Recent reports have surfaced claiming Leonardo DiCaprio is in talks to star in a standalone origins film of the Joker.
Sources have claimed that a Joker origins film is currently being developed by Waner Bros, with The Hangover’s Todd Philips set to direct. Apparently Warner’s have approached Martin Scorsese to come in a produce the film, as well as take a leadership role within the DC Cinematic Universe. It is the hope of Warner’s that if Scorsese did accept, he would bring along long time collaborator DiCaprio to play the clown prince of crime.
It’s obviously to early to know how far along this plan actually is. But DiCaprio would be a major coup for Warner’s and DC. He is undoubtedly the biggest name actor in the world not currently tied to any franchise, so the opportunity to bring DiCaprio into the fold is one Warner’s and DC must take.
It begs two questions, could DiCaprio pull of the Joker? Do we need a Joker origins movie?
DiCaprio may have come to fame on the strength of his good looks, but in recent years he has not shied away from playing the villain. However, even when he does play the villain, DiCaprio’s charisma and on-screen presence make it difficult to hate his character. The Southern slave owner with a twisted sense of hospitality in Django Unchained, or the ruthless conman who lives in extreme excess in The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio can take horrible characters and almost have you root for them. And that is what could make a Joker film work. The rumored plan of a Taxi Driver style film would certainly play to Scorsese’s strengths, and DiCaprio has the talent to pull off a Travis Bickle character.
However, do we even need a Joker origin movie? This will be the sticking point for many DC fans. The Joker is such a compelling character because we know so little about his backstory. There hasn’t been an origin story in any comic book to refer to (The Killing Joke is not canon, and Joker’s claims of being the Red Hood have been unsubstantiated because he’s an unreliable narrator). This is a concept that Christopher Nolan played with in The Dark Knight. He used the mysterious background of the Joker to highlight how untrustworthy he is, every story changing depending on who he confronted. Furthermore, DC has attempted something similar with the failed Suicide Squad. There is a fine balance between establishing a bad character, but also not making them bad that the audience no longer care. The Joker could be a classic anti-hero character, but is there enough time in a feature length film to pull that off?
Either way, this is a strong sign from Warner Bros. and DC that they are serious about attracting the best talent they can to work (and slightly fix) in their Cinematic Universe.