The Joker is undoubtedly one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, taking on numerous forms with many of our best actors stepping into the role. For every cinematic iteration of Batman, there’s always been a Joker for him to face off against. And now, with the DC movies facing some big changes, Warner Bros. is looking to expand upon Gotham City’s Clown Prince of Crime’s mythos in a big way, with updates coming in fast about two of their Joker-based efforts.
Todd Phillips recently entered production on Joker, a Martin Scorsese-influenced crime film centered around the origins of the supervillain. And after the first set photos began to emerge, the director took to Instagram to offer our first look at a surprisingly serious-looking Joaquin Phoenix, prompting everyone to say “yup, that sure is Joaquin Phoenix.”
However, it wasn’t long before Phillips followed the original image up with a camera test, showing off Phoenix’s Joker in all his glory. The video, appropriately soundtracked to The Guess Who’s “Laughing,” is brief but gives us a nice insight into the mindset of the character and a taste of what looks to be a multifaceted performance from Phoenix.
Predictably, it didn’t take long for the internet to devour this short clip, declaring it to be both the best and worst thing to ever happen to the character all at once. But hear me out for a second, maybe it doesn’t have to be either. Surely the appeal of these one-and-done standalone movies is that they don’t have to work within the confines of a long-running franchise and can just allow creators to have their own take on the material.
As for the tease itself? Phoenix tells us a lot with a few simple facial expressions, hinting at what will hopefully be a delightfully unpredictable performance that will set him apart from previous Jokers. The makeup has hints of everyone from Cesar Romero to Heath Ledger, and since there’s only so much you can do with the “crazy clown” look anyway, I’m more intrigued to see what Phoenix does with the role. Which at this moment, looks to be so far so good.
Phillips also shared an image of Zazie Beetz, saying that he is “so excited” to be working with the Atlanta star, who is believed to be playing a character called Sophie Dumond. Joker‘s cast is one of the best things going for the movie, with the likes of Frances Conroy, Robert De Niro, and Marc Maron joining Phoenix and Beetz. An odd mix of actors for sure, that genuinely has me quite fascinated to see how this ends up.
And if the movie turns out bad, then we can all just move on, right? The Joker will continue to appear in all manner of DC materials and it’s not like this version will have to fit into an ongoing series anyway…
…Which bring us to an update on the Joker/Harley Quinn movie, presumably starring Jared Leto and Margot Robbie. We’ve been hearing talk (or threats) of a Leto Joker movie for some time now, and while many of us assumed this project was dead in the water, a new interview with screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa sheds some light on the situation.
Speaking to Metro, Ficarra and Requa spoke about their Joker/Harley script:
“We had so much fun, I don’t know if we have had more fun writing a script in our career.
It was sort of like, we wrote ‘Bad Santa’ a couple of years ago, and it was that sensibility mixed with our ‘This Is Us’ sensibility. We kind of meshed them together.
We were doing a relationship movie but with the sensibility of a ‘Bad Santa,’ f***ed up, mentally deranged people. It was a lot of fun.”
All of which sounds… less appealing. Robbie might have been the one saving grace of Suicide Squad, but the way the movie treated her character, particularly in regards to her relationship with the Joker, left a lot to be desired. And the idea of seeing an entire movie based around that relationship, including the return of Leto’s Joker, is hardly an enticing prospect.
The screenwriting duo did admit, however, that they “don’t know where it is on the queue of DC movies,” meaning that there’s a chance the film may never even see the light of day. And honestly, Robbie’s talents would be put to much better use in Cathy Yan‘s Birds of Prey anyway, whose list of potential cast members gives us much to look forward to. Meanwhile, removing Leto’s Joker from the equation would spare us all a great deal of annoyance and give Harley Quinn the chance to develop on her own as a character.
If Warner Bros. really wants to make a star out of the Clown Prince of Crime, it’s probably best not to give us multiple different versions at once. And the world only needs so many Joker movies. But based on these new updates, they at least appear to have chosen wisely.