After Joker earned a $1 billion at the box office, what was meant to be a one-off is now getting the sequel treatment from director and co-writer Todd Phillips. There are also potential plans for spinoffs, depending on which trade publication you believe.
UPDATE: Deadline reports that The Hollywood Reporter may have jumped the gun with their exclusive story regarding Joker 2 plans and Todd Phillips' pitch for more DC characters getting an origin story. Read what Deadline has to say below:
"Those sources add that the linchpin of today’s THR story -- that a week after Joker‘s opening, Phillips met with Warner Bros film chief Toby Emmerich to pitch a portfolio of DC character origin stories" -- is false. According to Deadline's sources, that meeting never happened. Also, Phillips has not even considered overseeing other films based on DC characters.
While it is very likely that a Joker sequel will happen, given its box office, Deadline says that no deals are in progress or have happened yet in that regard. Phillips and his Joker co-writer, Scott Silver, have no deals in place -- or have made any moves to get them -- in regards to a sequel. (This last part feels very unlikely and more like a smokescreen; it feels like someone didn't want the news getting out there to THR and then turned to rival Deadline to "set the story straight" on their terms. More to come...)
No one is saying a Joker sequel won’t happen someday. But multiple sources said nothing has happened yet, and that Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver have made no real moves to draft the further dark rise of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck character, or even to make a deal to do that.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE AS FOLLOWS:
Joker director Todd Phillips is in active talks to direct a sequel with star Joaquin Phoenix expected to return, The Hollywood Reporter says in their exclusive. Phillips will once again co-write with Joker screenwriter Scott Silver. So much for Phillips' pledge to have Joker be a standalone movie -- which was part of the appeal that lead to it exceeding box office expectations.
Warner Bros. and DC continue to muddy their big-screen waters as plans are underway at the studio for more "origin" spinoffs based on DC characters, as WB's specific goals and plans for the DC franchise in general remain unclear in the grand, shared universe scheme of things.
What is clear, according to THR, is how Phillips approached the studio to get the ball rolling on his ambitious plan. (We couldn't be more 2019 than having the director of two of the worst sequels ever made -- Hangover II and III -- serving as an architect of a franchise based on a movie that was designed not to be one). On October 7, following Joker's impressive $96.2 million opening weekend, Phillips went to the office of Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich and pitched for the rights to do for other DC characters (likely more villains) what he did for Arthur Fleck/Joker.
"Emmerich balked," THR reports. "After all, Warner Bros. is very protective of the DC canon. And all other DC deals have been for one film, and one film only. But Phillips did emerge from the meeting with the rights to at least one other DC story, sources say."
Joker is currently the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time and the most profitable comic book movie ever made. It also recently surpassed The Dark Knight's worldwide take at the box office with a total (as of press time) of $1.2 billion. Joker joins Aquaman, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Dark Knight as the only four movies in the DC canon to cross the billion dollar threshold at the box office. But unlike those other films, Joker will emerge significantly more profitable, given its mid-range budget of $55 to $60 million. The film is all but guaranteed to net WB a profit in the $500 million range -- which will make up for a string of disappointing fall releases like the flop The Goldfinch and Edward Norton's Motherless Brooklyn.
Joker marks the fourth DC title to cross $1 billion, following in the footsteps of 2018's Aquaman ($1.15 billion), 2012's The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion) and 2008's The Dark Knight ($1 billion). But its $60 million budget is far less than those previous films, so it is almost assured of generating profits of more than $500 million (Warners has a 50 percent stake, while Village Roadshow and Bron Studios each have 25 percent). THR reports that Phillips is likely to earn close to $100 million on his first Joker movie, since he deferred his usual upfront fee "in exchange for a bigger slice of the adjusted gross."
While Joker introduced its take on Bruce Wayne's dad into the narrative, along with the implication that Thomas Wayne was Arthur's dad and that Bruce and Arthur are half-brothers, Batman's backstory -- and further explorations of it -- will reportedly be off-limits. Matt Reeves has The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, arriving in theaters June 25, 2021.
What You Can Learn
When mounting a studio production like Joker -- which seems very risky on paper in terms of financial success -- do what Phillips and other directors do and defer your upfront salary. That helps grease the wheels further for you to protect your original vision and service it at a price point the studio is more comfortable with. It will also, should the gamble prove successful, hopefully result in a windfall of cash off profit participation.
There is the question of do we really need or want a Joker sequel. While I was not onboard with seeing this film, I did admire Phillips and Phoenix's instance from the jump that Joker was a one-off. I admired it because they seemed to believe the studio would be satisfied with a one-and-done approach in the sequel/franchise IP craze that is modern studio filmmaking. I always knew in the back of my mind that, should Joker be more than a base hit at the box office, money talks and the filmmakers would change their tune.
At the same time, from talking with friends that have seen the film, what they really liked about the movie in part was how contained and intimate and uninterested in setting up a franchise it is. They felt satisfied that this new entry point into a familiar and iconic villain ended with a period -- or, at least, a question mark. And now, some are saying "I mean, I'll go see it, but the novelty as worn off."
Do you think this movie's storyline will be better, and not just different, being served with a sequel? Do you want to spend more time in this world, not knowing how it may or may not line-up with whatever future plans are in store for the DC Universe on the big screen? Joker has to intersect with Batman at some point, right? I mean, for Warner Bros. to deny fans that would also hurt them where it counts -- in the studio's wallet -- and that doesn't make much creative or fiscal sense. And it doesn't sound like Reeves' take on the Dark Knight lines up anywhere near Phillips' universe. (At least for now; things can change, obviously). But don't fans of Joker want to see how this take on the Clown Prince of Crime go up against his worst enemy and our favorite hero?
Sound off in the comments below.