The DC Films brand is expanding into standalone movies, starting with a Joker origin story from The Hangover director Todd Phillips. Now Variety is reporting that The Master star Joaquin Phoenix is in talks to play Joker in Phillips' movie.
Specifically it is reported that Phoenix is Todd Phillips clear frontrunner for the Joker role, but that studio negotiations have not yet begun. However, Phillips and Phoenix reportedly had a very successful meeting late last year, and it's now just on Warner Bros. to sign off. Rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio was first sought for the role, but didn't come to a deal.
The DC Standalone franchise is still waiting on an official branding name, but this Joker origin story will no doubt be an important launchpad for this division of the brand, which will offer moviegoers storylines and characters not included in the main DC Extended Universe shared universe.
Phoenix is surely going to cause a major wave of fan reaction - but considering DC Films' history of controversial casting choices, this should be one of the easier ones to sell. Phoenix has long been sought to play a major comic book movie role, with rumors having previously putting him in the running for both Doctor Strange and Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman. His work in The Master was a particularly convincing audition for this Joker role; in that acclaimed PT Anderson work, Phoenix played Freddie Quell, an ex Navy man who comes home from WWII and starts a slow-burn descent into madness, as falls into the grip of a cult that not-so-coincidentally resembles the early days of Scientology. The final scene of the film has Phoenix doing and saying things that might even make "Mr. J" blush.
For those wondering: Phoenix's casting in this Joker origin movie doesn't affect Jared Leto's return as the DCEU Joker in Suicide Squad 2.
Development continues on this Joker origin movie, with the release date TBA.