Actor Joaquin Phoenix has reportedly agreed to star as the Joker in Todd Phillips’ directed and Martin Scorsese produced origin story. Just when you thought that DC Films had jumped off of the rails following the massive failure of Justice League. There are at least a dozen films based on their DC Comics’ library in various levels of production as you read this, with Aquaman slated for a December release, Shazam currently filming, and Wonder Woman 2 ramping up to go in front of cameras later this year. However, that is truly only the tip of the iceberg.
Last year, we reported on a project that sounded too wild to be true. The Hangover’s Todd Phillips was co-writing an origin film based on The Joker’s rise to prominence in the criminal underworld during the 1980’s and none other than Martin Scorsese would be producing the project. The upcoming film is reportedly inspired by the crime films of Scorsese’s past, with the world of Gotham City feeling familiar to fans of Mean Streets or Taxi Driver.
It had been previously reported that the studio was in heavy pursuit of frequent Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role of the Joker. However, this morning Variety changed the entire conversation with the revelation that Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice) has agreed to take on the role of the Clown Prince of Crime in the upcoming film.
While studio negotiations are not yet underway, Phillips has made it clear that Phoenix is the top choice to star and sources now tell Variety that, after thinking it over, Phoenix has agreed to the role. WB had no comment.
Phillips is on board to co-write and direct the movie. Phillips had met with Phoenix before the new year and was just waiting for the studio’s go-ahead, sources say.
Insiders stress that Jared Leto, who starred in “Suicide Squad” as the Joker is still on board as the character in the DC universe and that this Phoenix has no effect on what happens with Leto’s character in future DC films.
The upcoming origin film is intended to be a standalone installment in the DC Films’ library. So, Jared Leto is expected to reprise his role as the Joker in Suicide Squad 2, while Phoenix’s take will serve as an Elseworld story. WB has the intention of creating a separate production banner that will house DC Comics’ adaptations, that don’t fit into the larger tone or narrative of the overall DCU, while presumably being an umbrella for more adult takes on their comic characters. Fox Studios has already proven the economic potential of making R-rated or more adult fare, with the blockbuster success of Deadpool and the Academy Award nominated Logan. Sony has followed suit as well with their upcoming release of Venom. So, it’s clear that the industry is changing and WB is following the tide.
Phoenix made his name with serious dramas and arthouse releases, however this is far from his first tango with the comic book genre. The actor was reportedly pursued heavily for the role of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, he came even closer to superhero stardom when he was allegedly cast as Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange. The actor pulled out at the last moment clearing the way for Benedict Cumberbatch, which led many to believe he would never participate in the genre.
However, upon closer inspection, both of the previously mentioned roles involved multi-picture deals that would contractually obligate the actor to return in projects that wouldn’t necessarily inspire him creatively. The upcoming Joker spin-off movie is intended as a standalone story, which would not obligate the actor to sign on for future sequels. Throw in the unique opportunity to collaborate with Martin Scorsese and it’s makes sense why Phoenix is circling the project. This is also a good indication that the script, or at least story, is truly a creative work. This potential casting creates more questions than answers and we can’t wait to find out more about this project in the near future.
There is not a release date set currently for the upcoming Joker origin film.
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