The Joker is getting his own live-action movie this fall. And unlike last time DC gave an iconic Batman villain their own film, hopefully this one will be good. Director Todd Phillips and actor Joaquin Phoenix are teaming up to explore the one story that’s never been definitively told in the comics – the origin of the Joker.Read on for a breakdown of everything we know so far about the Joker movie, from the film’s release date to its trailers to its connections to past Batman movies and more.
Be sure to also check out everything we know about Star War: Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker and everything we know about The Batman.
Joker Movie Release Date
Joker is the next DC movie slated to hit theaters. Production wrapped back in December 2018. Following an August 2019 premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, Joker is scheduled for wide release on October 4, 2019.
That’s good news for fans currently starved for new DC movies, as the only other DC theatrical release in 2019 has been Shazam!
Phillips offered a very early glimpse of Joker back in October 2018, releasing a short bit of test footage featuring Phoenix in full makeup and costume. The first theatrical poster and trailer for Joker followed in April 2019, debuting at CinemaCon and then being released online. Watch it below:
You can also watch our trailer breakdown here:
We’re assuming Warner Bros. will debut at least one more trailer in the lead-up to Joker’s October release. With the teaser revealing little about the plot of the movie, many fans are hungry for a closer look at this origin story and its portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Joker: The Cast and Crew
Joker is directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover) and written by Phillips and Scott Silver (The Fighter). The film is produced by Phillips, Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
Martin Scorsese was originally attached to produce, in part because Phillips and Silver’s script is heavily inspired by classic Scorsese fare like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and The King of Comedy. Early rumors even suggested Scorsese might direct the film with Leonardo DiCaprio starring. However, this didn’t come to be, and Scorsese ultimately left the project early in pre-production.
Instead, Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) is playing Arthur Fleck/The Joker. This will be Phoenix’s first appearance in a superhero movie, with the sequel-averse actor describing the standalone format as a major draw. Phoenix said in July 2018, “It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the f—ing s–t out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”
The cast also includes Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) as single mother/Arthur’s love interest Sophie Dumond, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as Arthur’s mother Penny, and Robert De Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin. De Niro’s character is said to be heavily inspired by the one he played in The King of Comedy, and he’ll be directly involved in Arthur’s villainous transformation.
Joker will include several characters familiar to Batman fans. Brett Cullen is playing Thomas Wayne, albeit a darker version of the character than normally seen in film. Alec Baldwin was originally cast in the role but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Also appearing are Douglas Hodge as Alfred Pennyworth, Dante Pereira-Olson as a young Bruce Wayne, Marc Maron as Arthur’s agent, Ted Marco, Brian Tyree Henry as a nurse, Bryan Callen as a stripper and Bill Camp and Shea Whigham as GCPD officers. Josh Pais has been cast in an unknown role.
Joker: The Plot
Joker serves as a period piece and an origin story for the titular villain. The movie is set in 1981 and explores how struggling comedian Arthur Fleck grapples with mental illness and becomes the most feared supervillain in Gotham City.
The movie is breaking from DC’s traditional approach in more ways than one. For one thing, it’s the first live-action, R-rated Batman movie. For another, apart from 1989’s Batman, Joker has never received a real name or a definitive origin story in the comics, movies or TV series. Classic comics like Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Zero Year have hinted at Joker’s past, but even those stories tend to be shrouded in doubt and treat Joker himself as an unreliable narrator.
Phillips has said Joker won’t be drawing from the comics for its depiction of the character, instead telling an original story. This isn’t 100% true, as several Batman comics have played with the idea of Joker being a failed comedian before becoming a villain. But for the most part, Joker will blazing its own trail. Indeed, the movie seems intent on mirroring Batman’s origin story in some key ways.
Also, don’t expect the film to explore the Batman/Joker dynamic. It’s set well before Bruce Wayne’s adulthood. In fact, Bruce’s father Thomas is a major character in the film, with the implication that the movie will explore the Wayne family’s dark secrets and the role they played in making a villain like Joker possible.
Joker: Is It Part of the DCEU?
There’s been some confusion over what connection, if any, Joker has to DC’s previous superhero movies. However, Phillips has been adamant that Joker is not tied to any other Batman movie. It’s not a part of the DCEU, nor is it connected to earlier movies like 1989’s Batman or 2008’s The Dark Knight. It’s a completely standalone project that explores Joker’s origin in a way that probably wouldn’t be allowed in a larger, shared universe setting. And Phillips has also been clear that Joker won’t be getting a sequel or spawning a larger franchise.
Joker is the first real example of DC’s willingness to make lower-budget, standalone DC movies alongside new films set in the shared universe established by pictures like 2016’s Batman v Superman and 2017’s Justice League.
Interestingly, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice established that the Waynes were murdered in 1981, the same year Joker takes place. Despite this, Phoenix’s Joker is a different incarnation of the character than the one played by Jared Leto in 2016’s Suicide Squad. If nothing else, Phoenix’s Joker is clearly far too old to be the same guy seen in Suicide Squad.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.