Families of Aurora shooting victims pen letter expressing concerns about 'Joker' movie

USA Today Entertainment 1 month ago

Family members of victims in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, have written a letter to Warner Bros. expressing concern over the new "Joker" movie.

The open letter sent Tuesday morning was addressed to Warner Bros. CEO and chairwoman Ann Sarnoff. 

During a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," another Warner Bros. film, a gunman shot into a sold-out crowd, killing 12 people and wounding 70. The shooter, James Holmes, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The families of Aurora victims Jessica Ghawi, Alexander J. Boik and Ashley Moser, and Tina Coon, whose son was a witness to the shooting, expressed in the letter how they were given pause “when we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story.” 

The family members who signed the letter didn’t demand that Warner pull "Joker" from theaters, but asked that the studio stop political contributions to candidates "who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform."

The letter called on the Hollywood film studio “to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.”

USA TODAY has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.

"Joker" chronicles the descent into madness for a mercilessly mocked clown-for-hire and failed stand-up comedian (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who winds up going down a very violent path. 

Following the "Dark Knight Rises" massacre, Warner Bros. donated $2 million to the victims and their survivors.

Warner Bros. studios responded to the letter in a statement to Variety.

“Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind,” the statement read. “It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”

"Joker" director Todd Phillips recently pushed back against critics linking films to real-life violence in an interview with the Associated Press.

"Aurora is obviously a horrible situation, but even that is not something you blame on the movie," said Phillips, who noted that the killer was having a "mental breakdown" not related to the "Dark Knight" movie "outside of the fact that it happened in a movie theater."

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