Joker director Todd Phillips is reportedly back at work writing the script for Joker 2. Word of Phillips moving ahead with the Joker sequel actually came from a rather unexpected source: a new feature on "Hollywood's Top 100 Attorneys" in 2021. One of those power-player lawyers is one Warren Dern, of the law firm Sloane Offer Weber & Dern, whose clients include Zack Snyder, Amy Poehler, and (obviously) Todd Phillips. While touting the kind of deals that Dern has done recently, THR notes that "Todd Phillips struck a deal to co-write the next Joker installment," a small mention that's going to ring a lot of bells in the DC movie fandom. Take it with a grain of salt though: the trade has already been called out once for jumping the gun on announcing Joker 2.
Joker remains one of the most unexpected dark horse success stories to come from the comic book movie genre. Todd Phillips and Scott Silver writing a Joker origin story was seen as one of the most risky moves ever taken by Warner Bros. and its Batman franchise cash-cow, as fans tend to overwhelmingly prefer the version of DC Comics mythos where The Joker is an enigma, with no clearly defined identity or origin story. In fact, Heath Ledger's mysterious and nihilistic take on Joker in Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight had in many ways become the defining portrait of the character - one that fans weren't looking to upset in any way.
And yet, Phillips and his leading man Joaquin Phoenix overcame the long odds and many naysayers to deliver a hit: Joker grossed over $1 billion dollars on a modest budget (estimated $55-70 million cost) and walked away with major critical and audience acclaim, including two Oscars and two Golden Globes (Best Actor awards for Phoenix, Best Original Score awards for composer Hildur Guðnadóttir). However, while that kind of success almost always warrants a sequel to follow, Phillips's insistence on Joker being more awards season cinema than comic book blockbuster came with the caveat that the project could very well be a one-and-done standalone.
That said, it was also Phillips who kept fans' hopes alive by teasing that he had ideas for a Joker sequel, and had even gone so far as to discuss them with Joaquin Phoenix:
"Here's the real truth about a sequel. While Joaquin and I have talked about it, and while touring the world with Warner Bros executives — going to Toronto, and Venice, and other places — of course, we're sitting at dinner and they're saying, 'So, have you thought about…?' But, talking about contracts, there's not a contract for us to even write a sequel, we've never approached Joaquin to be in a sequel.
"When a movie does $1 billion and cost $60 million to make, of course, it comes up. But Joaquin and I haven't really decided on it. We're open. I mean, I'd love to work with him on anything, quite frankly. So who knows? But it would have to have a real thematic resonance the way this one did, ultimately being about childhood trauma and the lack of love, and the loss of empathy. All those things are really what made this movie work for us, so we'd have to have something that had an equal thematic resonance."
Well, Todd Phillips couldn't have known just how much the year that was 2020 would deliver more thematic resonance than the Joker filmmaker could ever hope for. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the societal upheaval over racism and policing, to the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection that followed... It was all exactly the kind of nightmare that could easily be spun into the next chapter of Arthur Fleck's rise to chaotic criminal supremacy.
We'll keep you updated on the status of Joker 2.