Before Joaquin Phoenix officially came on board to play The Joker in Todd Phillips’ standalone origin film, one of the names reportedly being eyed to play the Clown Prince of Crime was none other than Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. It was an intriguing prospect and it actually made sense considering that, at the time, Warner Bros. was supposedly trying to bring legendary director and Leonardo DiCaprio’s frequent collaborator, Martin Scorsese, on as a producer for the film.
That didn’t happen, and as we now know, Joaquin Phoenix is wearing the face paint in Joker, not Leonardo DiCaprio. Joaquin Phoenix was not the second choice or a consolation prize though, because it turns out that Leonardo DiCaprio was never actually considered for The Joker, according to director Todd Phillips, who said:
We wrote the movie for Joaquin.
That’s pretty definitive. While stories from legitimate publications reported that Warner Bros. wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play the Joker, it seems that in this instance, they got it wrong, or at least didn’t have the whole story. It’s entirely possible that some people at Warner Bros. liked the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio as Joker, but as far as writer and director Todd Phillips was concerned, it was always Joaquin.
As he told the New York Times, alongside co-writer Scott Silver, Todd Phillips specifically wrote Joker for Joaquin Phoenix. So Leonardo DiCaprio was never considered for the title role because this was a film and a part crafted and envisioned from the start with Joaquin Phoenix in mind. It wasn’t easy to get Joaquin Phoenix to sign on, but Todd Phillips was determined to get the actor they wrote the part for.
You have to always hedge your bets, but they knew they wanted Joaquin to play Joker and didn’t really consider anyone else, including Leo. What would have happened if Joaquin Phoenix passed is anyone’s guess, but it’s cool that the actor this movie was written for is actually a part of it.
Even though he wasn’t considered, Leondado DiCaprio surely would have done a great job. Although, given the reviews and the praise he is receiving for his performance, it sounds like it would be hard to imagine anyone else in Joker than Joaquin Phoenix, which is as it should be.
This isn’t the first time that Leonardo DiCaprio has seemingly come close to playing a character in a comic book movie. The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star apparently took meetings to play Robin in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, and before Sam Raimi made Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire, James Cameron was planning to make a movie about the Web-Slinger with Leonardo DiCaprio a leading choice for Peter Parker.
Although Leonardo DiCaprio hasn’t played a superhero, that doesn’t mean he never will. Joaquin Phoenix didn’t seem like he ever would and now he may find himself in the Best Actor race for playing a comic book character, so you can never say never.
You can see Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, opening in theaters on October 4. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all this fall’s biggest movies.