Taking the Joker in a different direction, removed from main DC film continuity, is paying off for Warner Bros. Beside the profitability, there is a reason for star Joaquin Phoenix and director/writer Todd Phillips to rejoice: Oscar contention.
But, good news notwithstanding, one man isn’t happy with the new, alternate Mr. J getting all the attention. The Hollywood Reporter disclosed Suicide Squad’s Joker, Jared Leto, was reportedly “alienated and upset” when Phillips and Phoenix’s film was greenlit. At the time, Warner was still building their Extended Universe of DC characters and Leto was expected to continue as part of it.
In 2018, a solo movie surrounding Jared Leto’s Joker spinning off from Suicide Squad was in development at the same time as Joker. Another spinoff with Leto and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was also in the works.
When it came to coming back for another round in Birds of Prey, Leto stated “we’ll see” in an interview with Variety. Given this more recent revelation, it’s easier to detect the sarcasm.
Confused admittedly, he reflected on his brief time playing the Joker in a 2017 sit down with ODE Entertainment where, ironically and with a measure of diplomacy, he said it’s like holding a “baton” and “there’s no ownership” though “he’s a great character.”
“I’m a little confused too, but yeah, there are a couple of things happening in the DC world. I loved the Joker, he’s a great character, a really fun character to play. It’s a big universe and when you play the Joker, there’s no ownership there. You have the honor of holding the baton for a little while and then passing it off. But there are other films in development and I’m excited to see what comes from them.”
Phillips pitched Joker to Warner executives in 2016 – the same year Suicide Squad came out – as the answer to Marvel’s glossy, big-budget productions rife with visual effects. They were doing, in Phillips words, what Marvel can’t.
Joker is controversial but doing well all the same. The film broke an October opening record previously held by Venom. As a result, Todd Phillips is open to a sequel and rumor has it Warner is considering more standalone Elseworlds movies about other villains.
Leto might be done with DC for the time being but he hasn’t given up on comic-based material altogether. Morbius, a Sony Spider-Verse picture, is his next major lead role. It comes out in 2020.
Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips, is now in theaters.