Michael E. Uslan, the shepherd of the Batman film franchise and executive producer of Joker, says filmmakers could do "something amazing" with the tragic origin story that thawed Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series. Once a campy and cold-hearted comic book villain who wields a freeze gun, "Heart of Ice" revamps the rogue as cryogenics scientist Victor Fries, a sympathetic figure fueled by personal loss. Placing his beloved wife, Nora, in stasis while he seeks a cure for her terminal illness, a lab accident exposes Fries to experimental chemicals that leave him unable to survive outside of a cryo-suit designed to keep his body at freezing temperatures.
"One of the most amazing things about the Batman movies, and Batman-related movies, is three times now they have redefined what a superhero or comic book movie could be," Uslan said during a virtual Wizard World panel. "Tim Burton did it in '89, Chris Nolan did it with the Dark Knight trilogy, and Todd Phillips did it with Joker. Completely redid what this could be and how you can approach a movie like this. It's incredible, and that's ultimately maybe [Joker's] greatest legacy."
"What Todd did, and his genius, can be applied to I think any other villain," he continued. "If any villain was studied like that ... there are some great possibilities."
Asked which Bat-villain is best suited for a Joker-style origin tale, Uslan pointed to Mr. Freeze. The character's reinvention in "Heart of Ice," among the most acclaimed episodes of the animated series, won Batman a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.
"One of my favorite episodes of Batman: The Animated Series — which I love, absolutely love — dealt with Mr. Freeze and the loss of his wife," Uslan said. "The empathy, the emotions that that created, I could see [making a movie]." The producer then stressed there are presently no plans for a Mr. Freeze movie in the vein of Joker.
"I'm putting on my fanboy hat, not my producing hat. This has nothing to do with any plans, or this or that. I don't want that part on the Internet," he said. "It's just that as a fanboy, I can see taking that iteration of Mr. Freeze and doing something amazing with his backstory."
"But it doesn't matter if it's Scarecrow, Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin, they're so juicy," Uslan said. "And part of their success has been their mystique, where all the dots haven't been dotted and the Ts haven't been crossed. It allows filmmakers to come in and take it to places it's never been taken before."
Joker won actor Joaquin Phoenix his first Academy Award for the role of failed comedian turned criminal clown Arthur Fleck, and grossed $1.074 billion for Warner Bros. to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. In November, Phillips confirmed he approached the studio with a villain-centric label that would produce "down-and-dirty character studies" for other DC Comics characters.