It’s really happening – Joaquin Phoenix is playing the Joker in a new film.
Batman’s arch nemesis has a long, storied history in film, most notably Heath Ledger’s remarkable incarnation in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, for which he won a post-humous Academy Award (Ledger tragically passed away not long after the film was completed).
Phoenix, best known for his roles as Johnny Cash in Walk The Line and Commodus in Gladiator, is set to lead the line as Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian in 1980s Gotham City who is driven to insanity and turns into a criminal mastermind.
He is joined by Atlanta’s Zazie Beets, who will play his love interest, a cynical single mother called Sophie Dumond, and Robert De Niro as a talk show host. Marc Maron, Brian Tyree Henry, Bill Camp and Shea Whigham will also feature.
At one point, Alec Baldwin was attached to the movie playing Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne (now portrayed by Brett Cullen) but dropped out. He cited “scheduling issues” but days before had taken to Twitter to dispel rumours he would seek inspiration from Donald Trump – who he impersonates on SNL – to play the character:
“Let me state, for the record, that I have NOT been hired to play a role in Todd Phillips’ Joker as some Donald Trump manque,” he wrote. “That is not happening. Not. Happening.”
What is Joker about?
The film will track Arthur Fleck’s transformation from down-and-out comedian to Gotham City supervillain.
In a recent interview with IndieWire, Marc Maron suggested that the film is going to be unlike any comic book film before it.
“I think it’s a very interesting approach to this world,” he said. “The approach that Todd Phillips has taken is more of an origin story and a character study of a mentally ill person that becomes The Joker. It’s more of an intimate and gritty movie with a very specific scope. It’s going to be really interesting to see how it comes out.”
It’s a view backed up by producer Michael E Uslan who drew comparisons to Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool during a recent appearance at fan event CCXP Cologne.
“I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was different and unique when it came out. I thought Deadpool was different and unique when it came out,” Uslan explained, as reported by Comicbook.com. “This Joker movie is different and unique and it’s unlike any comic book movie you’ve ever seen.”
And it’s a sentiment also echoed by fans who saw the trailer first at CinemaCon.
“First teaser for Joker is super dark and disturbing – the downfall of a man, dragged and beaten down until he turns and beats up on a world turned against him,” he said. We knew there was a good reason Joaquin took on the role…
“I used to think my life was a tragedy, but now I realize it’s a comedy.” Wow, first teaser for #Joker is super dark and disturbing – the downfall of a man, dragged and beaten down until he turns and beats up on a world turned against him. #CinemaConpic.twitter.com/SDD8DGDd5o
It has been suggested that the film will ultimately be a take on the graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke from 1988, which portrayed him as a failed comedian pressured into committing crime to support his pregnant wife, until Batman’s interference causes him to leap into a chemical vat, which disfigures him and causes him to go insane and become the Joker.
Is Joker getting good reviews?
Early buzz out of the Toronto International Film Festival is positive – the festival’s artistic director Cameron Bailey told Toronto Sun: “It’s a really original take on comic book movies and on the Joker character in particular.
“It’s set in the late ’70s/early ’80s and it feels like it was made then. It’s gritty in its look. It has references to Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking and it feels like a cinematic achievement on a high level. Although it’s working with very populist material, it has great ambition.”
Who else has played the Joker and what other movies has he appeared in?
Phoenix is the latest in a long line of actors to portray the Joker across film and TV. Of course, Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the greatest embodiment of the character.
In honor of April Fools Day. Who was a better Joker?
Leto was the most recent actor to put their spin on the role, but is not expected to return for James Gunn’s Suicide Squad sequel. And while DC presses forward with Phoenix’s take, it’s not looking like Leto will reprise the role anytime soon.
Other favourites to have portrayed the Joker include Mark Hamill’s version from Batman: The Animated Series and several video games and Zach Galifianakis’ portrayal in The Lego Batman Movie.
Joker will be released in UK cinemas on 4th October 2019