Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ movie: Here’s everything we know so far

Joaquin Phoenix goes full clown in latest 'Joker' movie photo

The Joker is more than just Batman’s most infamous enemy. He’s also one of comics’ most iconic villains, with a long history of memorable portrayals on both the big screen and television. More than 30 years after Jack Nicholson portrayed the Clown Prince of Crime in Tim Burton’s Batman and a decade after Heath Ledger’s award-winning turn as the maniacal villain in The Dark Knight, Joaquin Phoenix will star in Joker, a solo feature intended to provide the character with a new cinematic origin story.

The latest updates on Joker offer an early look at Phoenix in full-on clown mode, as well as some additional peeks at the film’s impressive cast.

Three-time Academy Award nominee Phoenix is set to star in Joker as the titular villain, with The Hangover director Todd Phillips behind the camera. Scheduled to hit theaters October 4, 2019, the film also boasts a high-profile cast that include an Academy Award winner and a story that’s expected to diverge significantly from DC Comics lore.

Here’s everything we know about the Joker movie so far.

  • Title: Joker
  • Release date: October 4, 2019
  • Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro, Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron
  • Director: Todd Phillips

First look

There’s no certainty as to how Phoenix will look in full Joker makeup, but Phillips has teased audiences with one possible variation on the Clown Prince of Crime that puts the emphasis on “clown” in that title. The director posted a photo in late September featuring Phoenix in full clown makeup and costume from the set of the film.

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Work.

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We got our first peek at Phillips’ vision for The Joker on September 21, with the director posting a brief video on Instagram with Phoenix in traditional, clown-style makeup as the character — a significant departure from the look of past iterations of the character.

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Camera test (w/ sound). Joker.

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Just a short time after cameras began rolling on Joker, Phillips posted the first official photo of Phoenix in character for the film.

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Arthur.

A post shared by Todd Phillips (@toddphillips1) on

The cast

Following in the footsteps of Nicholson, Ledger, and most recently Jared Leto, Her and Walk the Line star Joaquin Phoenix will play the title character in Joker, which will explore the time before he became one of DC Comics’ most terrifying villains.

joaquin phoenix
[Image courtesy of Everett Collection/Shutterstock]

“It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the [crap] out of me or something,” Phoenix told Collider in July 2018. “It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”

Joining Phoenix in the cast is two-time Academy Award winner Robert DeNiro, who is expected to play a talk show host who plays a key role in sending Phoenix’s character down the dark path to becoming Joker.

One actor who won’t be appearing in the film will be Academy Award nominee and three-time Primetime Emmy Award winner Alec Baldwin, who was initially reported to be playing Thomas Wayne, the father of the man who will become Batman, Bruce Wayne. However, just two days after being announced in the role, Baldwin told USA Today, “I’m no longer doing that movie,” citing “scheduling” issues.

Ghost Rider and Person of Interest actor Brett Cullen later joined the film in the role vacated by Baldwin. In a departure from DC Comics lore, the character of Thomas Wayne was rumored to be “a cheesy and tanned businessman … more in the mold of a 1980s Donald Trump” instead of a wealthy doctor and philanthropist.

In July, Atlanta and Deadpool 2 actress Zazie Beetz joined the film in another vaguely described role. Beetz will reportedly play “a single mother who catches the interest of the man who will become the Clown Prince of Crime.” In September, Phillips posted a photo of Beetz from the set of the film.

A flurry of casting reports in late July also added American Horror Story actress Frances Conroy and GLOW actor and comedian Marc Maron to the project. Conroy is expected to play the mother of Phoenix’s character, while Maron is rumored to be playing a booking agent for a talk show hosted by DeNiro’s character.

The story

Warner Bros. Pictures revealed a brief but official synopsis for Joker while announcing the start of filming on the movie in September 2018. The description of the film reads as follows: “Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

The film will be set in Batman’s home city of Gotham in the 1980s, and based on a script penned by Phillips and Scott Silver (8 Mile). Early rumors indicated that Phoenix would play a stand-up comedian who turns to a life of crime — and one would assume, criminal insanity — when he reaches a breaking point in his life and career. DeNiro and Maron’s characters are expected to play a major role in that evolution from struggling comedian to Clown Prince of Crime.

joker movie joaquin phoenix news killing joke
DC Comics

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke is rumored to be one of the primary inspirations for the film’s story. The comic, which is widely considered one of the greatest Joker stories ever told, established an origin for the character as a failed comedian who loses his wife and has his face disfigured during a botched robbery he undertakes in order to make ends meet.

Filming

As first reported by DeadlineJoker began shooting in September 2018. The first unofficial photo from the set of the film found its way online shortly thereafter, and it featured Joaquin Phoenix interacting with … wait for it … a clown.

Several Hollywood heavyweights are among the project’s production crew, including cinematographer — and former Phillips collaborator — Lawrence Sher (War Dogs), designer Mark Friedberg (Selma), and casting director Shayna Markowitz (Ocean’s 8).

The other Jokers

Although the Joker movie will tell an origin story of sorts for Batman’s notorious nemesis, the film won’t have any connection to the most recent version of the character to appear on the big screen.

jared leto andy warhol movie biopic joker imago

Warner Bros. Pictures has indicated that Joker will exist in its own universe, separate from that of Jared Leto’s portrayal of the character in Suicide Squad. Leto will still bring his spin on the character back to the screen in two planned films — a team-up film with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and a Suicide Squad sequel — which will exist in the studio’s cinematic universe of DC Comics heroes and villains, but have no narrative link to Joker.

Updated on September 25, 2018: Added a photo of Joaquin Phoenix from the set of the film, as well as a photo of Zazie Beetz.

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