Aurora Shooting Victims’ Families Voice Concerns About Warner Bros’ Upcoming ‘Joker’

“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called ‘Joker’ that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause,” says letter to studio chair Ann Sarnoff

Last Updated: September 24, 2019 @ 1:32 PM

Family members of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, have sent a letter to Warner Bros. ahead of the release of next month’s R-rated “Joker” movie asking for a donation to gun-victim charities and advocacy for gun reform.

The letter was signed by five family members and sent Tuesday to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called ‘Joker’ that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause,” the letter says, noting the “absolute hell” that they had endured since a gunman shot and killed 12 people during a screening of Warner Bros.’ “Dark Knight Rises.”

“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” the letter continues, calling on the company — now a division of AT&T — to lobby Congress for “gun reform” and stop political contributions to politicians accepting money from the NRA. In addition, the letter called for contributions to unspecified “survivor funds and gun-violence intervention programs.”

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter died during the shooting, was among the signers. She worked with Igor Volsky of the gun control advocacy group Guns Down America to craft the letter.

“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic,” a representative for Warner Bros. said in a statement in response to the letter. “At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around  complex issues. Make no mistake:  neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”

According to Page Six, the film’s star Joaquin Phoenix walked out of a recent interview when asked if the character or film could incite fans who have a “mass-shooter mindset.”

In 2015, Colorado shooter James Holmes was ordered by a judge to pay almost $1 million in restitution for the horrific July 2012 rampage that left 12 people dead and 70 injured.