Joker director Todd Phillips clears the air over a possible sequel, saying no deal is in place right now. Though the film was conceived as a standalone one-off, talk of a followup was going on in the weeks leading up to Joker's theatrical premiere, with both Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix indicating they were open to a return. Discussion on that topic only intensified as Joker rewrote the box office record books, becoming the first R-rated film to gross $1 billion worldwide and the most profitable comic book movie ever made.
Considering the amount of money Joker brought in, it didn't surprise anyone when it was initially reported yesterday Joker 2 was moving forward, with Phillips directing and co-writing the script. However, it later came out that there wasn't anything lined up yet, and Warner Bros. hadn't even commenced negotiations with the Joker creative team. Looking to set the record straight, Phillips reveals he hasn't been tapped for Joker 2 as of this moment.
Speaking with IndieWire, Phillips explained what he called the "real truth" behind the story. He first debunked the notion he'd be overseeing another DC villain origin movie in the wake of Joker's success (Phillips only pitched WB on a new label, which never came into fruition). As for a Joker sequel, that's certainly in the realm of possibility (as it would be for any $1 billion blockbuster), it currently exists purely in the hypothetical:
"While Joaquin and I have talked about it, and while touring the world with Warner Bros executives — going to Toronto, and Venice, and other places — of course, we’re sitting at dinner and they’re saying, ‘So, have you thought about…?’ But, talking about contracts, there’s not a contract for us to even write a sequel, we’ve never approached Joaquin to be in a sequel. Will that happen? Again, I just think the article was anticipatory at best.”
It's not uncommon for studios to preemptively line up sequels to their tentpoles (a Detective Pikachu sequel was announced months before that movie came out), but Joker was an entirely different beast. It's no secret WB was wary about the film's commercial prospects, choosing to split production costs (and profits) with co-financiers to minimize potential losses. In retrospect, that decision comes across as extremely foolish, but it stands reason to believe the studio wanted to wait and see what happened with Joker before moving forward with anything. Now that the studio knows Joker is a monumental hit that resonated with the zeitgeist, they can confidently lay the groundwork for a sequel. There are probably preliminary discussions happening behind the scenes, but nothing concrete yet.
Even with Joker shattering records left and right, a sequel isn't necessarily a guarantee. Phillips has said he'd only be interested in doing a sequel if it had "thematic resonance" like the first one; it doesn't sound like he'd jump at the opportunity for a paycheck. So, the onus will be on Phillips and Phoenix coming up with a solid foundation for a Joker 2, agreeing on a solid direction to take the series and the character. Should that happen, they likely wouldn't encounter any pushback from the studio and have free rein to tell their story. Joker obviously wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but those who did enjoy Phillips' take would definitely sign up for more.