Many were startled two weeks ago when Warner Brothers confirmed that esteemed filmmaker Martin Scorsese was producing a movie chronicling the origin of ‘The Joker’ AND that the film would be a stand-alone, unattached to the still unfolding DC Extended Universe and would therefore not star Jared Leto. Leto appeared in last year’s ‘Suicide Squad’ as a tatted-up, grill-sporting punk/gangsta interpretation that bore no resemblance to any previous take on the character. Instead, the role in Scorsese’s film was to be recast to differentiate the two Jokers and now it seems that Warner Brothers is hoping to use Scorsese’s involvement to lure quite a big name– Leonardo DiCaprio.
Historically, neither Scorsese nor DiCaprio have been franchise players. Surely, both have had scripts for big-budget tentpoles lobbed at them numerous times, but both tend to stick to higher brow, original projects– the type of stuff the Motion Picture Academy takes notice of and rewards. Scorsese has directed DiCaprio in five films, ‘The Aviator’, ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, but he won’t be directing this ‘Joker’ movie. Scorsese is only working as a producer with Todd Phillips (‘War Dogs’) directing.
While ‘War Dogs’ earned Jonah Hill (who co-starred in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’) a Golden Globe nomination, the bulk of Phillips’ work has been in the genre of raunchy comedies, like the three ‘Hangover’ flicks and ‘Old School’. It’s unclear why he was selected to helm this film, and it’s equally unclear as to whether DiCaprio will take a chance and work with him, considering that he has enough clout to only work with the best.
Reportedly, the ink isn’t yet dry on Scorsese’s contract so no official offer has been made to DiCaprio. It’s just wishful thinking at this point.
This ‘Joker’ origin film is the first in what Warner Brothers hopes will be a full line of unattached “boutique” movies that will draw acclaimed directors and actors to offer unique takes on their DC Comics characters. It’s possible these movies could appeal to creative types that are turned off by the idea of these sorts of franchises because of the multi-film contracts and tight studio interference that comes from each movie having to connect to a larger universe.
The studio is hoping that Scorsese will give this film the same grittiness that distinguished his earlier works like ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ along with the dark organized crime element of ‘Goodfellas’.
As for DiCaprio, over a year ago, while promoting ‘The Revenant’ (for which he won his first Academy Award), he mused about turning down the roles of Anakin Skywalker, Robin and Spider-Man. In each case, it sounds like he simply had no interest in the roles or films.
The one thing that may attract him, is the fact that Heath Ledger was bestowed the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. Reportedly, it is the imposing shadow of Nolan’s films that prompted WB to explore these stand-alone projects. Nolan’s trilogy was not only a runaway financial hit but pleased critics as well. ‘Wonder Woman’ being the exception, this is something that WB’s latest DC films have failed to achieve. Not being critically praised is one thing, but when audiences hate your movies, it’s time to start worrying.
(As for Leto, he was apparently sideswiped by the news of Scorsese’s ‘Joker’ and very vocally voiced his displeasure to his reps.)
Just my two cents, but while DiCaprio does turn in great performances in great films, he’d have to undergo a huge physical transformation to play The Joker, who has always been shown to be very skinny and angular with a gaunt face sporting a sharp chin and cheek bones and sunken-in cheeks. (I don’t mean this as an insult, I swear…) DiCaprio has become the posterboy for the “Dad Bod”– more on the chunky/husky side than most buff action stars. His face is rounder and chubbier than it was when he was in ‘Titanic’. I’m not saying he couldn’t do it, but it would take a bit of work to make him come across as anything resembling the comic book Joker. (Then again, neither Leto’s nor Ledger’s Joker were very similar to the comic book character.)
Even if WB fails to snag DiCaprio, if he even entertains the notion, that could elevate the perception of this film and role, allowing the studio to possibly entice another higher caliber actor who would be glad to take one of Leo’s castoffs.
In the meantime, once Scorsese completes his current film, ‘The Irishman’, he is set to direct DiCaprio in true crime thriller “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” So the pair will have plenty of time to discuss ‘The Joker’.
What do you think? Could DiCaprio work as The Joker? If not, who should get the part?
Source: The Hollywood Reporter