The Joker Is Getting A Stand-Alone Movie, As If He Needs More Screen Time

"The Hangover" director Todd Phillips will helm the Batman villain's origin story.
Jack Nicholson portrays The Joker in Tim Burton's "Batman."
Jack Nicholson portrays The Joker in Tim Burton's "Batman."

The Joker has assumed villain duty in at least six big-screen “Batman” adaptations, but he’s about to get a movie all to himself.

Deadline reported Tuesday that comedy director Todd Phillips (“Old School,” “The Hangover”) is co-writing a stand-alone Joker film with Scott Silver (“8 Mile,” “The Fighter”). Phillips will also direct the untitled project, which is meant to be an origin story within the DC Comics’ expanding cinematic universe. Deadline said Martin Scorsese will produce the movie, but a source close to the production told HuffPost that the “Goodfellas” director’s involvement is not official. He is in “early discussions” to join.

The Joker vehicle is the first in a “yet-to-be announced new banner under DC [that] will give the studio the opportunity to expand the canon with unique story angles revolving around these iconic characters,” according to a Warner Bros. statement.

Despite the dozens of Gotham City scoundrels that appear in the comic books, this green-haired creep has clearly become Hollywood’s go-to Bruce Wayne adversary. The Joker was first introduced to the big screen in 1966′s “Batman,” in which Caesar Romero portrayed him as an eccentric prankster. Jack Nicholson gave the character a darker spin in Tim Burton’s 1989 hit, also called “Batman.” Mark Hamill voiced The Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series,” as well as its 1993 spinoff movie, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” Zach Galifianakis voiced him in this year’s “The Lego Batman Movie.” 

The Joker’s most recent live-action screen appearance came in last year’s dreadful “Suicide Squad,” where he was played by Jared Leto, who is expected to reprise the part in both the sequel and the Harley Quinn spinoff. Before that, Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for bringing corrupt gusto to the role in 2008′s “The Dark Knight.”

Even though Leto is the current Joker, Warner Bros. will seek a different actor for this movie, which will take place in early-1980s Gotham. Deadline says its tone will emulate that of gritty Scorsese classics like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Where does a director like Phillips fit into a hard-edged crime thriller? Your guess is as good as ours.

Different films have given The Joker different backstories, so the direction this stand-alone effort will take is unclear. The most common origin involves The Joker tumbling into a vat of chemical waste that bleaches his skin and drives him mad. In Burton’s “Batman,” The Joker was the one who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents. What evil will he get up to this time? We’ll find out soon enough.

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