Phoenix has been Phillips’ top choice for the role, and while studio negotiations have not yet begun, sources tell Variety that Phoenix has thought about it and accepted the part. Phillips—who wrote and directed the Hangover trilogy—is set to co-write and direct the film.
The new Joker movie would be part of a new banner of DC Comics that has not yet been announced. The banner allows DC to expand its body of work with unusual story angles that aren’t currently contained within its universe.
According to Variety, Leonardo DiCaprio was rumored to be the star of Phillips’ movie, though that didn’t end up happening. Jared Leto starred as the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad and is likely to play that role again in the Suicide Squad 2, though he will not appear in Phillips’ film.
Scott Silver—who’s best known for his work on 8 Mile and The Fighter—will co-write the film alongside Phillips. The untitled Joker origin movie will explore how the Joker became a mastermind felon. Variety reported that the movie will be set in the 1980s and will be visually grittier than the typical comic book film.
Phoenix has been up for a few villainous DC characters before: he passed on the role of Lex Luthor for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He also passed on starring in Disney and Marvel’s movie Doctor Strange. Phoenix's last movie role was in Gus Van Sant’s Don't Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, and he will appear in the forthcoming films Mary Magdalene and The Sisters Brothers.