Arguably the most iconic comic book villain of all time, The Joker needs an appropriately great actor to play him. In the past we’ve seen Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto portray Batman’s nemesis, and now comes news that Joaquin Phoenix is next. Variety reports that the actor is in talks (but not yet negotiations) for the role in an upcoming standalone feature and “after thinking it over,” he has agreed to give it a shot.
This is the “super dark” 1980s-set Joker origin story that Todd Phillips (The Hangover) is directing for Warner Bros. and maybe will also have Martin Scorsese involved in some way as a producer. Previously the studio had been looking at Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead, but now Phillips is said to be eyeing Phoenix as his first choice. This is an unusual direction for the actor, who isn’t particularly known as a mainstream blockbuster type star.
Additionally, the script for the movie is advancing, with Phillips co-writing with The Fighter‘s Scott Silver. That’s two Oscar-nominees for writing on screenplay duty, because this project isn’t clowning around, as it were. With Phoenix as the star, fans should expect something serious, maybe even prestigious – more comparable to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies rather than the recent critically derided DC Extended Universe efforts.
Speaking of the DCEU, DC is said to likely still be employing Leto as his version of The Joker from Suicide Squad. He will appear in that movie’s sequel, due next year. Phoenix had reporetedly been offered a DCEU role in the past, too, as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He passed on that and the titular Avenger of Doctor Strange. What made him change his mind this time? We can hope it’s the promise of quality of this movie that swayed him.