What does Joaquin Phoenix now have in common with actors Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto? They are all onscreen portrayers of the infamous Batman archenemy Joker.
Phoenix is the latest thespian to take on the devilish DC Comics role, officially signing on to the unnamed Warner Bros. movie, according to Variety. Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy) will direct the flick, which he co-wrote along with Scott Silver (8 Mile).
Set in the 1980s, the standalone film will be more like a dark crime drama than usual comic book-based movies. It will start shooting in New York City almost right away, this September, and has a budget around $55 million, noted the Hollywood Reporter.
The major motion picture will examine the Joker’s colorful background and reveal how he became the crazy, clown-faced supervillain.
Even though the criminal mastermind with a sick sense of humor was introduced way back in April 1940, as Batman’s very first nemesis in the Caped Crusader’s first DC Comics comic book, the prankster’s origins have never really been definitively explained.
Several backstories have been told over the years, many of which involve a laboratory worker attempting to commit a crime that Batman thwarts. As the man flees the scene, he falls into a vat of chemical waste and becomes severely disfigured, with a white face, permanent red-lipped grin, and green hair. The disfigurement, and possibly the death of his wife and unborn child, drive him insane, leading him to take on the Joker persona.
The man, also known as the Clown Prince of Crime, the Jester of Genocide, the Harlequin of Hate, and the Ace of Knaves, also tried to become a stand-up comedian at some point in his long history.
Jared Leto was the last actor to play the Joker on the silver screen in 2016’s Suicide Squad. He will reportedly reprise the role in not only the film’s sequel but also in a standalone movie.
The eccentric Phoenix has been nominated for three Academy Awards and won one Golden Globe for his 2005 portrayal of the late musician Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. The 43-year-old has two movies in the can scheduled for release later this year, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot comes out July 13, and The Sisters Brothers is slated to hit theaters Oct. 12.
Warner Bros. has yet to reveal the title of Phoenix’s Joker film, its release date, or the names of the actors who will co-star.