Warner's brand new Joker movie is due to be released next year.
Had no idea there was such a movie on the cards? Stick with us as we bring you the lowdown on a gritty-sounding epic that promises to reinvent the Clown Prince of Crime – again.
It's not connected to the DC Extended Universe
By that, we mean it bears no relation to the likes of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League. The latter movie, released in August 2016, introduced us to the most recent iteration of the Joker, as played by a gaudy Jared Leto. However, this movie stands apart from the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) mythology, and, even more confusingly, will also be introducing a completely different actor as The Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix is headlining
Oscar nominated for his mercurial turns as a scheming Roman emperor in Gladiator and tortured country singer Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, there's no denying Joaquin Phoenix can project the intensity required for Batman's greatest nemesis. As further proof, check out his explosive performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, in which he's less a man, more a tightly wound coil of feral rage.
In the process, Phoenix will become the sixth actor to embody the Joker, following Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto.
It has a title
According to The Hollywood Reporter, it's a lean, mean and efficient one: Joker.
It takes us back to the character's origins
The new Joker film is pitching itself as a gritty, grounded crime epic set in the 1980s. It will show us how a seemingly ordinary individual can turn into a horrifying figure of anarchy and evil – previous Batman movies have alluded to this, including the incendiary The Dark Knight, in which the Joker's facial scars are treated to a multitude of possible origin stories.
In the official words of distributor Warner Bros, the movie is "an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale".
The Joker's real name may be revealed
In a further bid to distinguish itself from other movies in this realm, this latest film is set expose the man behind the Joker alias, and tell us what he was called prior to transforming into The Joker. Podcast The Hashtag Show claims his real name is Arthur Fleck, while speculating the movie will tie The Joker's parentage into that of Bruce Wayne, the millionaire orphan who grows up to become Batman.
It will feature Batman's father
Bruce's dad, Thomas, has featured in fragments throughout the Batman movies, although usually only at the point where he's tragically gunned down alongside his wife. (In the comics, an alternate timeline entitled Flashpoint saw Bruce, rather than his father, being murdered, paving the way for Thomas to become Batman.)
After Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin abruptly vacated the role of Thomas Wayne last month, it's now been confirmed that Brett Cullen, who appeared in unrelated Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, will be playing the role.
Self-described Hollywood insider Jeff Sneider claims that Thomas will be a significant player in the movie, and also points towards a significant role for Robert De Niro in the movie. How Wayne's parentage and The Joker's origin will match up remains to be seen.
"As for De Niro's role, I don't think he's playing some canon type character," Sneider tells podcast Collider Movie Talk. "I think he's playing like a local TV host or something like that, who's maybe broadcasting about the Joker. I'm not entirely sure. I do know that one character who has a big role in this is Thomas Wayne."
Robert De Niro is featuring
The Oscar-winning Taxi Driver and Raging Bull actor is nothing less than a titan of cinema. Therefore, the prospect of him appearing in a Joker movie is nothing less than thrilling, particularly given the story takes it back to the sort of mean streets featured so often in De Niro's movies.
According to a source cited in Variety, De Niro is playing "a talk-show host who plays a part in driving Phoenix’s character to go mad and become the Clown Prince of Crime". That certainly sounds interesting, and may give the actor his meatiest role in years.
Marc Maron has also been cast
Don't know the name? Well Maron, although best known as a stand-up comedian and actor, is something of a cult hero in podcasting circles, with his series WTF With Marc Maron attracting some of the biggest A-list names around the world, even including former US President Barack Obama.
Maron has also established more of a following with his role in hit Netflix series GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), and it's been confirmed that he's in talks to star in the Joker movie. Variety indicates that he'll play an agent responsible for booking the Joker on the aforementioned radio show hosted by De Niro's character.
It's currently filming
Directed by The Hangover's Todd Phillips, co-written by 8 Mile's Scott Silver and produced by none other than legendary Goodfellas filmmaker Martin Scorsese, the movie is poised to enter production this autumn. The US release date is currently set as 4th October 2019, although there's no indication when we'll be getting it on these shores.
It's also got a relatively low budget by the standards of these things – just $55 million – so hopefully the focus will remain on character and atmosphere, rather than spectacle. (By contrast, Justice League was treated to a far more extravagant $300m budget.)
Excitingly, Phillips has shared the first look at Arthur, prior to his eventual Joker transformation.
Zazie Beetz is also starring
Having delighted with her Deadpool 2 appearance as the impossibly lucky superhero Domino, rising star Zazie Beetz (who can also be seen in Donald Glover's acclaimed Atlanta series) may well be returning to the comic book realm. No further details have been announced, but given the alleged nature of this Joker movie, we can surely expect something tougher and edgier from her.
Director Kevin Smith says you can never have too many Joker movies
Confused about the multitude of canonical DC movies and their apparently unrelated spin-offs? Geek du jour and Clerks filmmaker Kevin Smith says we should just embrace it.
"When I was growing up, we had no Joker movies," Cinemablend reports him as saying at Comic-Con, "and you were lucky if you got a Batman movie, and the Joker was usually in that. But think about it now, it's a world full of comic book movies. We've seen all the big guns and all the main characters. Aquaman's coming down the pike this summer, that's tremendous. But in that world, why not single out one of the most famous comic book villains, most famous bad guys of all time, the Joker?"
A make-up test has revealed what the new Joker looks like
Phoenix is promising great things
“I wouldn’t quite classify this as like any genre," Phoenix says. "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."
In fact, Phoenix says the role "scares the f—ing s–t out of me", so maybe we'll be getting a redefining take on the character in the manner of Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight.
What are your thoughts on the new Joker movie? Tweet us @Cineworld if you think Joaquin Phoenix will reinvent this legendary comic book villain. The movie is scheduled for an October 2019 release in the USA with a UK date yet to be announced.