Why Heath Ledger’s Joker Wouldn’t Scare Joaquin Phoenix Away From Playing The Character

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

Few comic book villains come close to being as famous as their heroic adversaries, but The Joker is one of the few that's reached that level of popularity, as most people who know about Batman have also heard of the Clown Prince of Crime. For decades we've watched Batman and The Joker clash in numerous media projects, including three live action movies (four if you want to count Suicide Squad). But since last August, we've been learning more and more about a standalone Joker movie that isn't connected to the DC Extended Universe. As things stand right now, Joaquin Phoenix is reportedly in consideration to play The Joker. Phoenix is still playing coy about his supposed involvement, but he has made clear that he wouldn't let Heath Ledger's lauded performance as Batman's cackling nemesis in The Dark Knight dictate whether or not he would take the role. Phoenix explained:

I don't know about that movie or character specifically, but I was thinking about it's interesting with comics there's different writers and artists that come on. It's different than this character from literature being uniquely that. There are different interpretations. It's so interesting; I was just thinking about it today, it seems so unique in some ways to comic books. I think there's probably room for that. Maybe it's like doing a play, like you always hear about people doing something, 'You should have seen this actor in this performance,' but then other actors do it and it's a different kind of film. I think that genre, comic books, kind of lends itself to having different people play the same character and interpret it in a different way. It's kind of built into the source material in some ways. I think it's cool when people do that.

Plenty of actors have put their own spin on The Joker over the years, including Jack Nicholson in 1989's Batman and Mark Hamill in various animated TV shows, video games, the list goes on. However, Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight has arguably become the most well-known portrayal of the character, and Ledger earned a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance. Joaquin Phoenix obviously still isn't willing to divulge to the public if he will in fact play The Joker, but as he explained to Collider, an actor playing a comic book character who's already been previously depicted is like how countless writers and artists create different versions of these same characters on the printed page over the decades. So even though Heath Ledger's Joker is incredibly popular, as long as the new version of Joker is different enough while still having a foot in the source material, Phoenix wouldn't be worried about playing someone like The Joker, or any comic book character who's already appeared on the big screen.

The Hangover director Todd Phillips is directing and co-writing the Joker movie, which will reportedly be a "hard-boiled crime drama" set in 1980s Gotham City . With so many actors having played the Joker in both live action and animation, whoever ends up scoring the lead role in this project, be it Joaquin Phoenix or someone else, would definitely have their work cut out for them. That being said, I would imagine that this Joker movie's unusual premise will help with made this version of The Joker stand out from his predecessors, and if the talented, award-winning Phoenix does end up taking the role, he could potentially deliver a performance that surpasses what Heath Ledger gave us a decade ago.

We here at CinemaBlend will keep you up to date on what's happening with the Joker movie and whether or not Joaquin Phoenix will play the character as more news comes in. In the meantime, Jared Leto is still playing Joker in the DC Extended Universe, and it expected to come back for Suicide Squad 2. As for what other DC movies are in development, check out our handy guide.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.