JOKER Origin Movie Gets Title and Release Date

The Joker is returning to movie theaters sooner than you think.

The Hollywood Reporter has word that the Joker origin movie starring Joaquin Phoenix will simply be titled Joker and is slated to arrive in theaters on October 4, 2019.  Filming is expected to start in September in New York.

Joker will be directed by Todd Phillips and received the greenlight from Warner Bros. earlier this month.  The film was loosely described by the studio as an "exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale."  The project's budget is reportedly in the $55 million range, significantly lower than the average Batman movie, and is meant to be darker and more experimental in tone and content.

Phoenix, 43, has received Oscar nominations for his roles as Commodus in the 2000 film Gladiator, Johnny Cash in 2005's Walk the Line, and Freddie Quill in 2012's The Master.  In addition, Phoenix has appeared in the films Mary Magdalene, Her, Hotel Rwanda, The Village, Ladder 49 and Signs.  Previously, he was sought for the role of Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before the role ultimately went to Jesse Eisenberg, and the role of Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the role went to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Created in 1940 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, The Joker first appeared in Batman (vol.1) #1 as Batman's first villain, shortly after his debut in 1939's Detective Comics (vol.1) #27.  In the story, The Joker announced that he intended to kill three of Gotham's prominent citizens (including Mayor Henry Claridge).  Although the police protected Claridge, the Joker had poisoned him before making his announcement and Claridge died with a ghastly grin on his face.  Batman eventually defeated him, sending him to prison.

In 1951, the Joker was given an origin story by Bill Finger in Detective Comics (vol.1) #168, which introduced the concept of him formerly being the criminal Red Hood, who, during his final heist, vanished after leaping into a vat of chemicals to escape Batman.  His resulting disfigurement led him to adopt the name "Joker", from the playing card figure he came to resemble.

In the 1988 one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, writer Alan Moore expanded the 1951 origin story, portraying the Joker as a failed comedian pressured into committing crime as the Red Hood to support his pregnant wife.  Batman's interference caused him to leap into a chemical vat, which disfigured him.  This, combined with the trauma of his wife's earlier accidental death, caused him to go insane and become the Joker.  However, the Joker said that this story may not be true, as he prefers his past to be "multiple choice".  Also in the story, the Joker shot and paralyzed Barbara Gordon and tortured her father, Commissioner James Gordon, to prove that it only takes one bad day to drive a normal man insane.

In another 1988 story, "A Death in the Family", the Joker beat Jason Todd, the second Robin, with a crowbar and left him to die in an explosion.  Todd's death haunted Batman, and for the first time he considered killing the Joker.  The Joker temporarily escaped justice when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini appointed him the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, giving him diplomatic immunity.  However, while trying to poison the UN membership, he was defeated by Batman and Superman.

In the "No Man's Land" storyline from 1999, the Joker murdered Commissioner Gordon's second wife, Sarah, as she shielded a group of infants.  The Joker taunted Gordon, who shot him in the kneecap.  The Joker, lamenting that he might never walk again, collapsed with laughter when he realized that the commissioner avenged his daughter's paralysis.  This story also introduced the Joker's girlfriend and former psychiatrist, Harley Quinn.

In DC's current continuity known as The New 52, the Joker cut his own face off and disappeared for a year, returning to launch an attack on Batman's extended family in the storyline "Death of the Family", so that he and Batman could be the best hero and villain they could be.  The Joker returned in the 2014 storyline "Endgame", in which he brainwashed the Justice League into attacking Batman, believing that he betrayed their relationship.  The story implied that the Joker is immortal, having existed for centuries in Gotham as a cause of tragedy after exposure to a substance the Joker terms "dionesium", and is able to regenerate from mortal injuries.  "Endgame" also restored the Joker's face, and revealed that he knows Batman's secret identity.  He later used this information in the story "The Best Man", confronting Batman and Catwoman shortly before their attempted wedding, and placing doubts in Catwoman's mind that marrying Batman would make him truly happy and therefore unable to continue being a driven crimefighter.

Phoenix will be the fifth actor to portray the Joker in film, after Cesar Romero in Batman (1966), Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and Jared Leto in Suicide Squad.
Posted on July 19, 2018 .