In August, Warner Bros announced a slew of new and upcoming films based off the DC Comics universe. Most of the projects don’t seem that great. Like, they’re going to make a stand-alone movie about the Joker and Harley Quinn’s love story, using Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, who starred as those characters in Suicide Squad. That might happen alongside a stand-alone movie about the Joker, which may or may not star Jared Leto. In fact, when the stand-alone Joker movie was announced a few weeks ago, the trade papers took pains to say that Leto probably wouldn’t be asked to reprise the role in that movie. Martin Scorsese is probably going to executive produce it, so I don’t know why any of us didn’t think of this terrible casting choice before, but now sources claim that Warner Bros. is looking at Leonardo DiCaprio for the Joker. Oh, God.
When news broke last week that Warner Bros. is developing a movie detailing the origin story of Batman nemesis The Joker, many were surprised to see the name Martin Scorsese listed among the producers. After all, why would the 74-year-old auteur filmmaker behind everything from Taxi Driver to Silence be interested in making the kind of studio franchise fare he has avoided throughout his career? And why would Warners executives, as brand managers of the extended DC Comics cinematic universe, want a legendarily controlling and free-spending talent involved in its marquee property?
The answer involves a plan worthy of The Joker himself. Sources say Warners will make an ambitious attempt to use Scorsese to bring Leonardo DiCaprio into the world of comic-book movies. Certainly, Scorsese’s involvement in The Joker film, which The Hangover filmmaker Todd Phillips would direct, could elevate and diversify the studio’s contributions to the genre, creating the potential to make awards-worthy films such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. There’s no offer for DiCaprio, and sources say Scorsese’s deal to produce isn’t even done yet. The chances of landing DiCaprio could be slim to none. But the attempt in itself sends a signal to talent that Warners wants to hire serious filmmakers to make serious films.
This plan was not met with applause in all quarters: Insiders say Jared Leto, the actor who portrayed the Clown Prince of Crime in last summer’s Suicide Squad and is slated to reprise the character not just for a sequel but for another spinoff movie (with DC villainess Harley Quinn), was caught off guard by the plans. Leto is said to have made his displeasure with the notion of multiple Jokers known to his CAA agents, and rival agency WME has been using the concern to court him.
Sources go on to insist that this is how seriously Warner Bros is taking the casting choice, that they want to go super-A-list and who’s more A-list than Leo? This is basically the root of every crappy studio decision at this point: they have a stupid scheme to milk more money out of beloved franchises and brands, and instead of treating the franchise with respect, they just think “let’s hire the biggest names we can get and just throw money at them.” Like, did it occur to anyone involved that Leo would be an absolutely awful Joker? I’m not one of those “Leo can’t act” people. I think Leo is a good-to-mediocre actor, depending on the role. He’s not capable of camp, which is what the Joker requires. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was so revolutionary because Heath didn’t play the Joker for laughs, but Heath embraced the essential camp of the character and turned that on its head, making the Joker’s absurdity something resembling nihilistic terrorism, which made him terrifying. Does Leo have that nuance as an actor? No. He doesn’t.
Photos courtesy of WENN.