Joker star Brett Cullen was surprised by the backlash his new film received, saying the movie is simply based on the original DC Batman comic books.

The psychological thriller proved widely controversial for two main reasons: the online fandom the murderous, psychopathic character of the Joker inspired and the fear that the movie would incite more mass shootings. Cullen, who plays Bruce Wayne’s father Thomas Wayne in Joker, opened up to uInterview exclusively to discuss his experience filming the project, which serves as an origin story for the infamous Batman villain.

“I didn’t think it was controversial,” Cullen said of the film. “I had no idea that it was going to be blown out of proportion the way it was.”

“It’s a comic. That’s what I always tell people,” he later added.

However, the actor — who has appeared on television shows like Narcos and True Detective — conceded that the criticism of Joker is a good thing because it left people with the opportunity to reflect on its “disturbing” subject matter.

“The negative and the positive responses critically and personally — because I have friends who haven’t enjoyed the film — [are] good because I think it is disturbing on a certain level and it does make you think,” said Cullen. “Art’s not supposed to be like, ‘oh, everything’s wonderful!’ It’s supposed to challenge you and make you think, like a good comedian.”

Cullen noted that he is amazed by how Joker viscerally tackles many of the issues with modern-day society and lauded director Todd Philipps as “astounding” and a “genius” for being able to remove the character of the Joker/Arthur Fleck from the original comic book and create a new version of him. Cullen also praised his co-star Joaquin Phoenix for his portrayal of the titular character, saying it would be “shocking” if Phoenix did not win or was at least nominated for several awards for his performance.

“I said to Joaquin at the aftermath of the premiere, ‘I’ll see you at the Oscars, man!” the actor said of his co-star before saying Phoenix tried to downplay his comment.

Cullen called Phoenix “sweet” and said he often made conversation with him throughout the day on the set of Joker. 

“He would put that skin on of Arthur Fleck and wouldn’t take it off until the end of the day,” Cullen added of Phoenix before calling the shooting of the film “intense.”

Cullen also commented on his billionaire character, who is running for mayor of Gotham in Joker, by saying he believes the film brilliantly explores how politicians in today’s society gain power through corrupt actions. The actor then referenced President Donald Trump without naming him, saying he dislikes the country’s current leader.

“Those men, no matter who they are — whether it’s [Bill] Clinton or the current guy, who I’m not a fan of — what did they have to do to get there?” Cullen explained. “Where are the bodies buried? And they all have them,” he added before saying he did not necessarily mean the only crimes politicians have committed are murder-related.

Cullen is also currently starring in a period thriller film called The Riot Act. Check back next week to see Cullen discuss that film in another exclusive video.