Everything We Know About the Standalone ‘Joker’ Movie So Far

DC’s standalone Joker movie continues to sound like one of the absolute strangest, and potentially worst, film projects in development right now.

This upcoming film, just called Joker, is one of at least four separate movies that DC is currently working on that involves the Clown Prince of Crime, although not all of them will star the same actor or take place in the same universe.

Confused? Let’s break it down.

It doesn’t take place in the current DC movie universe

Jared Leto as the Joker

Suicide Squad | Source: Warner Bros.

The first thing you should know is that this Joker movie is completely separate from the DC Extended Universe, in which the Joker is played by Jared Leto.

Instead, the idea is that it takes place in its own universe unconnected to any previous cinematic Batman story. After the failure of Justice League, Warner Bros. and DC apparently felt the best approach might be the stop focusing on cinematic universes so much and explore side stories like these under a separate label. The DC film universe will continue, but the studio is also going to explore these types of one-off projects.

It’s an origin story about the Joker

The Joker - Batman: The Killing Joke

The Joker | Warner Bros.

Joker will be, you guessed it, an origin story about the iconic Batman villain.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio’s official description of the film is that it is an “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

When the movie was originally reported on last summer, Deadline said that it will be set in the 1980s and is meant to feel like a Martin Scorsese film, i.e. Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. Scorsese himself was actually going to produce Joker at one point, but he’s no longer involved.

The movie is currently scheduled to be released in October 2019, and it has a budget of $55 million, which is fairly modest compared to most comic book films. For comparison, Suicide Squad cost $175 million.

It stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker

joaquin phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix | David Buchan/Getty Images

Because this is a story taking place in its own universe, the film needs a different actor other than Jared Leto to play the Joker. That actor is Joaquin Phoenix, who will be the fourth person to portray the character in a live-action feature film after Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto.

In an interview with Collider, Phoenix said the movie does not feel like a superhero film and instead is more of a character study.

When asked about the pressures that come with playing a character that is so iconic among comic book fans, Phoenix told IndieWire, “I could care less. I don’t really think that much about what people think. Who cares, who cares? My approach to every movie is the same. What I’m interested in is the filmmaker and the idea of the character.”

It will also star Robert De Niro as a talk show host

Robert De Niro attends the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival

Robert De Niro | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

If Joker is supposed to feel like a Martin Scorsese film, it makes sense that Robert De Niro has been cast in one of the lead roles.

De Niro will evidently be playing a talk show host who has a role in driving the Joker insane. Variety compared this to The King of Comedy, the aforementioned Scorsese movie in which a failed comedian kidnaps a TV host. The Joker is a failed comedian in some depictions of the character, including in The Killing Joke, which this movie will be partially based on, according to The Wrap.

According to Deadline, De Niro will not actually be the film’s villain, though.

Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy will also star

Zazie Beetz

Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2 | Fox

Two other phenomena actors have joined the project, the first of whom is Atlanta and Deadpool 2 star Zazie Beetz; it seems she will play the love interest, a single mother, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Additionally, Frances Conroy has also joined the movie, and she will reportedly be playing the Joker’s mother, according to The Wrap.

Marc Maron will play a booking agent for De Niro’s character

Marc Maron

Marc Maron | Randy Shropshire / Stringer

Variety reported at the end of July that Marc Maron had also joined Joker.

According to this report, Maron will be playing a booking agent on the talk show that Robert De Niro’s character hosts. Maron’s character apparently books the Joker on the show, and presumably whatever happens next contributes to the character’s descent into madness.

Maron has since confirmed on his podcast that he will be in the movie.

Alec Baldwin was supposed to play Bruce Wayne’s father before dropping out

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin | NBC

The most recent bit of unexpected casting news we received was that Alec Baldwin had joined Joker as Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Batman’s father in this movie will be depicted as a “cheesy and tanned businessman who is more in the mold of a 1980s Donald Trump.”

But then, less than 24 hours after this article came out, Baldwin took to Twitter to dispute this, writing, “Let me state, for the record, that I have NOT been hired to play a role in Todd Phillips’ JOKER as some Donald Trump manque. That is not happening. Not. Happening.”

Later, he told The USA Today that he won’t be in the movie after all. He confirmed he was supposed to star, but he cited “scheduling issues” as the reason for pulling out of the project.

We don’t know whether Batman himself will actually appear in the film, although according to Collider’s Jeff Sneider, Wayne Manor will be an important location.

It’s being directed by Todd Phillips

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II | Warner Bros.

Yet another reason this project is so strange is that Todd Phillips is going to be directing it. Phillips’ main claim to fame is that he’s the helmer of all three Hangover movies, as well as the comedies Due Date, Old School, and Starsky & Hutch.

Phillips will also be co-writing the screenplay alongside Scott Silver (The Finest Hours).

It’s one of at least four movies in development that features the Joker

Harley Quinn and the Joker in Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad | Warner Bros.

Here’s where things get even weirder: this is far from the only movie Warner Bros. is currently developing that features the Joker. There are at least three others that we know about.

We have:

There’s also a Harley Quinn spin-off in the works, which could potentially have the Joker in it, too.

It remains to be seen how many of these projects will actually make it to theaters, but regardless, expect to see quite a lot of the Joker on the big screen over the next few years.