As far as the past year in superhero movies, it hasn’t been a particularly kind time for the DC Extended Universe. Sure, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad have become some of the most financially successful films of 2016, but critics and a significant portion of hardcore fans alike have labeled them both as disappointing additions to a shared universe that has yet to deliver an out-and-out winner on the order of (sorry for the comparison) the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Even Jared Leto — who appears all-too-briefly as the DCEU’s version of the Joker in Suicide Squad — has levied his own issues with the film. In a recent interview, the Oscar-winning actor claimed he felt “tricked” into working on the production and was unhappy that so much of his footage was cut. Though it’s pretty likely that Leto is already contracted for multiple films, we wonder if DC and Warner Bros. will simply opt to replace the actor instead, especially after his disparaging remarks.
In any case, the recently announced origin film about The Joker is not expected to feature Jared Leto in the starring role. Per sources cited by Deadline, the movie will be a standalone story without any connection to the DCEU. If Warner Bros. goes this route, we have a few ideas about who might slip into the role as the Clown Prince of Crime.
1. Ben Foster
Over the years, Ben Foster has proved himself a versatile talent able to go from heroic to downright insane from one film to the next. Thus far, his only brushes with superheroes have been supporting roles in both The Punisher and as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand, but his string of interesting recent choices (Hell or High Water), geek cred in films like Warcraft, and onscreen unpredictability make him a great choice for the next Joker.
2. Ryan Gosling
Probably the biggest star on this list, Ryan Gosling has grown from a promising young talent to a heartthrob to one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed leading men. Much of his reputation stems from his diverse list of projects, ranging from moody thrillers (Drive) to lavish musicals (last fall’s La La Land). The actor was reportedly one of director David Ayer’s original choices for the Joker in Suicide Squad before he turned it down. So if Leto doesn’t reprise the role, it’s very possible that Gosling’s phone could begin ringing again.
3. Jake Gyllenhaal
Here’s another 30-something actor whose respectability has been steadily on the rise. Jake Gyllenhaal showed some potential back in his Donnie Darko days, but he has been really killing it these days with films like Enemy and Southpaw. His acclaimed turn in Nightcrawler should have earned him a second Oscar nomination for his role as an unhinged aspiring videographer. If there’s ever a role to prove that he can play a sociopath determined to play by his own rules, it’s this one. Sounds like the Joker to us.
4. Sam Rockwell
Interestingly enough, Sam Rockwell was actually considered by Christopher Nolan to play the Joker back in The Dark Knight. The actor has since joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tony Stark rival Justin Hammer, but many actors have popped up in both comic book universes, leaving Rockwell wide open for another shot at tackling Gotham’s most sinister criminal. With a killer smile and a penchant for self-congratulatory dancing, Rockwell’s onscreen persona would fit the character perfectly.
5. James Franco
There’s an argument to be made that Leto’s version of the Joker owes a great deal to James Franco’s bizarre turn as Alien in Spring Breakers, right down to the grill and ostentatious lifestyle. So perhaps Warner Bros. might lean into that fact and simply bring Franco in for the Joker. He is, after all, an Oscar-nominated performer who can handle comedy and drama with ease. So why the hell not? Bonus points if he manages to sneak Seth Rogen on-set for a cameo.
6. Elijah Wood
At first, this may seem like an off-the-wall pick. Frodo Baggins as the Joker? But hear us out. Elijah Wood has already played a silent cannibal in Sin City, a delusional depressive in TV’s Wilfred, and a straight-up serial killer in Maniac. So he has range to spare and a tendency to lean into the darkness when it comes to picking his projects. Plus, his baby-faced look would fit nicely with Leto’s casting, making the transition less jarring for fans. Just think what he could bring to it.
BONUS: Christian Bale
We know, we know. This might be a long shot, but can you imagine a better replacement for Leto than another Oscar winner, one that has experience playing in the DC Comics sandbox before? Christian Bale has the tools to play a sadistic madman (see: American Psycho) and has already tangled with the Joker before during his time as Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy. Fans were bummed to see him depart the role. So how much fun would it be to see him battle Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight and be the first actor to play both hero and villain in comics’ most famous rivalry?
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!