When it was first announced that Warner Bros. was developing a standalone Joker origin movie that would be outside the continuity of the current DCEU, fans everywhere were split in half. Some couldn’t believe it was happening, others had been waiting their whole life for that moment. That was quickly washed away and everyone was quickly on the same page once Joaquin Phoenix was cast in the role. A Joker movie starring one of the best character actors of our generation? Yeah, there was no way to not be excited about it.
Phoenix’s career has been brilliant, so brilliant that I never personally believed he would venture into something like the comic book genre. Sure, he’s done big budget mainstream films in the past, but his career has shifted into something completely different over the past decade or so. That’s what makes this so exciting. The script or idea must be amazing behind it, right? According to Phoenix himself, who recently sat down with Steve “Frosty” Weintraub of Collider, there are a few small reasons that got him very interested in joining the project:
“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.”
Surprisingly, although Phoenix was quite hesitant from the beginning, he actually had interest in a project extremely similar to this one a handful of years ago:
“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.”
Tod Phillips, who directed The Hangover trilogy and more recently War Dogs, will be helming this standalone DC film from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver. Phillips initially seemed like a very odd choice to direct this movie, but it seems like Warner Bros. is shifting gears and taking a completely different approach to the movie than they have with their other DC properties.
In addition to casting Phoenix for the role, most comic book movies come with quite a large budget. This film has a rumored $55 million budget, which means the idea behind this standalone story is to do nothing but a character study, possibly even R-rated! Here’s what Phoenix had to say about the kind of film they’re aiming for:
“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.”
As someone who has not only been following the comic book genre for a long time, but enjoyed comic books for years, I can say I’m loving everything about this project so far. I was incredibly iffy at first, but the biggest draw at this point, outside of Phoenix’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime, is the fact that there are no rules to follow, no universe’s to connect to. This will allow Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix to do whatever they want, and I couldn’t be more interested in seeing how they’re able to tackle the greatest villain in all of comic books.
What do you all think? First of all, is Joaquin Phoenix is the perfect casting? How about the combination of Phillips and Phoenix? Whether or not it’s successful, are you happy to see WB and DC focusing more on making good movies rather than universe building? Sound off in the comments!