Robert De Niro & Zazie Beetz is in talks to join Joaquin Phoenix in Todd Phillips’ untitled Joker origin movie, sources confirmed to Variety.
Sources say De Niro would be portraying a talk-show host who plays a part in driving Phoenix’s character to go mad and become the Clown Prince of Crime.
According to insiders, the script has ties to De Niro’s film “King of Comedy,” about a failing comedian who kidnaps a popular talk-show host to gain fame. In this case, the roles would be reversed, with De Niro playing the smug host and Beetz would play “a single mother who catches the interest of the man who will become the Clown Prince of Crime.”
Phillips is directing from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver (8 Mile, The Fighter). While plot details are largely unknown, the stand-alone is supposed to be set in Gotham City in the early 1980s.
Phillips is on board to co-write and direct the Warner Bros. movie.
But the Joker project is being developed as no ordinary comic book movie. The budget is in the $55 million range, significantly lower than most comic book tentpoles that feature characters from Marvel or DC. And the stand-alone is said to be a character exploration as well as a drama, not a fight-fest.
Insiders stress that Jared Leto, who starred in “Suicide Squad” as the Joker, is still on board as the character in the DC Universe and that this Phoenix pic has no effect on what happens with Leto’s character in future DC films.
Leto will likely reprise the role in “Suicide Squad 2,” but will not be featured in this film. He will star in and exec produce a standalone Joker movie of his own.
Shooting is set to begin in September in New York.
Fans can look forward to seeing the film in theaters relatively soon as it was just set for a October 4, 2019 release.