Update: Variety reports that Warner Bros. is not exploring gritty origin stories for any other DC characters. According to Variety, “Insiders shot down reports that Warner Bros. and DC are talking about having Phillips do origin stories for other comic-book characters, revealing what cracked on their trek to the dark side. Any ‘Joker’ follow-up will take years to pull off and DC has a busy slate.” And now Todd Phillips himself is refuting the report while acknowledging early talks for a sequel have taken place. Original story follows below.
In the most unsurprising news of the week, a Joker sequel is officially in the works at Warner Bros.
The financial windfall of Joker cannot be overstated. The R-rated film has now grossed over $1 billion, making it the highest grossing R-rated film in history. And Phillips himself deferred a big upfront payment for a pice of the unadjusted gross, resulting in what THR says could amount to a $100 million payday. But Joker also only cost $60 million to make, so even after factoring in marketing, the profit margin on this thing is huge. Which is why talks of a sequel have been ongoing, and WB is likely keen on continuing this franchise, as THR reports—although their report’s claim that Todd Phillips asked for access to additional DC characters in the wake of Joker has now been refuted by Phillips himself.
THR says that Phillips is in talks to return to direct Joker 2, and in a curious bit of news, the studio reportedly has star Joaquin Phoenix under an option to return. Indeed many figured the biggest impetus to Joker 2 actually happening was that Phoenix would be unlikely to want to make a follow-up, given his aversion to franchises in the past. But this option makes signing him on much easier, although it does sound like the actor is actually down with Joker 2. Phoenix got so into the idea of making a sequel while they were in production on Joker that he created fan-posters to show Phillips.
It’s unclear how closely Phillips will be involved with other DC movies in the vein of Joker (i.e. will he direct?), but it’s worth noting that when he first pitched Joker, he pitched an entire label of Joker-like villain origin stories called “DC Black.” It sounds like he may have pitched that idea once more in the wake of Joker’s success, and it’ll be interesting to see if WB does create this umbrella under which R-rated, one-off (or maybe not…) takes on iconic characters can be crafted by ambitious filmmakers.
It’s also unclear when, exactly, Joker 2 might happen, but given the unique aspect of the first film I wouldn’t expect it to follow a traditional blockbuster sequel trajectory. One imagines the budget will be kept low, and despite the introduction of Bruce Wayne in Joker, director Matt Reeves already has Batman covered with the Robert Pattinson-fronted The Batman, so that character likely will not be involved with Joker 2. Here’s hoping we get a follow-up that’s just as character-focused as this first one.
As for Joker it’s run isn’t over just yet, as the film is making its way down the awards circuit after picking up the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. It just won the top cinematography award at Camerimage, and Phoenix is a top contender to score a Best Actor Oscar nomination, while the film itself is likely to pick up a few nominations as well. Best Picture? Not out of the question.
So yeah, you can imagine Phillips is feeling pretty good about his gamble now. I previously wrote about how Joker could pave the way forward for DC Films. Here’s hoping that’s the track WB is following now.