You think you know the Joker? Think again. The new film from THE HANGOVER mastermind Todd Phillips stands apart from the other DC Comics movies released by Warner Bros., in that it’s introducing a completely new vision of Batman’s legendary archnemesis. And it's all set to arrive in theatres this fall.
This is no ordinary comic book movie, as Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s classic adversary in a twisted origin story that looks more like a ‘70s or ’80s thriller than a typical superhero blockbuster. It’s the first ever live-action film to put Joker front and center, and while many details are being kept secret, it looks like a hit.
To get you ready for the upcoming film, here’s everything we know (so far) about JOKER.
The Joker Release Date
JOKER is set to hit theatres on October 4. It will be the only new movie in wide release coming out that weekend, with other studios presumably steering clear of its box office potential; however, there are a handful of limited releases arriving as well, including THE CURRENT WAR starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland, LUCY IN THE SKY starring Natalie Portman, and PAIN AND GLORY starring Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.
The Joker Trailer
The JOKER trailer premiered at CinemaCon 2019 in Las Vegas and arrived online shortly afterward. Check it out above. Surprisingly, while the movie is now only two months away, Warner Bros. has not yet released a second trailer, maintaining a particular air of mystery around the film.
The Joker Story
Here’s where things are still murky, but in a good way. At CinemaCon 2019, Todd Phillips said that while there’s been a lot of talk about the movie, “most of it hasn’t been very accurate.” But, he noted, “That’s to be expected when you set out to make an origin story about a beloved character that has no definitive origin.” The marketing department at Warner Bros. asked Phillips to describe the movie, and he said, “I can’t,” before landing on the idea that it is in its most accurate definition “a tragedy.”
This movie is totally disconnected from films like SUICIDE SQUAD (which featured the Joker played by Jared Leto) and the rest of the DC Extended Universe. We know that Warner Bros. wanted to experiment with films made on a slightly lower budget than the typical DC movie, with stories outside that continuity.
In JOKER, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck. He cares for his mother and is a wannabe stand-up comedian, but what stands in his way is the fact that he’s a failure on stage. To make ends meet, he works as a clown-for-hire, though that isn’t the greatest gig in Gotham City, which is festering with criminals just aching for the chance to beat up a guy wearing clown makeup and spinning a promotional sign. When it all becomes too much, Arthur suffers from a psychotic break and finds himself dancing around the city streets with green hair and a face covered in makeup.
We’ve seen this legendary character on screen many times, portrayed by the likes of Jared Leto, Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero, not to mention Heath Ledger, who won a posthumous Oscar® for his performance in THE DARK KNIGHT. Of course, it’s expected that this version will be quite different from any Joker that came before.
Will Batman Be in Joker?
Given the aforementioned promise of JOKER being a very different kind of comic book movie, questions have persisted about how the film may integrate Batman into the mix. The answer is that it likely won’t include the costumed vigilante at all — however, the movie does have a role for young Bruce Wayne and his parents, who are still alive when this tale begins.
Brett Cullen, who actually has some Batman experience having played a congressman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, has been cast in the movie as Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s father (pictured above). It’s been reported that this version of the character won’t necessarily be the upstanding businessperson he is generally portrayed as, and set photos suggest that he might occupy the same role in Gotham City that Donald Trump did in New York in the early ’80s of our own world.
Meanwhile, Dante Pereira-Olson plays Bruce Wayne. Since the actor isn’t even yet a teen, the Bruce Wayne in JOKER is a long way from stalking the shadows as Batman.
Is Joker the King of Comedy?
No, he’s the Clown Prince of Crime! Still, there’s reason to ask. After all, Robert De Niro is appearing in JOKER as a talk show host, and that detail makes it immediately reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s THE KING OF COMEDY (above). In the 1982 film, De Niro plays a wannabe stand-up comedian who kidnaps a talk show host, played by Jerry Lewis, as a way to break into show business.
Reports have said that Todd Phillips based the JOKER script in part on THE KING OF COMEDY, while also drawing inspiration from another one of Scorsese’s most beloved classics, TAXI DRIVER, and the fan-favorite comic “Batman: The Killing Joke,” written by Alan Moore. In that limited series, the man who becomes Joker is an engineer who quits his job to become a stand-up comedian, and then agrees to help some criminals in order to make money. But that plan goes horribly wrong.
Part of the way JOKER reflects the Scorsese films is the setting. JOKER takes place in 1981, which puts it far away from all of the other recent DC movies. The era also gives Todd Phillips the chance to play with scenes that are visually similar to those Martin Scorsese movies. The Gotham City in this movie will be grimy and dirty and dangerous, similar to the way New York City is portrayed in TAXI DRIVER.
The Joker Cast
The most notable JOKER cast member is the star himself, Joaquin Phoenix. While the actor played a major role in GLADIATOR almost 20 years ago, he’s not typically found in blockbusters or comic book movies. That being said, there were discussions about him being in the running to play Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few years back, and going through that process may have opened him up to doing something comic-based.
In addition to Phoenix and Robert De Niro, the JOKER cast also features Zazie Beetz of DEADPOOL 2 (above) as Sophie Dumond, a single mother and neighbor of Arthur’s.
Frances Conroy plays Arthur’s mother, Penny Fleck, while Bill Camp and Shea Whigham both play Gotham City cops. Glenn Fleshler appears as another comedian (probably a more successful one than Arthur), and podcaster and comedian Marc Maron appears as a stage manager for the talk show hosted by Robert De Niro.
And, as we mentioned above, Brett Cullen plays Thomas Wayne, and Dante Pereira-Olson appears as Bruce Wayne. Finally, Douglas Hodge plays the Wayne family butler, Alfred Pennyworth, while Brian Tyree Henry plays a record clerk at Arkham Asylum.
Check back with the AMC Scene for more on JOKER!