Todd Phillips says 'Joker' is a ''real movie'' disguised as a ''comic book film''.

The filmmaker is at the helm of the highly anticipated DC blockbuster, and he has responded to recent criticism that the movie could promote violence while outlining his early thought process for the project.

Speaking to The Wrap, he said: ''We didn't make the movie to push buttons.

''I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, 'Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film'.

''It wasn't, 'We want to glorify this behavior.' It was literally like 'Let's make a real movie with a real budget and we'll call it f***ing Joker'. That's what it was.''

His comments come as families of victims killed in the 2012 movie theatre mass shooting in Aurora - which occurred during a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' - have written to 'Joker' studio Warner Bros. to call for donations to gun victim charities, claiming the film ''presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story''.

In response, the company said: ''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.

''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.''