The Batman 2: Barry Keoghan Wants to Return as the Joker, Reveals How He Landed Role

Barry Keoghan wasn't supposed to play the Joker in The Batman. The Eternals and Banshees of Inisherin actor auditioned to play the Riddler, the clue-dropping serial killer ultimately played by Paul Dano opposite Robert Pattinson's Dark Knight. Keoghan submitted a self-shot audition tape for the role already filled by Jonah Hill (and later Dano), sending the 2-minute video to Batman producer Dylan Clark. Four months later, Keoghan received a call: "The Batman wants you to play the Joker – but you cannot tell anyone."

"I wanted to be Riddler," Keoghan said in a profile for GQ Magazineonly to be cast as the "proto-Joker": a.k.a. the "Unseen Arkham Prisoner" who makes friends with a jailed Riddler in the final minutes of The Batman. Most of Keoghan's role was cut from the 153-minute Batman reboot, eventually surfacing online as a five-minute deleted scene.

Keoghan's Joker is "a bit charming and a bit hurt," molded after Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine in The Man Who Laughs. 

"I wanted some sort of human in there behind the makeup," Keoghan explained of his eyes untouched by the heavy prosthetics used to transform the actor into someone physically and mentally mutilated. "I want people to relate to him… [to know] this is a façade he puts on." For Keoghan, Reeves' Joker is "a broken-down boy."

The scene is part of a budding Bat-verse overseen by Reeves, who serves as executive producer of the HBO Max Penguin series starring Colin Farrell and the spinoff set within Arkham Asylum. Should Reeves call upon Keoghan to return as the Joker in The Batman sequel, which is in development at Warner Bros. Discovery, "As soon as that call comes, I'm there, man. I'm there."

Like the tragic clown of the classic comic book story The Killing Joke, Reeves has said his "pre-Joker Joker" is someone who "can never stop smiling" — his face twisted into a permanent rictus grin. 

"It made [makeup artist] Mike [Marino] and I think about — I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch. And I was like, 'Well, maybe there's something here where it's not something where he fell in a vat of chemicals or it's not the [Christopher] Nolan thing where he has these scars and we don't know where they came from," Reeves said in an interview earlier this year. "What if this is something that he's been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he's had this very dark reaction to it, and he's had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head.'"

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The Batman is now streaming on HBO Max. Reeves and Pattinson will reteam for The Batman 2, which has not been dated by Warner Bros. Pictures.