Todd Phillips, Martin Scorsese Developing a “Joker” Movie That Won’t Star Jared Leto


Joker Todd Phillips Martin ScorseseGetty Images/Warner Bros.

In what reads like a DCEU-themed round of Mad Libs, Warner Bros. is setting to co-write and likely direct a movie about Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker that may boast the involvement of , the Tracking Board has confirmed.

Phillips will write the script with 8 Mile scribe , and the aim is for The Joker to have the gritty feel of one of Scorsese’s early films, like Taxi Driver. Scorsese’s participation in the project is fluid at the moment, and he’s expected to wait to read a script before deciding the extent of his involvement.

The hard-boiled crime story will be set in the Gotham City of the 1980s, and the film will stand apart from the DCEU, meaning that Jared Leto would not reprise the role, which would instead be recast.

Warner Bros. is creating a new label that will expand the canon of DC properties to give the a bit more freedom in terms of storytelling, casting and last but not least, budget. Personally, I think this is a great idea — producing movies that feel like tentpoles and feature A-list characters, but for one-third the normal budget. That’s how studios are able to reap Get Out-like rewards in success, or limit their financial exposure in failure, a la Sony’s modestly-budgeted adaptation of The Dark Tower.

When every comic book movie has a $200 million budget, there’s pressure to deliver VFX-driven spectacle, which can often work against a movie, as it did with Suicide Squad and the end of both Man of Steel and Wonder Woman. This new DC label seems designed to focus on story and character and to be free from the burden of continuity, while leaving big-budget set pieces to WB’s proper DCEU tentpoles.

What I’m less sure of is the idea of a Joker origin story, since the character’s mysterious origins are part of the reason he’s so terrifying. Less is more when it comes to filmmaking, but it seems Hollywood is anxious to explain away all your favorite secrets, like how Bothan spies stole the plans for the Death Star in Rogue One.

I’m not sure I want to know how the Joker got his scars, and I’m also not sure that Phillips is the right person for this , but he made a boatload of money for Warner Bros. with his Hangover trilogy, so more power to him. After his last film, War Dogs, fizzled at the box office, I was under the impression that Phillips had been keeping busy developing a remake of Caddyshack for the , but it seems he’s been writing this Joker origin story on the sly. Let’s hope he’s able to find the pain behind all those “ha ha ha’s.”

Leto will return as the Joker in Suicide Squad 2 and a Harley Quinn spinoff starring Margot Robbie, which is expected to be his last hurrah as the Clown Prince of Crime. The Oscar winner had big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, so whoever does play the Joker in this new film should have an easier go of things.

Phillips and Silver are represented by , while Scorsese is repped by and . News of The Joker movie was first reported by Deadline.

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