Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix’s darker, grittier Joker movie officially in the works

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Feb 26, 2020, 3:48 PM EST (Updated)

We’ve known for a while that DC has been eyeing Joaquin Phoenix for a darker, more crime-focused story for the Joker in Warner Bros.’ upcoming one-off (read: not part of the DC Extended Universe) origin movie. Thanks to a new report, now we know it’s official: Phoenix has agreed to take on the role of Batman’s nemesis, in a new film to be directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips.

Phoenix has finally signed on for the role, according to The Hollywood Reporter, ending months of speculation about his involvement in the project. Phillips is reportedly co-writing the script (with Scott Silver) in addition to directing the film, whose budget of $55 million puts it more in the realm of conventional crime thrillers than effects-heavy superhero CGI epics.

Warner Bros. describes the movie, per THR, as an “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

Shooting on the new film is expected to begin as early as September. No release date has yet been set for the still-untitled movie. 

Phoenix’s take on the Joker isn’t the only one on DC’s radar. A separate Joker movie based on Jared Leto’s highly touted yet little-seen Suicide Squad character also is reportedly in the works, with Leto both executive-producing and starring. 

Having more than one canonical, DCEU-only Joker is apparently part of DC’s recent strategy of offering up alternate, standalone treatments for its characters in a separate movie universe based on DC Comics, according to Variety. Phoenix’s Joker backstory will reportedly be set in the 1980s, and unfold in a separate cinematic world from that of Leto’s Suicide Squad, which was set within the DCEU.

There’s no early information on a release date or development timeline for Leto’s project, either, and it’s conceivable that, unless Warner Bros. has a change of heart, the two films could fall relatively close to one another in the release cycle of DC-branded movies. Warner Bros. will be talking much more about the DCEU films it has in the pipeline at its San Diego Comic-Con panel on July 21, so we hopefully won’t have to wait much longer before we get a clearer picture of what’s up, exactly, with all these Jokers.