Among the many “announced” DC films supposedly being on their way in the next few years – and there sure are a lot of them – none can be too sure of which will actually see the light of day. But whereas I’m less inclined to place my chips on, say, The New Gods or Cyborg, the upcoming Joker origin movie can lay claim to something that not many others on the alleged slate can: an actual green light given by the studio.
Interestingly enough, this picture will set itself apart from the rest of the DC Extended Universe because, for one, Joaquin Phoenix has been enlisted to play the Clown Prince of Crime, as opposed to Jared Leto. Furthermore, it’ll be afforded a smaller budget than most DC flicks (think around $55 million), and is said to be “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”
Having been tight-lipped regarding this subject in months prior, Phoenix finally spilled some beans while recently speaking with Collider, a conversation in which he addressed the daunting task of playing a timeless icon head-on:
“I take a lot of time and consideration when making decisions and what I’m gonna work on always. So, in some ways, the process, which is obviously reading a script and meeting a filmmaker and then continuing to have meetings and discussions with Todd [Phillips]. I think he’s very impressive and he seems to have a very interesting understanding of this world and what he’s trying to say. And so there is something very appealing about that and working with him on this particular project. It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the fucking shit out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”
Funny enough, he had the idea to do something like this years ago – just not with the character he would eventually end up playing:
“Three or four years ago, I called my agent and said ‘Why don’t they want to take one of these characters and just make a lower budget film about it, a movie but a character study, and why not take one of the villains?’ And I thought, ‘You can’t do the Joker, because, you know, it’s just you can’t do that character, it’s just been done.’ So I was trying to think of other characters, and he said ‘I’ll set up a general meeting with Warner Bros.’ And I said ‘I’m not gonna go, I can’t go to a general meeting.’ So I completely forgot about it, and so then I heard about this idea, I was like, ‘Oh that’s so exciting, that’s the kind of experience I wanted to have, with a movie based on a comic character.’ I felt like you could get something on screen.”
Being extremely familiar with the character myself, I must say that the filmmakers should make sure they don’t allow for the audience to sympathize with the Joker, a mistake that Suicide Squad made by having him appear loving and heroic (thank you, studio mandated reshoots). This angle had been explored a decade ago by the Joker graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo by telling the story from the point of view of a third party. By doing that, the creative team didn’t put you in the headspace of the Ace of Knaves, thus preserving his mystique and frightening nature.
Getting back to Phoenix himself, he wrapped up things by teasing the depth of this project:
“I wouldn’t quite classify this as like any genre. I wouldn’t say it’s a superhero movie, or a studio movie or a … It feels unique, and I think more then anything, and probably the most important thing, is Todd seems very passionate about it and very giving, and so that’s exciting. I think, underneath the excitement of these films, and the size of them, there are these incredible characters that are dealing with real life struggles. And sometimes that is uncovered and exposed, and sometimes it isn’t, and so I always felt, like, there were characters in comics that were really interesting and deserve the opportunity to be kind of studied. And so I think that’s what Todd sees appealing about this idea.”
Stayed tuned for additional details about this Joker film, as we imagine there’ll be much, much more to discuss in the months to come.