Joaquin Phoenix Almost Pitched The Joker Movie 3 Years Ago

The upcoming Joker origins film was an idea which star Joaquin Phoenix has been holding on to for years and might not have realized it until now.

The actor who will play the titular DC villain in the standalone film with no ties to the DC Extended Universe where Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Superman, Cyborg, and The Flash already reside revealed he considered pitching the idea three years ago. Around that time, Jared Leto was in the early process of becoming the Joker for the Suicide Squad movie.

“Three or four years ago, I called my agent and said ‘Why don’t they want to take one of these characters and just make a lower budget film about it, a movie but a character study, and why not take one of the villains?’" Phoenix told Collider. "And I thought, ‘You can’t do the Joker, because, you know, it’s just you can’t do that character, it’s just been done.’ So I was trying to think of other characters, and he said ‘I’ll set up a general meeting with Warner Bros.’ And I said ‘I’m not gonna go, I can’t go to a general meeting.’ So I completely forgot about it, and so then I heard about this idea, I was like, ‘Oh that’s so exciting, that’s the kind of experience I wanted to have, with a movie based on a comic character.’ I felt like you could get something on screen.”

As the opportunity arose, Phoenix quickly became interested when he learned more about the film which begins shooting in September.

“I take a lot of time and consideration when making decisions and what I’m gonna work on always," Phoenix said. "So, in some ways, the process, which is obviously reading a script and meeting a filmmaker and then continuing to have meetings and discussions with Todd [Phillips]. I think he’s very impressive and he seems to have a very interesting understanding of this world and what he’s trying to say. And so there is something very appealing about that and working with him on this particular project. It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the f---ing s--- out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”

The challenges, in fact, might be drawing Phoenix to the part.

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“It’s a magnified version of what you deal with as an actor," Phoenix said. "So, when you get a script, obviously, the writer— usually for me, it’s the writer/director, last several years I’ve worked with a filmmaker that was the writer and director— and they have their expectation, and they’ve imagined things in their head, and they’ve imagined different actors, and suddenly you take it on and so there’s this moment of anxiety of ‘Did I live up to their expectations?’ And at some point you have to just own it and say like, ‘I can’t consider who they might have thought up before or what the movie was for the 6 months ago, this is what it is now and I have to find my way into it.’ And so in some ways it’s a very similar experience, right? But it feels magnified because it’s not just one person’s expectations, but what you’re telling me is that there’s at least a dozen.”

The Joker origins film does not yet have a release date.