Yes, a Joker film is indeed happening. Yes, it'll be standalone film as with last year's Wonder Woman. Yes, it'll focus on the infamous Batman villain, which is quite rare since superhero films primarily focus on, well, superheroes.
Yes, Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix is set to portray the character — and yes, he's terrified.
Given Phoenix's illustrious movie career, throughout which he's played iconic roles including Commodus in Gladiator, Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and Freddie Quell in The Master — all three of which earned him Oscar nominations for his performance — it's difficult to imagine what makes the idea of playing Joker so daunting for the actor. Phoenix is a chameleon: one look at his filmography reveals a stunning roster of very different characters — one minute he's a murderous, power-hungry scion in ancient Rome, and the next minute he's a dorky, mustachioed yuppie who falls in love with an operating system sometime in the distant future.
Why Joaquin Phoenix Is Terrified Of Playing Joker
Despite his versatility, however, Phoenix says playing Joker scares him. Collider recently sat down with the actor for an interview, where he shared his trepidation over taking on such an iconic character. On how he decides to play a role, he said:
"It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the f***ing s**t out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most."
Standalone Joker Film
The Joker film in question won't be part of the established DC Extended Universe, it's worth noting. Instead, it'll offer a unique spin on the comic's character in a one-off feature. Though it'll feature characters millions of people know and love, it'll still to be considered as a self-contained story.
Todd Phillips, who helmed The Hangover trilogy and the crime film War Dogs, is directing the film from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver. It's described as "an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale." The movie will have a more humble budget than its superhero counterparts, reportedly just in the $55 million range.
Phoenix said he's been thinking about a film like this for years: a stripped-down, low-budget feature that's more character-oriented and less action-packed. He even contemplated about this notional movie focusing on a villain, such as Joker.
"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 [my agent] 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."
Phoenix says he wouldn't classify the film as any genre. He doesn't think it's a cut and dried superhero film, nor a studio movie. In any case, Phoenix says the film aims to cut down the spectacle and instead expose what the character is truly struggling with. That's the part of the project that's most appealing to both Phoenix and Phillips.
"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."
No release date has been announced for the standalone Joker film. From the looks of it, the project could still be in the early stages of development.
Are you thrilled for a low-budget, stripped-down character-oriented film about Joker? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!