Things you didn’t about de Joaquín Phoenix’ Joker
Between 2014 and 2015, Joaquin Phoenix was interested in acting in a low-budget "character study" type of film about a comic book villain like the DC Comics character Joker. Phoenix had previously declined to act in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because he would have been required to play the roles he was offered, like the Hulk and Doctor Strange, in multiple films. He did not believe his idea for a film should cover the Joker, however, as he believed that character had been depicted in a similar way before, and tried to think of a different one. Phoenix's agent suggested setting up a meeting with Warner Bros., but he declined. Similarly, Todd Phillips had been offered to direct comic-based films a number of times, but declined because he thought they were "loud" and did not interest him. According to Phillips, Joker was born from his idea to create a different, more grounded comic book film.
Phillips pitched the idea for Joker to Warner Bros. after his film War Dogs premiered in August 2016. During the premiere, Phillips realized "War Dogs wasn't going to set the world on fire and I was thinking, 'What do people really want to see?'" He proposed that DC Films differentiate its slate from the competing Marvel Studios' by producing low-budget, standalone films. After the successful release of the standalone feature Wonder Woman (2017), DC Films decided to deemphasize the shared nature of its DC-based film franchise, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). In August 2017, Warner Bros. and DC Films revealed plans for the film, with Phillips directing and co-writing with Scott Silver, and Martin Scorsese co-producing with Phillips. The announcement of the film was met with mixed reactions. Jared Leto, who portrays the Joker in the DCEU, was reportedly displeased with the existence of multiple different contemporary Joker characters.
By September 2017, Warner Bros. was considering casting Leonardo DiCaprio as the Joker, hoping to use his frequent collaborator Scorsese's involvement to lure him, but by February 2018, Phoenix was Phillips's top choice for the role. Padraig Cotter of Screen Rant noted that since the film was a standalone story, Phoenix would not have to appear in sequels as he would have in the Marvel offer. Phoenix said when he learned of the film, he became excited because it was the kind of film he was looking to make, describing it as unique and stating it did not feel like a typical "studio movie". However, it took Phoenix some time to commit to the role, as it intimidated him and he said "oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes, and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it's easy to label somebody as evil, and therefore say, 'Well, I'm not that.'"