The clown prince of crime is set to make his return to the big screen — and it’s sounding weirder and weirder the more we hear about it.
Released in 2019, Todd Phillip’s original “Joker” film presented a reimagined version of the classic “Batman” antagonist, following the character in his civilian identity of Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) in a run-down ’80s version of Gotham. The film drew inspiration from Martin Scorsese films such as “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” in its portrayal of Arthur’s journey into madness, making it one of the more memorable comic book films in recent memory.
Despite mixed reviews and moral panic at the time that the film would inspire real world violence, “Joker” was a box office success, grossing over $1 billion against a $62.5 million budget. In addition, the film received an eye-popping 11 Oscar nominations and two wins, with Phoenix following the late Heath Ledger in winning an acting Oscar for his performance as the Batman enemy. With all the money and accolades the film received, a follow-up bout into Gotham seemed inevitable.
Although rumors of a sequel to the film remained persistent in the years since its release, a formal announcement wasn’t made until this June, when director Todd Phillips posted a picture on Instagram of the sequel script, revealing that its official title would be “Joker: Folie à Deux.” French for “Madness for Two,” the subtitle seems to promise a crazy sequel, and since then, each development has kept the film world on its toes.
So while the plot for “Joker 2” remains firmly under wraps, here’s what we do know about Phoenix’s second outing as the most iconic villain in all of comics.
It’s hitting theaters in 2024
“Folie à Deux” is set to premiere in theaters on Oct. 4, 2024. Notably, that date is five years to the day of the original film’s theatrical release.
Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips are both returning
Naturally, you can’t have “Joker” without the Joker, and “Folie à Deux” is set to see Phoenix reprise his Oscar-winning role. The actor is getting a significant pay upgrade for the sequel, netting $20 million for the movie after taking a $4.5 million salary for the original.
Phillips will also turn to direct the film, co-writing the script once again with Scott Silver. Whether or not other key cast and crew from the original “Joker” will return — such as composer Hildur Guðnadóttir or Zazie Beets, who played Arthur’s neighbor Sophie — remains to be seen.
Lady Gaga will play the female lead
After making headlines for her intense method approach to the devilish part of Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci,” Lady Gaga is taking on what’s sure to be a similarly unhinged role. The pop star will play the female lead opposite Phoenix, in her third lead film role after “Gucci” and the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born.”
Reportedly, Gaga is playing the character of Harley Quinn, who was first created for the 1992 “Batman: the Animated Series.” Depicted in most “Batman” media as Joker’s psychiatrist who falls in love with him and joins him in his criminal activity around Gotham, the character has in recent years left her abusive relationship with the clown behind in favor of striking out as an independent baddie. If the rumored role is true, Gaga’s portrayal of the character will follow three live-action performances from Margot Robbie in “Suicide Squad,” “Birds of Prey” and “The Suicide Squad,” as well as the HBO Max series “Harley Quinn,” in which she’s voiced by Kaley Cuoco.
On Aug. 4, Gaga addressed the film for the first time by sharing an animated musical teaser on Twitter. The clip, set to an instrumental of “Cheek to Cheek,” shows outlines of Phoenix and Gaga dancing and embracing.
Joker: Folie à Deux
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) August 4, 2022
It’s a musical
In a pivot from the original film nobody saw coming, Lady Gaga’s casting news came with the announcement that “Folie à Deux” would be a musical. How the film plans to incorporate musical numbers, and whether or not Gaga will contribute music like she did for “A Star is Born,” remains to be seen.
There will be no connection to the “The Batman” or “Justice League”
While much of “Folie à Deux” remains shrouded in mystery, fans can safely expect the films to remain in their own independent universe. That means the film will likely lack any connection to either the DC Extended Universe seen in the “Justice League” films — which feature Ben Affleck as Batman — or this year’s “The Batman,” which was directed by Matt Reeves and saw Robert Pattinson step up to play the caped crusader.
In interviews, including speaking to Variety on the red carpet for the original film’s 2019 premiere, Phillips has made it clear that his “Joker” universe is a self-contained take on the character, one that doesn’t have any connection to the broader DC Films slate. That means, while you can’t rule out Batman appearing in “Folie à Deux” just yet, it’s safe to say it won’t be Affleck or Pattinson under the cowl.
As for what versions of the Joker have the opportunity to pop up in other movies, the 2021 Zack Snyder “Justice League” cut featured Jared Leto reprising his “Suicide Squad” depiction of the villain, while Barry Keoghan made a short cameo appearance in “The Batman” as a shadowy Arkham Asylum inmate with an awfully familiar laugh. While both Affleck and Pattinson are set to reprise their roles in upcoming films — Affleck in “The Flash,” Pattinson in an untitled “The Batman” sequel — whether Leto or Keoghan will make future appearances as their versions of the Joker is unclear.