What the Hell Is Going on With the Joker Sequel? [Updated]

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix at the Joker premiere.
Photo: Rich Fury (Getty)

Wanna hear a joke?

[Editor’s Note: Several updates can be found at the bottom of this post. - Jill P.]

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According to the Hollywood Reporter this morning, Joker’s massive box office success and the early awards season buzz for lead actor Joaquin Phoenix has led Warner Bros. to move forward with a sequel to the Batman villain origin movie. And director Todd Phillips is almost certain to helm the project.

THR also notes that Phillips was also in discussions with Warner Bros. to potentially oversee a number of different origin films using DC Comics characters. The piece says the director met with Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich after the first successful weekend over Joker and that he shot for the moon and asked for “the rights to develop a portfolio of DC characters’ origin stories.” THR says he got the rights to at least one.

While there’s no word yet as to whether the studio is interested in the idea of more gritty, grounded films masquerading as superhero stories, one imagines that the studio’s seriously considering whether doing so would be in their financial interest.

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No specific character names were given by anyone officially, THR writes, “As for a DC villain origin story that could be mined next, Phillips would be well suited for either Darkseid, a tyrannical ruler who is worshipped by some as the god of evil, or Metropolis’ power-mad one-percenter, Lex Luthor.” Whether that was the writer’s own idea or whispered to them by someone actually interested remains to be seen.

When WB first announced that it was producing a Joker-focused standalone film that would exist outside of its primary cinematic universe, it at first seemed as if the studio didn’t exactly have a well thought out plan as to what it was doing with its IP. Mind you that at the time, the studio didn’t have as great a track record putting out movies that received critical acclaim.

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Ultimately, WB’s gamble on Joker paid off, but it’s difficult to say whether the public’s response to the film and its box office performance is a testament to the quality of the film (questionable) or whether it’s a reflection of heated discourse that developed around the film in the months leading up to its release. While WB might not have openly promoted Joker as a story about a deranged, white man who picks up a gun and becomes a domestic terrorist because he feels as if the world’s treated him unfairly, that’s what the movie was. As more people saw that to be the case and attempted to engage with Phillips and Phoenix about it, WB took steps to steer conversations away from that reality, even going so far as to bar members of the press from interviewing people at the movie’s red carpet premiere, which is rather telling.

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The way Joker reflected (and arguably glamorized) dark parts of our reality is a large part of the reason why it was in the pop cultural spotlight for so long, but one imagines it might be difficult to create that same kind of buzz about another film about the clown prince of crime or another DC character.

From the sounds of things, WB’s planning on making a go of it, though, and at this point, all we can do is wait to see what the studio ends up putting into theaters.

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Update 11/20: 12:20 p.m. EST:

In rather unsurprising, kinda shady turn of events, Deadline is now reporting that despite what The Hollywood Reporter claims, there are currently no concrete plans for a Joker sequel and Warner Bros. allegedly hasn’t spoken to Phillips about any future DC films Joker or otherwise that he might work on for the studio.

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Update 11/20: 4:55 p.m. EST:

An inside source has told io9 the Deadline story is the accurate one, as such we’ve updated our headline on this piece. THR stands by its report and have not made any updates. We’ll bring you more as we know it.

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About the author

Charles Pulliam-Moore

io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.