Who Robert De Niro Is in Talks to Play in the Joker Movie

Robert De Niro attends the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival

Robert De Niro | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is in talks to join the Joaquin Phoenix-led standalone Joker movie for Warner Bros. So if De Niro does join the film, what character will he be playing?

According to Variety, De Niro is in talks to play a talk-show host who has a role in driving the Joker mad. Variety’s sources compared the movie to The King of Comedy, the 1982 Martin Scorsese film in which a failed comedian kidnaps a talk-show host.

That probably won’t be the exact plot of Joker, but the idea of the Joker being jealous of a successful talk-show host would make sense. In The Killing Joke, he is a failed comedian who is driven insane after falling into a chemical vat.

For what it’s worth, That Hashtag Show had previously reported that De Niro would be portraying a late-night TV host named Murray Franklin, although they didn’t have any other details about how he factors into the plot. However, Deadline reports that, contrary to what you might have assumed, De Niro’s character will not be a villain.

This upcoming movie from Warner Bros., which is just being titled Joker, is set to be a dark and realistic take on the Joker’s origin story, with the studio describing it in a press release as an “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

From the beginning, the movie has been described as more of a crime drama than a traditional comic-book film. In fact, when Deadline first reported on it back in August of last year, they said the film was meant to feel like a Martin Scorsese movie in the vein of Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. By casting De Niro, Warner Bros. has come one step closer to achieving that goal.

The Joker in 'The Killing Joke'

The Joker | DC Comics

Meanwhile, a completely separate bit of Joker casting news has also come out today: Frances Conroy is in talks to play the Joker’s mother, The Wrap reports.

The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips will direct and co-write Joker, which is set to begin shooting this fall for an October 2019 release date. This is a pretty quick turnaround for a major comic-book movie, but then again, it does appear that it will be more like a crime drama than a superhero epic.

You may be wondering how this all fits into the DC Extended Universe, in which Jared Leto portrays The Joker. Well, it has nothing to do with that, as Warner Bros.’ plan currently involves making completely standalone, much more experimental DC films under a different label. So Joker will not be set in the DC Extended Universe at all.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. will still be making films set in the DCEU, and Leto will still reprise the other version of the Joker in Suicide Squad 2, as well as another standalone Joker movie. That’s right: Warner Bros. currently has two separate standalone Joker movies in development, neither of which has anything to do with the other and both of which will take place in separate universes and revolve around totally different characters.

Joker is scheduled to hit theaters on October 4th, 2019.