In the wake of his three Oscar nominations for Joker, director Todd Phillips is back under the microscope for his alleged misogynistic and even abusive behavior on film sets. Outspoken critics of Phillips on social media have dredged up controversies many fans forgot, particularly one bizarre episode on the set of The Hangover. Even in Phillips' own words, the situation sounds bad.
Phillips was nominated for best director for his work on Joker this year. He also shares the nomination for best adapted screenplay with his co-writer, Scott Silver, and the movie itself is nominated for Best Picture. Many fans are uneasy with this nomination, in part because of the longstanding outcry against Phillips personally.
This week, one of the biggest condemnations of Phillips resurfaced among film critics on Twitter. It was a story from the set of The Hangover, which Phillips directed and also revised the script for. Specifically, he is credited with adding in the subplot of the mysterious baby whom Zach Galifianakis carries around.
Early on in the film, there is a brief joke where Galifianakis' character moves the baby's arm to make it look like he's masturbating. In an interview originally published by the Latino Review, Phillips explained just how far he went to get that momentary shot without the baby's mother's permission or even knowledge.
"I knew there was one parent who, the dad is a huge Old School fan. The mom is not that cool, but the dad is and they have twins. So I spoke to the dad. I said, 'Hey, man, listen.' I go, 'We want to do this thing. It's going to be really funny...' The dad laughed and said, 'Can't do it.' He goes, 'She'll never allow it.'"
Phillips apparently insisted, convincing the baby's father to trick his wife into being elsewhere on the set while they filmed the troubling scene. He referenced his own movie, Old School, as a way of convincing the father, who agreed reluctantly, according to Phillips.
regardless of Joker's quality, Todd Phillips should never have been put in charge of another film set after he used a baby for a masturbation scene *without the mother's consent.* (trigger warning for inappropriate sexual contact with a child.) https://t.co/HwYCWpSMrm— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) January 13, 2020
"He's like, 'I have to talk to her.' I go, 'Don't talk to her.' I go, 'You like Old School, right?' He goes, 'I love it.' I go, 'It's going to be like one of those moments, man. Let's just do this. Alright?'"
Phillips then described how they filmed the scene discretely while the baby's mother was elsewhere on the set, but she eventually caught on anyway.
"I'm like, 'Oh, my God, here comes the wife.' I pretended like I didn't see her. I look over while we're shooting it and she's screaming at her husband," he said. "Her whole thing about it is that she doesn't want her friends to think that they put the baby in a bad position."
Users online thought that Phillips had done just that, and they resented the way he implied that the woman in this story was overreacting. This fed into a general conversation about Phillips' workplace behavior, which critics and industry professionals said was harmful. They argued that Phillips should never have gotten to the point of directing Joker after his past misdeeds, regardless of the movie's quality.
The Oscars are live on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.