Good Morning America that despite early criticisms, fans flocked to the film that now leads the Academy Awards with 11 nominations, including best picture.

Joaquin Phoenix, who stars as the disturbed comedian Arthur Fleck in the film, is an “intense” actor, but “kind of light” on set, Phillips found. 

“To inhabit the character of Arthur slash Joker in the movie, he had to go to some dark places…[But] we would say ‘Cut!’ and we’d be off to the side joking around or laughing about something and then we’d get back into it.”

Joker set the record as the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time with over $1 billion at the box office.

“This movie has been a wild ride for sure,” said Phillips.  “Ultimately, when I look back at it I’m not surprised that a movie called Joker made so many people crazy.  It got painted very early with a brush that the violence in it was irresponsible and we felt differently. We thought we could show real-world implications on violence and that seems responsible to me, as opposed to celebrating violence in movies.”

Phillips added that, “ultimately it was the audience [who] turned up and it became their movie.”

The 92nd Oscars air Sunday Feb. 9 on ABC.

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