Everything We Know

Everything We Know About Todd Phillips' Joker So Far

Who's in the cast? What do the Waynes have to do with it? How are they playing with DC mythology?

by | August 28, 2019 | Comments

Will Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Bring Home an Oscar?

Joaquin Phoenix is already drawing Oscar buzz for his role in Joker Movie – here’s everything we know about the upcoming film.

Posted by The Rotten Tomatoes Channel on Thursday, August 29, 2019

This October, one of the odder and, in some ways, most ambitious projects in Warner Bros. Pictures’ attempts to turn DC Comics characters into feature films will debut: Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips  (The HangoverOld School) from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix in a new origin story for the typically origin-less Clown Prince of Crime. It will also be the first of Warner Bros. Pictures’ recent DC Comics-based films to completely eschew the notion of an interconnected film universe. Here is what we know about the project so far. [Updated on 8/28.]

Joker Stands Alone

Despite Warner Bros’ efforts to create a cohesive film universe for its superheroes and assorted villains, Joker will not be part of the same story continuity as Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or Shazam!. Instead, it will stand alone as its own separate reality. The concept is not unlike DC Comics’ own Elseworlds brand. Though long discontinued, Elseworlds told remixed superhero stories featuring such concepts as the Waynes finding the infant Kal-El instead of the Kents or Batman as an actual vampire. Though published before Elseworlds became a formalized concept, The Dark Knight Returns was considered one of these tales. In the years since, DC returned to the idea with the “Earth-1” line and “DC Black Label,” which could be a very good name for a line of films separate from the Justice League continuity.

Meanwhile, the Joker of that universe, Jared Leto, is developing his own Joker feature film.

He Has a Name This Time, And It’s Arthur Fleck

Heath Ledger’s Joker was nameless in The Dark Knight (Photo by © Warner Bros. )

There might be a punchline embedded in that name, but Joker is dispensing with the mystery surrounding the character’s real name. This sets it apart from previous Joker tales like The Dark Knight and The Killing Joke, the defining Joker comic book story by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. In each, the character is treated as unknowable – even in The Killing Joke, the extended flashbacks of a failed comedian embarking on a life of crime are later revealed to be unreliable – with his name obscured. In 1989’s Batman, he was given the name “Jack Napier,” which became the character’s real name in comic-book continuity for a time. But in giving Joker this new name, Phillips and Silver boldly announce the movie will not be as ambiguous about the character’s background as The Dark Knight. Which is probably a good idea as The Dark Knight was the definitive screen take on the unknowable, force-of-nature character.

In the film, Arthur (Phoenix) will be a “man disregarded by society,” in a story the studio considers both a “gritty character study” and a “broader cautionary tale.” Marc Maron, who also appears in the film, echoed the sentiment when asked about the project, adding that the story is more “intimate” and specific in scope than superhero films he made fun of in the past. Additionally, the studio made clear Arthur is a failed comedian who, through the events of the film, becomes the infamous criminal mastermind. And as the recent trailer suggests, his swing toward crime will come after a rather public humiliation.

Joker poster

(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures)

According to Maron, Phoenix lost himself in the role, as often seems to happen when actors play the Joker. Prior to Phoenix, Leto made headlines with pranks “perpetrated” by his Joker on the set of Suicide Squad. Heath Ledger’s iconic take on the character was lauded with an Academy Award, but decompressing from the role left him unable to get more than an hour’s sleep in the months leading up to his tragic and untimely death.

Maron said Phoenix remained in character between takes. He added that he respected the actor’s process and left him alone to maintain the character.

It’s a Big Departure for the Director

In fact, the “gritty character study” phrase used by the studio has been floating around since the time Phoenix confirmed his participation in the project. According to the actor, part of the film’s appeal is its $40 million “low budget” nature. The modest spend is both a departure from the tentpole sort of films Joker appears in and even the sort of films Phillips makes.

The director came to prominence with The Hangover series, which started with a seemingly modest $35 million budget – granted, that figure is on the higher end for comedies of the time – but spending on Hangover films ballooned to $103 million by The Hangover 3. And though Joker appears to be a return to smaller budgets, the subject matter as described in interviews and press releases suggests Phillips will be leaving the zany comedy of Old School or Starsky & Hutch (and even the darker tinged action-comedy of War Dogs) behind for something much more contained and potentially serious.

Robert De Niro Is Part Of Joker’s New Origin

De Niro in The King of Comedy (Photo by © 20th Century Fox)

In the earliest reports on the project, legendary director Martin Scorsese was said to be attached as a producer. The scuttle around that report centered on Scorsese securing the participation of his frequent collaborator Robert De Niro. Though Scorsese’s name is absent from official press releases – in fact, he seems to have been replaced by Phillips’ old Hangover compatriot, Bradley Cooper – De Niro is a confirmed part of the film’s cast. He plays Murray Franklin, a Gotham City talk show host whose callous use of Arthur’s stand-up act during an opening monologue will lead Arthur toward his destiny. Many are seeing the casting as an inversion of his role in Scorsese’s 1982 film The King of Comedy, in which he played a man like Arthur who takes a talk show host (Jerry Lewis) hostage.

The trailer makes it appear as though Arthur and Murray will come to some accord. A seemingly cordial scene in a dressing room suggests the latter will invite the former onto his show to do a set. Then again, Arthur’s request to be introduced as “Joker” also suggests his appearance may not be as copacetic as it seems. Will Murray make it to the end of that night’s show alive?

The Wayne Factor, Plus A Deadpool Surprise

Other actors in the film include Deadpool 2’s Zazie Beetz as Sophie Drumond, a cynical a single mother who, as seen in the trailer, connects with Arthur in an unexpected way; American Horror Story’s Frances Conroy as Arthur’s mother Penny; and a wide group of performers including Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Maron, Josh Pais, and Shea Whigham.

Brett Cullen will also appear as Thomas Wayne, father of Arthur’s eventual nemesis, Bruce Wayne (Cullen also appeared as a congressman in The Dark Knight Rises). According to reports circulating at a time when Alec Baldwin was in early talks to play the part, Wayne will be re-envisioned as a spoiled 1980s land baron. The rather obvious pastiche of a role Baldwin regularly plays on Saturday Night Live may have led to the actor withdrawing from negotiations, though he later said scheduling was the primary cause. From his brief moment in the trailer, it is unclear if Cullen will play this vain version of Thomas, but a wild change to the charitable and caring Wayne patriarch would represent one of the great leaps in DC Comics mythology the film intends to make. It may also indicate more changes to the lore are on their way.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Joker is in theaters October 4, 2019


Joker (2019)

Adjusted Score: 100837%
Critics Consensus: Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star -- and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema.
Synopsis: Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, failed comedian Arthur Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into... [More]
Directed By: Todd Phillips

Tag Cloud

biopic ghosts Amazon Prime Video twilight MSNBC die hard television Music Quiz Trivia sports video on demand Crunchyroll Tarantino OneApp BET Awards 99% San Diego Comic-Con 2017 YA docudrama Superheroes GoT streaming APB The Walt Disney Company CNN golden globe awards ID SDCC Amazon Studios sitcom LGBT children's TV RT History rom-coms TCM Esquire 1990s new zealand Mystery science fiction rt labs critics edition 2015 teaser New York Comic Con Writers Guild of America The Arrangement DC streaming service Epix international breaking bad cars YouTube Red disaster 2021 USA Network NBA boxoffice Avengers binge toy story Chernobyl spy thriller anthology japanese serial killer spinoff USA comedies Winter TV NBC supernatural sag awards halloween doctor who blockbusters comic book movies Bravo directors Discovery Channel TNT miniseries CW Seed TCA Awards A&E name the review Acorn TV laika TV movies Trailer christmas movies Food Network cooking Universal Photos TV One Shudder Awards Tour Britbox adaptation 90s vampires pirates of the caribbean BBC Amazon Prime Red Carpet james bond technology canceled VICE gangster FOX festivals hispanic heritage month mutant 93rd Oscars emmy awards blaxploitation game of thrones Fox News unscripted basketball indiana jones adventure Disney wonder woman fresh Box Office Nickelodeon legend WarnerMedia Marvel Studios Funimation all-time cults heist movie blockbuster chucky Pixar king arthur know your critic Holidays Masterpiece Cosplay Fall TV diversity rotten Binge Guide stand-up comedy Elton John slasher A24 Ovation rt labs parents Apple Marvel Polls and Games Hear Us Out independent prank reboot psycho Ellie Kemper IFC Films Sony Pictures Cartoon Network Dark Horse Comics Tubi Super Bowl travel 24 frames The Walking Dead 20th Century Fox TV medical drama south america Anna Paquin 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Image Comics E3 scary movies marvel cinematic universe docuseries Disney Channel child's play TBS HBO CMT Wes Anderson dragons RT21 stop motion crossover obituary justice league MCU war National Geographic space feel good First Look Paramount screen actors guild Animation Nominations Nat Geo news E! Premiere Dates 2016 zero dark thirty casting cancelled television monster movies Pop TV free movies archives Comic-Con@Home 2021 Legendary crime thriller king kong Drama Star Trek batman ABC Family TruTV asian-american award winner Rock debate GIFs Year in Review Hallmark Christmas movies aapi Brie Larson Endgame Arrowverse Exclusive Video Set visit Hulu tv talk SundanceTV First Reviews Spring TV new star wars movies Holiday political drama canceled TV shows what to watch BET Best and Worst mission: impossible Apple TV Plus streaming movies book young adult suspense Alien stoner Film Festival comic Pet Sematary Showtime Broadway slashers posters Sci-Fi Syfy dogs reviews Disney+ Disney Plus kids Chilling Adventures of Sabrina saw video psychological thriller ESPN Crackle Apple TV+ a nightmare on elm street Warner Bros. discovery Lionsgate DC Universe Emmys HBO Max Cannes venice 4/20 Christmas MTV VH1 zombie kaiju boxing deadpool olympics Musicals new york adenture concert Netflix Christmas movies indie police drama YouTube Premium target NYCC TCA The Purge cats Paramount Network Mudbound golden globes 72 Emmy Awards Family Adult Swim YouTube period drama sequels comics Fox Searchlight History 2018 hispanic remakes mcc Black History Month BBC America Sundance Now talk show Marvel Television worst movies Sundance Baby Yoda cancelled comic books classics CBS Biopics Women's History Month Reality joker facebook Horror romantic comedy Columbia Pictures 73rd Emmy Awards BBC One Ghostbusters Disney streaming service cancelled TV series composers FXX critics toronto richard e. Grant DirecTV TV renewals Toys ViacomCBS true crime dramedy foreign Spike satire Teen latino Watching Series VOD Hallmark Turner Classic Movies Pop Rom-Com marvel comics 007 sequel screenings series cancelled TV shows The Academy Starz universal monsters BAFTA elevated horror Mary Poppins Returns cinemax social media action-comedy Mary Tyler Moore australia game show rt archives Pride Month Freeform Comedy Central TV Land nbcuniversal superman black dexter LGBTQ American Society of Cinematographers CBS All Access Tokyo Olympics Film werewolf Awards Comics on TV book adaptation godzilla Country cartoon Superheroe Musical Podcast Star Wars Fantasy football spanish Kids & Family Shondaland Pacific Islander Classic Film Academy Awards ABC Signature Schedule DC Comics TIFF live action Marathons Peacock strong female leads finale jurassic park Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt renewed TV shows El Rey Tumblr Logo royal family Infographic Television Critics Association scene in color trailers Turner worst PBS anime Sundance TV halloween tv Interview transformers TCA Winter 2020 superhero dceu FX japan ratings GLAAD Rocketman fast and furious President spanish language Lifetime Christmas movies The CW best hist 21st Century Fox popular Captain marvel WGN revenge Western 2019 Lucasfilm aliens ITV Song of Ice and Fire based on movie romance Vudu Certified Fresh critic resources documentary documentaries Lifetime jamie lee curtis TLC festival Countdown See It Skip It Rocky theme song Winners women Emmy Nominations DGA natural history hidden camera nature animated Extras harry potter dc movie franchise Spectrum Originals criterion Video Games Stephen King witnail politics italian Trophy Talk singing competition thriller SXSW PaleyFest Sneak Peek Tomatazos HBO Go Grammys Comedy crime FX on Hulu Election films Summer spain movies nfl comic book movie green book rotten movies we love hollywood 71st Emmy Awards biography Thanksgiving cops mockumentary 2020 razzies Netflix Pirates TCA 2017 Mindy Kaling quibi The Witch Black Mirror IFC kong Action spider-man comiccon robots Comic Book PlayStation Disney Plus Heroines telelvision Travel Channel Paramount Plus Martial Arts Mary poppins historical drama 45 dark scorecard OWN Amazon lord of the rings Opinion Oscars X-Men AMC Television Academy high school zombies crime drama Walt Disney Pictures french Character Guide Creative Arts Emmys Calendar Valentine's Day versus ABC Reality Competition