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It’s Official: ‘Joker’ Origin Film Is On, And The Lead’s Not Jared Leto

By  James Barrett

Warner Bros. has locked down an actor to play everyone’s favorite green-haired villain for his already much-maligned origin film. Rather than going with “Suicide Squad” star Jared Leto, the studio has hammered out a deal with veteran actor Joaquin Phoenix to play Batman’s arch-nemesis.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed Tuesday that Warner Bros. has officially green-lighted the film and recently finalized a deal with Phoenix to play the lead. Shooting is set to begin in September in New York, THR reports.

Writer and director Todd Phillips, who has worked on a number of comedies, including “The Hangover” series, is directing the film and co-wrote the script along with Scott Silver, whose films include “The Finest Hours,” “The Fighter” and “8 Mile.”

Though a release date has not yet been scheduled, THR notes that it could be as early as 2019. Unlike other “universe” films, the Joker origin project is not as locked into the schedules of other pre-planned DC films.

Its budget is also far more modest than other superhero blockbusters, just $55 million, while its tone is “darker and more experimental in tone and content,” THR reports — the studio describing it as an “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

Another unusual aspect of the film is that Warner Bros. still appears to be moving forward on yet another Joker film starring Leto.

As USA Today has chronicled, fans and critics are already complaining about the Joker origin film, arguing that the Joker has become “overexposed” and that an origin film undermines one of the most important qualities of the character, his mystery.

The other thing haunting the character, of course, is the untimely death of Heath Ledger, who posthumously earned an Oscar for his inimitable performance in “The Dark Knight.” Any actor who puts on the white face paint is always competing against Ledger’s now almost mythic performance.

Related: ‘Justice League’ Officially A Bomb: Is Ben Affleck Out As Batman?

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