Last fall, Robert De Niro was among those targeted by Cesar Sayoc, a Trump supporter who pled guilty in March to sending numerous pipe bombs in the mail, with other recipients including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Democratic presidential candidates Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris, and other Democratic political figures.
In a new interview with Empire, Todd Phillips, the director of upcoming DC film “Joker” reveals the pipe bomb arrived at De Niro’s production company on the same day the 75-year-old actor started filming “Joker”.
“We had FBI guys showing up to search the set,” Phillips recalls, admitting he was somewhat surprised by De Niro’s nonchalance when he showed up on set — and that he even showed up at all.
“And I thought, ‘Oh god, what’s he gonna be like?’ And he comes in like it’s nothing, just ready to rock, knew his sh**t,” marvels Phillips. “He’s amazing.”
In fact, De Niro issued a statement that same day, using the fact that he had been targeted by a bomber as a call to action urging Americans to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.
“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said in his statement. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!”
“Joker” tells the origin story of Batman’s most iconic foe, played by Joaquin Phoenix as an aspiring comedian who has a life-altering encounter with De Niro’s character, late-night talk show legend Murray Franklin.
According to Phillips, “Joker” was influenced by some of De Niro’s most celebrated movies — even if the actor wasn’t aware of it.
“Bob really loved the script,” Phillips tells Empire. “I met with him and said, ‘I’d be lying to you if I said we weren’t influenced by a lot of your movies.’ I talked with him about ‘Taxi Driver’ and about ‘The King of Comedy’, which is one of my favourite movies of all time.”
You can read more from Phillips about “Joker” in the August 2019 issue of Empire.
“Joker” hits theatres on Oct. 4.