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Joker Finds Its Young Bruce Wayne And Alfred Pennyworth

Todd Phillips' Joker movie has finally cast two of the most recognizable characters in the DC Comics lore — but the choices may raise a few eyebrows. 

Per ComicBook.com, child actor Dante Pereira-Olson is set to play a young Bruce Wayne, years before he steps into the cape and cowl to become Batman. Douglas Hodge will take on the role of Alfred Pennyworth, a former Special Operations Executive operative and Bruce's loyal butler and later legal guardian following the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. 

Pereira-Olson's involvement with Joker reunites him with Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Arthur Fleck, the failed stand-up comedian who eventually turns to a life of crime and becomes the Joker. The pair previously starred together in the Lynne Ramsay-written-and-directed psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here. In addition to sharing the screen with Phoenix and Hodge, Pereira-Olson will act alongside Brett Cullen, who takes on the role of Thomas Wayne. Cullen replaced Alec Baldwin, who was — for a short 48 hours or so — attached to play Bruce's father. 

What might cause some discomfort here is the fact that Phoenix's Joker and Pereira-Olson's Bruce are clearly at different points in their lives — not only in terms of age, but also in regards to their respective identities as a clown-faced criminal and a caped crusader. Traditionally, Batman plays a significant role in the Joker's transformation into a deranged supervillain. Choosing a child actor (Pereira-Olson looks to be about 10 years old) to star as Bruce Wayne opposite an adult (Phoenix is 43) who plays the dude who snaps, goes wild with face paint and hair dye, and starts terrorizing Gotham City is a bold choice, as it subverts the idea that the Joker can't exist without Batman, who committed himself to vigilantism following the murders of his parents, and that Batman can't exist without the Joker. 

Fans have long described the Joker as being "the darkness to Batman's light, the evil to his good," and the arch-nemesis that pushes the hero to his limits and forces him to second-guess the goodness inside him. (Heck, in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger's Joker even tells Batman that he completes him.) Clearly, if Bruce in this universe isn't even a pre-teen yet at the same time the Joker is old enough to have a failed career and a few wrinkles on his face, the Joker doesn't necessarily need a billionaire orphan in a bat-suit to make him the criminal he is. 

That said, however, perhaps the Joker movie will touch on the idea that the two characters somehow shape one another's destinies. Given that the film takes place in the 1980s and that Cullen is attached to play a living Thomas Wayne, it's all but guaranteed that at least part of the story will see Thomas and Martha Wayne alive. Perhaps a later act of the movie will depict the shooting of the Waynes and place the Joker behind the trigger, just as the original Batman film did. Though such a move would create a stronger link between Bruce and the Joker, with the latter being responsible for the former's everlasting emotional trauma and eventual rise to superheroism, it would be a stark deviation from the comic book source material, in which the Wayne family double murder is usually done by a petty mugger named Joe Chill. It would even deviate from 1989's Batman, which showed a pre-Joker Jack Napier committing the crime as a regular (we use that word loosely) killer rather than an over-the-top, maniacal mad man. 

On the other hand, there's the notion that Bruce Wayne and the Joker are connected not by death but by life — through none other than Thomas Wayne himself. A previously published report by That Hashtag Show claims that Joker will feature Arthur's ailing mother, Penny, who once worked for Thomas Wayne and wound up falling in love with him. The idea goes that Penny, who grew "obsessed" with her employer, had a sexual relationship with Thomas Wayne and fell pregnant with his child — a son she names Arthur. 

Needless to say, this theory is a little out there, but it does hold some weight. In the film, Thomas Wayne is painted as a far less sympathetic character — no longer a talented physician and kind philanthropist who does right by all, but a "cheesy and tanned businessman who is more in the mold of a 1980s Donald Trump" who runs for mayor of Gotham City. Discovering that his biological father is a man with a wonky moral compass and a bad attitude, after he's already nearly losing his mind over the fact that he isn't succeeding as a comedian, would be more than enough to send Arthur over the edge and tumbling down into a pit of villainy and insanity. Arthur might be so overtaken with anguish and confusion following the revelation that he grabs a gun and shoots his biological father and his wife, Bruce's mother Martha, as a way to gain retribution for growing up without a father and to make young Bruce hurt in the same way he did. While nothing relating to this theory has been confirmed or denied in any capacity, it's fun to speculate nonetheless. 

Even with all this said, it's still possible that Alfred Pennyworth and the Wayne family won't play that large a role in the upcoming Joker film, appearing in limited or even cameo capacities rather than as crucial characters. After all, the movie is all about Arthur Fleck and his metamorphosis into the Joker, described as an "exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale." It would be strange to focus too heavily on the Waynes in a pic meant to focus almost entirely on the man who becomes the Clown Prince of Crime. 

It's all pretty hazy for the time being, but the further into production Joker moves, the more details we should receive. 

Joker is set for release on October 4, 2019.