Joaquin Phoenix is officially stepping into the purple suit of Batman’s greatest foe.
Warner Bros. announced on Tuesday that Joaquin Phoenix finalized a deal to star in its Joker origin movie, directed by “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips. The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Variety originally reported in February that Phoenix was in talks for the role.
Phoenix has big shoes to fill. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger — who won an Oscar for his take in “The Dark Knight” — are among the many actors to bring the character to life. The last to do so was Jared Leto in 2016 in “Suicide Squad” to less-than-stellar reviews. (But that hasn’t stopped Warner Bros. from considering yet another Joker movie featuring Leto’s version.)
Leto fans will have to wait, though. Phoenix’s movie is getting fast-tracked and could even be ready for a 2019 release if Warner Bros. plays its cards right. According to THR, the movie has a $55 million budget and will start filming in September in New York.
That’s a small budget compared to other superhero blockbusters, but the studio intends for this movie to be more of a “gritty character study” than a standard superhero flick. Martin Scorsese was once even attached to produce, and Warner Bros. was eyeing his frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio for the role.
It’s part of Warner Bros.’ strategy of focusing on self-contained movies rather than its cinematic universe, which hit a brick wall when “Justice League” bombed critically and commercially last year. Apart from the Joker movie, Warner Bros. also has “Aquaman” coming later this year, “Shazam!” and “Wonder Woman 1984” next year, and a slew of other projects reportedly in development.