While studio negotiations are not yet underway, Phillips has made it clear that Phoenix is the top choice to star and sources now tell Variety that, after thinking it over, Phoenix has agreed to the role. WB had no comment.
Phillips is on board to co-write and direct the movie. Phillips had met with Phoenix before the new year and was just waiting for the studio’s go-ahead, sources say.
Insiders stress that Jared Leto, who starred in “Suicide Squad” as the Joker is still on board as the character in the DC universe and that this Phoenix has no effect on what happens with Leto’s character in future DC films.
The movie would fall under a yet-to-be-announced new banner of DC Comics, which would give the studio the opportunity to expand the canon of the iconic comic-book characters with unique story angles that aren’t included in its current cinematic universe. Jared Leto most recently played the Joker in “Suicide Squad” and is likely to reprise that role in “Suicide Squad 2,” but will not be featured in this film. Rumors circulated that Leonardo DiCaprio was the first person approached to star in Phillips’ standalone film, though that didn’t pan out.
Scott Silver will join Phillips as a co-writer on the film, which will delve into what it took for the Joker to become a mastermind criminal. Sources say the story will take place in the ’80s and have more of the look of a gritty crime drama than comic-book movie.
Phoenix has been considered for another villainous DC role in the past: Lex Luthor in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but passed on that role, which ultimately went to Jesse Eisenberg. He was also in talks for Disney-Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” but passed on that as well. He was most recently seen in the Gus Van Sant film “He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
He is repped by WME.