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Heath Ledger’s Iconic Joker Performance Wouldn’t Scare Joaquin Phoenix From Playing the Role

Phoenix believes the nature of comic books makes it appropriate for "different people to play the same character."

Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger


Joaquin Phoenix’s involvement in Todd Phillips’ standalone Joker movie is not confirmed, but that hasn’t stopped publications from asking the “You Were Never Really Here” actor about the role. Phoenix was first reported to be playing The Joker in February, but he has cast doubt on the casting in recent interviews by saying he has no idea about the film and denying he’s involved with it.

Phillips’ Joker movie is being produced and distributed by Warner Bros., but it is being conceived as separate from the DC Extended Universe. Jared Leto is the current Joker in the DCEU, having played the character in “Suicide Squad.” The standalone Joker film is an alleged prequel film that chronicles the Joker’s rise to mafia king. The film is expected to be in the vein of a Martin Scorsese gangster film.

While Phoenix isn’t ready to confirm he’s taking on the much-publicized role, he did tell Collider that Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the character in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” wouldn’t necessarily intimidate him from signing on to star. Collider editor-in-cheif Steve “Frosty” Weintraub mentioned to Phoenix that Ledger’s work represents an untouchable standard for many Batman fans, which would probably make any actor scared to take on the role.

Phoenix responded by saying that’s not exactly the case with The Joker because comic book characters function differently than other literary characters. Since comic book superheroes and villains have different runs and storylines written by different authors, it creates different interpretations of the same character. If Phoenix were to take on the role, he would do so because his Joker would be a different character than the one Ledger played in Nolan’s epic.

“I was thinking about it’s interesting with comics there’s different writers and artists that come on. It’s different than this character from literature being uniquely that,” Phoenix said. “There are different interpretations. It’s so interesting; I was just thinking about it today, it seems so unique in some ways to comic books. I think there’s probably room for that.”

“Maybe it’s like doing a play, like you always hear about people doing something, ‘You should have seen this actor in this performance,’ but then other actors do it and it’s a different kind of film,” he continued. “I think that genre, comic books, kind of lends itself to having different people play the same character and interpret it in a different way. It’s kind of built into the source material in some ways. I think it’s cool when people do that.”

Phoenix’s belief makes it clear Ledger’s performance wouldn’t stand in the way of him taking on The Joker. Phillips’ film is expected to begin production later this fall, which means a casting confirmation should be on the way soon. Head over to Collider to read Phoenix’s entire interview.

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