Joker seemed like it was about to transcend the controversy surrounding it when its opening weekend came and went with no serious incidents and a record-setting $96 million domestic box office take. However, now there’s growing outcry that part of that money (and the stunning $247 million world-wide gross) will end up going to convicted pedophile and child rapist Gary Glitter.
Glitter, born Paul Gadd, was one of the world’s biggest glam rock stars before child pornography and sexual assault charges demolished his career. He pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in a UK court in 1999, and in 2005, he was tried and convicted in Vietnam on charges of committing obscene acts with two underaged girls. He’s currently serving 16 years in a British prison after being found guilty of multiple sex crimes in 2015.
Despite being behind bars, Gadd still earns royalties from his music. Though his work is blackballed from UK radio, it occasionally pops up in US movies — including Todd Phillips’ Joker. His song “Rock and Roll Part 2”, which used to be a sporting events staple thanks to its chant-able “hey” chorus, memorable chord progression, and stomping drums, features prominently in the Warner Bros. picture. For nearly two minutes, it soundtracks Joaquin Phoenix’s title character dancing down a Gotham staircase.
CNBC reports that because of this use, Gadd stands to receive a large lump sum of money on top of royalties from future DVD and potential soundtrack sales.
Update: A representative for Snapper Music, which owns the rights to Glitter’s catalog in the UK, disputes reporting that Glitter will receive any profits from the song’s use. “Gary Glitter does not get paid,” a representative told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve had no contact with him.” Nevertheless, the New York Post reports that Warner Bros. may remove the song from future releases.
Yet Joker is far from the first production to use Gary Glitter’s music post-conviction. “Rock and Roll Part 2” appears in a football scene (natch) in 2004’s Meet the Fockers. In 2012, The Weinstein Company (again, natch) paid a substantial amount of cash to use the track in the trailer for eventual Oscar winner Silver Linings Playbook. Hell, even Glee wasn’t above using Gadd’s songs, getting Gwyneth Paltrow to sing the incredibly lewd (and in light of Gadd’s sexual history, overtly icky) “Do You Wanna Touch Me” while playing, of all things, a sexual education teacher in a 2011 episode.
WB has yet to comment (Consequence of Sound has reached out to a studio representative), though perhaps it’s unfair for one studio to have to answer for a cultural faux pas Hollywood has been committing for years.