Report: Frances Conroy eyeing mother of a role in Joaquin Phoenix's Joker movie

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Jan 17, 2020, 1:51 PM EST (Updated)

Fresh off the news that Robert De Niro is eying a part as a talk show host in DC’s standalone Todd Phillips/Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie, there’s now a report that veteran character actor Frances Conroy is circling the role of Penny, the Joker’s mother. 

Conroy, best known for playing family matriarch Ruth Fisher on HBO’s acclaimed Six Feet Under series, as well as Moira O'Hara in Season 1 of American Horror Story, is in talks for the part, according to a report at The Wrap, which cites “an individual with knowledge of the project.” 

Conroy and De Niro could join a cast that already includes Phoenix as the titular bad guy (antihero?) in the spinoff origin story, along with a potential turn from Deadpool 2’s Zazie Beetz as a single mom who gets to know the Joker before he’s fully committed to his life of crime. The Wrap also reported last week that Francis McDormand had turned down an offer to play the role of Penny.

Directed by The Hangover’s Phillips, the film (officially titled Joker) is being written by Phillips and Scott Silver. With a reportedly modest $55 million budget, the non-DCEU spinoff is being described as a character study set against a crime thriller backdrop with superhero undertones. Shooting is expected to begin this September.

Of course, there’s also a DCEU film treatment for the Joker in the development pipeline, which would star Jared Leto as the familiar Joker seen (albeit briefly) in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, with Leto also executive producing the still-untitled movie. 

With Warner Bros.’ San Diego Comic-Con panel dominated by Aquaman and other movies much closer to their release dates this year, we didn’t get a lot of fresh insight from DC into the bifurcated Joker movie-verse it’s unfolding. Of the studio’s two in-development Joker projects, the Phillips/Phoenix version certainly appears to be further along. 

Warner Bros. is currently targeting an Oct. 4, 2019 release date for Joker.

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