The People’s Joker Pulled From Toronto Film Festival After One Screening

After having a single screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the comedy film The People’s Joker was pulled from the event’s programming. The movie by director Vera Drew (Who Is America) told a different origin story for the world-famous Batman villain, much like Warner Bros. did with 2019’s Joker. In this universe, however, the title character has a queer identity. In its synopsis, the movie made it clear that it was “completely” unlicensed by DC Comics and Warner Bros., and if the movie wasn’t on either company’s radar so far, after the premiere event, it certainly is.

Details of why the movie was pulled are yet to be made official by any of the parties, but it’s pretty safe to say that it has to do with using the name and appearance of a major character that’s trademarked. The People’s Joker‘s page on the TIFF website now reads that “the filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience. Current ticket holders will receive an email from TIFF Customer Relations with information on their purchase.”


On Twitter, the filmmaker retweeted a user’s post which stated that the “illegal” Joker movie was hit with a cease & desist court order by Warner Bros. Earlier this week, on Monday, Drew spoke to Collider’s own Perri Nemiroff, and the subject of copyright was brought up. This is what the director had to say:

“I think this film can be 100% distributed. It is completely protected under fair use and copyright law. Like a parody law. The only thing that makes it weird in both of those categories is nobody’s ever taken characters and IP and really personalized it in this way. So I think that’s the thing that really kind of makes it seem a lot more dangerous than I actually think it is. I mean, I get it, look, I put an “illegal comic book movie” on the poster, but that was just to get your butts in the seats. There’s literally no reason for anybody to worry, I think about legal repercussions with this. Without getting into it, we’ve gone really far to ensure that we could do this. I probably wouldn’t have spent two years of my life making an actually illegal Joker movie.”

RELATED: ‘Joker 2’ to Feature “Complicated Musical Sequences”

Earlier today, Drew also took to Twitter to address fans that were curious to check out her work at TIFF and suddenly found out they wouldn’t. The director gave broad strokes about the subject, probably due to the recommendation of an attorney. The tweet reads:

“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”

The People’s Joker stars Drew as the tile character, and tells the story of a clown who struggles with making people laugh. This leads them to get addicted to an inhalant called “Smylex”. While questioning their talent, identity, and relationships, this Joker decides to open an illegal comedy theater in Gotham City… and it seems that now most of us won’t know how this story ends.

Because of the alleged court order, The People’s Joker is probably not returning to the Toronto Festival programming. While the director seemed certain that the movie is completely legal, Warner Bros. clearly doesn’t think so. For now, we’ll have to wait to see how this battle unfolds. If it gets to the point of going to court, it will probably be a David vs. Goliath type of trial: Warner Bros. could argue that The People’s Joker will harm the promotion of the upcoming multi-million blockbuster Joker: Folie à Deuxwhich is currently in production with Joaquin Phoenix resuming the title role and pop superstar Lady Gaga making her DC debut as Harley Quinn. The best that people who are now curious and want to check out The People’s Joker can hope for is that both parties come to an agreement, but at this moment it’s hard to believe that the movie will make it to the commercial circuit. Stick with Collider for further news on this subject.

The People’s Joker stopped by Collider’s Studio at TIFF so stay tuned to our full interview with the creative team later today.

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