Joker director Todd Phillips says Leonardo DiCaprio was never in consideration for the lead role. Back in 2017, when word of a standalone Joker origin movie first broke, DiCaprio was said to be Warner Bros.' first choice to star. This was when Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio's frequent collaborator, was reportedly eyed to produce, and the thought was Scorsese would be able to convince DiCaprio to portray the iconic villain. However, Joker was made with neither Scorsese or DiCaprio becoming involved as the two kept busy with other projects.
Many have pointed out Joker takes heavy inspiration from Scorsese classics like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, so it would have been very interesting to see DiCaprio explore this type of material. That said, it appears the Oscar winner's potential participation in Joker was exaggerated, and he was never seriously in the running for the job.
Speaking with the New York Times about Joker, Phillips briefly addressed the initial DiCaprio rumors and made it sound like the intention was to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime all along:
“We wrote the movie for Joaquin.”
Joker would have been a very different type of turn for DiCaprio, who normally plays the hero/protagonist in his film. To be fair, he's played some shady characters in the past (The Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort is not a "good guy"), but DiCaprio hasn't tackled anything like the twisted and demented Arthur Fleck before. The closest comparison is probably wickedly evil slave owner Calvin Candie in Django Unchained, one of the few outright villain roles in DiCaprio's filmography. Additionally, DiCaprio has never appeared in a comic book movie; he's one of the few A-listers without a franchise to his name, but the standalone nature of Joker might have been appealing to him. Phoenix was in the same boat, turning down Doctor Strange in the MCU before agreeing to play the Joker.
Even with Phoenix earning strong reviews for his Joker performance, DiCaprio's had a great 2019 himself. Making his long-awaited return after his Oscar win for The Revenant, DiCaprio received much praise for his performance as Rick Dalton in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Right now, both DiCaprio and Phoenix are in the running for a Best Actor nomination at this year's Academy Awards, and cinephiles would love to see the two go head-to-head in an awards race. Of course, there's a lot of time remaining before nominations came out, but even if both DiCaprio and Phoenix come up short, they can be proud of the work they did this year.
Source: New York Times
- 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
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022