Todd Phillips’ planned “Joker” origin movie will portray Batman’s arch-nemesis as a failed 1980s comedian who becomes the clown prince of crime after bombing with audiences, insiders exclusively told TheWrap.
Many fans scratched their heads when news first broke that Martin Scorsese, who has eschewed superhero films in the past, would be a producer of the film. But his involvement makes more sense given his work on 1982’s “King of Comedy,” which starred Robert De Niro as a deluded comedian who can’t catch a break. The Joker origin story will include nods to that film, insiders told TheWrap.
Joaquin Phoenix is close to a deal to play the Joker in Phillips’ film, which will show audiences laughing at the Joker instead of with him. The film is eyeing a mid- to late-2018 production start, but an insider with knowledge of the project said it could be delayed by rewrites, which are currently underway by Phillips and “8 Mile” veteran Scott Silver.
The project is expected to be part of a yet-to-be-announced new banner under Warner Bros.’ DC Films that will expand the comic-book canon beyond such familiar DC Extended Universe characters as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Jared Leto’s Joker, who appeared in last year’s “Suicide Squad.”
DC Comics routinely publish stories outside the established DC timeline, reimagining characters with tweaks to their origins and settings without altering the DC canon. The new films could do the same.
The idea of the Joker as a failed comedian isn’t new. In the dark, grotesque 1988 graphic novel “The Killing Joke,” Alan Moore wrote the Joker as a struggling stand-up who snaps after “one bad day” and turns to crime to feed his family.
Through a series of horrific events, he becomes a sadistic super villain obsessed with Batman. (The Joker has had several iterations and origin stories since he debuted in Batman No. 1 in 1940; Batman himself debuted the previous year in Detective Comics No. 27.)
Phillips is best known for writing and directing the “Hangover” franchise for the studio. He last wrote, directed and produced “War Dogs,” starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill.
Silver’s recent credits include “The Finest Hours.” He also wrote the upcoming crime drama “White Boy Rick.”
The studio declined to comment on this story.