After the phenomenal success of Wonder Woman and the tremendous disappointment of Justice League in 2017, the studio execs in charge of the DC Extended Universe decided to soften the interconnected nature of the franchise and start focusing on developing projects that would stand on their own. One of the projects caught in the fray of this new experiment is a low-budget, small-scale movie about the Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix – as opposed to Jared Leto, who has played the Joker in the DCEU so far – and Robert De Niro. So, here is Everything We Know (So Far) About Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Movie.
9 The Joker’s Name Is Arthur Fleck
The Joker is usually referred to only as his criminal moniker “the Joker.” However, since this is an origin story, we will be learning a lot about him as a guy, including his real name: Arthur Fleck. We’ll be learning a lot more about the Joker, pre-being the Joker, too, because it’s apparently not a movie about a supervillain – it’s just a movie about a man, who later becomes a supervillain. Warner Bros. has described the movie as “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”
8 The movie has an eclectic supporting cast
In addition to Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro, there will be an eclectic mix of actors in the movie’s supporting cast. Zazie Beetz, who most recently became the breakout star of Deadpool 2 for her role as Domino, will be playing the Joker’s love interest in the movie. Frances Conroy from American Horror Story will play his mother, while Bill Camp from The Leftovers will play a cop working with the Gotham Police Department. Marc Maron, well-known for his WTF podcast, his standup comedy, and his role as Sam Sylvia on Netflix’s GLOW, will also be appearing in the movie.
7 Joker has a much smaller budget than the average comic book movie
Most comic book movies cost upwards of $100 million, and sometimes upwards of $200 million (or, in the case of something massive like Avengers: Infinity War, $300-$400 million). But the new Joker movie is aiming to be a more intimate character study with a smaller scale than those superhero epics.
Its budget is reported to be $55 million. To put this into perspective in terms of other comic book movies, $55 million would cover one of Robert Downey, Jr.’s Avengers paychecks, and maybe one of the smaller sets. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s “a fraction of [the budget of] most superhero pics.”
6 Joaquin Phoenix was attracted to the unique nature of the film
Joaquin Phoenix will be the seventh actor to play the Joker on the screen. Ever since the superhero genre took off with Marvel expanding their cinematic universe and then DC starting up their own, Phoenix has been courted for a few comic book roles, including Doctor Strange. However, he didn’t like the idea of being in a huge, set-menu blockbuster and signing up to star in a few movies a year for a decade. What attracted him to the Joker movie was also what sets it apart from all the other comic book movies flooding theaters: “It feels unique. It is its own world in some ways, and maybe... It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”
5 The movie is set in the 1980s
Todd Phillips and Scott Silver’s screenplay for the new Joker movie is reportedly inspired by the graphic novel The Killing Joke, which was published in 1988 in an attempt to give an origin story to the Joker character, who had been around for many years. The comic was highly acclaimed by both critics and long-time fans of the character. It depicted the Joker as a down-on-his-luck comedian who eventually turned to a life of crime and became an enemy of Batman. That seems to be the basic storyline of this movie. The movie is even set in the ‘80s like the comic.
4 It’s inspired by the films of Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s gritty crime movies Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The King of Comedy – all of which are about the mental downfall of a deeply flawed man – have been named as influences on the style of this movie. The story of a failing stand-up comic resorting to a life of crime is the same as The King of Comedy. Robert De Niro, who starred in all three of those movies for Scorsese, will reportedly appear as a talk show host in the Joker film. Scorsese was even attached to work on the movie as a producer at one point. However, due to his obligations to other movies, he had to drop out. Still, it seems as though the Scorsese mark will be all over this one.
3 The director of The Hangover is calling the shots
Interestingly, the Joker movie will be directed by Todd Phillips, who has never helmed a comic book movie before and is best known for directing the comedies Old School, Due Date, and most famously, The Hangover trilogy. Phillips is also working on the script in a collaboration with writer Scott Silver. Silver’s only experience writing a comic book movie is some uncredited rewrites on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but he is an accomplished screenwriter outside of the genre. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for co-writing David O. Russell’s The Fighter, and also wrote the script for Eminem’s hit movie 8 Mile.
2 It might be rated R
After the X-Men franchise has had great success in the R-rated comic book movie business with the profane Deadpool movies and their ultraviolent, Oscar-nominated masterpiece Logan, it’s about time DC Films tried their hand at one. The new Joker movie would be the perfect project to try out the R rating experiment on.
With its small budget, there would be far less risk involved, and the R rating might be the best way to carry the movie’s gritty, realistic style. Warner Bros. has not officially confirmed that the Joker movie will carry an R rating, but they have suggested that it will “possibly” be aiming for one.
1 The plot will fit in with Jared Leto’s Joker stories
Despite the fact that both Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto are in their 40s and one of them plays the Joker in the ‘80s and the other plays the Joker in the present day, Phoenix’s movie will fit in with Leto’s movies. Diane Nelson, the President of DC Entertainment, explained: “Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no insistence upon an overall storyline or interconnectivity in that universe... Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them.”