UPDATE: April Fools! It looks like Jared Leto's Joker remains in Birds of Prey. But should Phoenix's version get more than one movie?
Joaquin Phoenix's Joker may find himself joining the DCEU proper after the actor films a cameo with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn for Birds of Prey. This would see the one-shot villain replace Jared Leto as the prime Joker going forward.
The next two movies from DC Films have, thus far, been viewed as entirely separate endeavors. First, in October 2019, Todd Phillips' Joker will tell a standalone origin story for the Clown Prince of Crime. Then, in February 2020, Harley will return joined by Huntress and Black Canary for Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). With Margot Robbie reprising her instant-hit role from Suicide Squad and Phoenix's film dubbed an "Elseworlds" story apart from the DCEU, it was assumed they were in separate continuities, but that now no longer seems to be the case.
It had been previously rumored that Phoenix was on the Birds of Prey set for a day and shot a scene with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, tying the movie universes together. Now, per a cast list from Warner Bros., it's confirmed: Joaquin Phoenix is set to reprise his role of Arthur Fleck aka the Joker in Birds of Prey. There are no firm details about what the cameo entails, but it's likely a small moment establishing Joker's presence in the universe, either at the beginning or end of the story.
It would seem that Phoenix, far from playing Joker for a one-and-done movie, is shaping up to have a multi-film commitment at the character. There's presently no information about how far ahead his contract goes, but it's unlikely Birds of Prey will be the end of his time in the DCEU.
Conspicuously, there's no mention of Jared Leto, who played Mr. J opposite Harley Quinn in 2016's Suicide Squad, but this would seem to suggest he is out as the character. Recently, Leto shared an image of a clown and set photos suggested his character's return, even if in a brief cameo. In light of this report, though, it seems that he was instead alluding to plans to replace him following his divisive debut and indicating the scene in the set photos don't involve him. The Oscar-winner is currently filming Morbius, the second of Sony's Spider-Man villain spinoffs, so still has his hat in the supervillain ring.
The news has some pretty big implications for the DCEU going forward. Next up in the Gotham corner of the shared universe will be Matt Reeves' The Batman in June 2021. That will tackle a younger version of the Dark Knight than Ben Affleck portrayed in Batman v Superman through to Justice League and was recently rumored to be set in the 1990s. With Joker placing Phoenix's origin story in the 1980s, this establishes a new canon ripe for a Batman/Joker showdown in that movie.
This would be the first major recast in the DCEU since the course correct following Justice League's box office bomb, but it won't be the last. There's a new Batman on the way and Ezra Miller's future as The Flash is uncertain. While this change of Joker - in both actor and, no doubt, personality - is sure to upset certain sections of the DCEU fandom, this Birds of Prey move fits DC Film's current mission statement to prioritize what's good for the quality of individual movies over an overly continuity-driven shared universe.
Also in the Birds of Prey cast list are Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Ben Affleck as Batman and Michael Caine as Alfred.
Source: Warner Bros.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2021) release date: May 21, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022