Family members of the 2012 Aurora mass shooting victims have signed a letter to Warner Bros. over concerns about the upcoming release of Joker.
On July 20, 2012, gunman James Holmes, wearing body armour and armed with multiple weapons, killed 12 people and injured 70 others after opening fire in a movie theatre in Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
The letter does not demand the studio cancel the film and doesn’t call for a boycott, but it urges Warner Bros. to donate to advocacy groups for victims of gun violence and “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform” according to the Hollywood Reporter (THR), which obtained a copy of the letter.
“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 reads.
The authors of the letter also want Warner Bros. to “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform.”
The family members say they are haunted by “absolute hell and pain” over the 2012 shooting and that they believe the storyline of the upcoming Joker movie is worrisome because Joaquin Phoenix’s character is presented as an outcast who goes on a killing spree.
WATCH: Joker teaser trailer
The letter continues: “As a result, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that no other family ever has to go through the absolute hell we have experienced and the pain we continue to live with. Trust us, it does not go away.
“We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression,” the letter reads. “But as anybody who has seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities … keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.
“Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act,” the letter continues, making reference to other companies like Walmart who have announced new gun safety protocols.
Deadline reports that the new Joker film will not play at the Cinemark Aurora Theatre where the mass shooting took place.
The letter is signed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the shooting, as well as Theresa Hoover, who lost her 18-year-old son, Alexander J. Boik.
It is also signed by Heather Dearman, whose cousin Ashley Moser was severely injured and lost her unborn child due to her injuries. Moser’s six-year-old daughter Veronia Moser Sullivan was also killed in the attack.
Tina Coon, whose son witnessed the shooting, was among the others who signed the letter.
In August 2015, Holmes was ordered to serve 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, one for each of the people he killed in the attack.
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. then added 3,318 years to his sentence for 70 counts of attempted murder and six years for an explosives charge.
A representative for Warner Bros. told THR that it had not received the letter.
“We cannot comment on a letter we have not seen,” the representative said.
Director Todd Phillips previously defended the new Joker film during a Los Angeles press junket earlier in September.
“I really think there have been a lot of think pieces written by people who proudly state they haven’t even seen the movie and they don’t need to,” Phillips said. “I would just argue that you might want to watch the movie, you might want to watch it with an open mind.
“The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message.”
Phoenix, the star of the film, said: “Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong. And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books so I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”