Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. is developing a Joker origin film to be produced by Martin Scorsese and helmed by screenwriter Scott Silver (The Fighter, 8 Mile) from a script he is reportedly cowriting with Todd Phillips (War Dogs, The Hangover Part III). The film is being touted as “a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film” set in Gotham City in the early 1980s. Additionally, Jared Leto will not be reprising the role, despite him debuting the new iteration of the character in Suicide Squad. Instead, this film will fall under a new yet-to-be-named banner of projects existing separate from the DC Extended Universe.
Traditionally, the Joker has had a complex history in regards to his origins. While the Tim Burton film attempted to give him a somewhat cohesive backstory (which included the given name of Jack Napier), The Dark Knight adhered closer to the comics and offered up multiple possibilities the character never confirms or denied. Recent comics stories have teased his true origins by revealing that Batman has actually been pursuing three different men who have assumed the Joker identity at different times all these years and that the villain has traces of Dionysium in his body, an element found in Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits and the meteorite that made Vandal Savage immortal, hinting that the character is older than initially believed. This origin film looks to build upon the Suicide Squad characterization, which had a Mexican cartel boss .aesthetic mixed with Alejandro Jodorowsky influences. Enlisting Scorsese (whose film credits include a slew of gritty crime stories such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed), Silver and Phillips is definitely a step in the right direction for that type of film, if that’s truly the direction they’re going.
Warner Bros. has admittedly fumbled the ball somewhat with their DC Extended Universe films, with Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad all receiving criticism for their dark, moody tones plus subpar stories and characterization elements. Wonder Woman changed that perception and has gone on to become the highest grossing superhero origin film and the highest-earning film directed by a woman (supplanting Spider-Man and Frozen, respectively) as well as becoming the studio’s third-biggest film after The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. This, plus the positive buzz surrounding Justice League and Aquaman has resulted in a massive overhaul of their film slate, including retooling The Flash into an adaptation of the Flashpoint story arc as well as the addition of Black Adam, Nightwing and Batgirl solo films.
Jared Leto is still expected to continue portraying the DCEU’s Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad 2 and Gotham City Sirens, but beyond that, nothing is certain about his future in the franchise as it’s not exactly clear yet what Warner’s endgame with their cinematic universe(s) is. It makes little sense to start a parallel shared universe with the buzz already high on the first one, although it could have something to do with Flashpoint and possibly DC’s television series on The CW. Time will hopefully reveal their strategy sooner rather than later.