Sources say De Niro would be portraying a talk-show host who plays a part in driving Phoenix’s character to go mad and become the Clown Prince of Crime. According to insiders, the script has ties to De Niro’s film “King of Comedy,” about a failing comedian who kidnaps a popular talk-show host to gain fame. In this case, the roles would be reversed, with De Niro playing the smug host.
Phillips is on board to co-write and direct the Warner Bros. movie.
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 pic has no effect on what happens with Leto’s character in future DC films.
Leto will likely reprise the role in “Suicide Squad 2,” but will not be featured in this film. He will star in and exec produce a standalone Joker movie of his own.
Similar to Phoenix, De Niro has stayed away from superhero fare over the years. What drew the actor to the role was Phillips’ pitch that the film would resemble an ’80s crime noir, a genre De Niro knows well.
De Niro recently wrapped production on Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” opposite Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. He is repped by CAA.