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Joker 2 - What We Know So Far

Writer-director Todd Phillips' Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, emerged in late 2019 as one of the biggest surprise hits of the decade. Set in a different continuity (not to mention a different time period) from the other films of the DC Movie Universe, the film told the story of failed comedian Arthur Fleck, an unstable loner  pushed by circumstances and his own cracked psyche into becoming Gotham's most notorious criminal.

The movie's list of superlatives is long, and still growing. Joker scored the biggest October opening weekend of all time, became the first R-rated movie to break the billion-dollar mark at the global box office, and emerged as the most profitable comic book film ever — all within its first six weeks of release. It's also been nominated for a number of Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Phillips has gone on record stating that he conceived Joker as a standalone story, but in November 2019, The Hollywood Reporter alleged that, according to its sources, Phillips and his co-writer Scott Silver were in talks to continue Fleck's story for a sequel, with Phoenix reprising his role. Shortly after THR published its report, Deadline chimed in with its own claim that, according to its sources, there have been no talks around a potential Joker sequel. The outlet also claimed that the meeting THR described between Phillips and Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich — in which Phillips was said to have pitched an entire slate of gritty films centered on DC Comics villains — never happened.

So, what's really going on with a possible Joker 2, and how might Phillips, Silver, and Phoenix continue Arthur's story? Let's discuss.

Todd Phillips sets the record straight on Joker 2

It was an interesting and rare case that two reliable trade publications straight-up contradicted each other, and the conflicting reports forced Phillips to step in to clear up the matter. Speaking with IndieWire in November 2019, the director said that while the idea of a sequel had certainly been discussed, there's not yet a deal in place, and Phoenix hasn't yet been approached about returning.

"Here's the real truth about a sequel," Phillips said. "While Joaquin and I have talked about it, and while touring the world with Warner Bros executives... of course, we're sitting at dinner and they're saying, 'So, have you thought about...?' But, talking about contracts, there's not a contract for us to even write a sequel, we've never approached Joaquin to be in a sequel. Will that happen? Again, I just think the [Hollywood Reporter] article was anticipatory at best."

The director also clarified that his purported meeting with Emmerich was inaccurately reported. While he copped to pitching a slate of films featuring DC villains during his initial Joker pitch, the notion had swiftly been shot down.

"I can honestly say to you there was no meeting that ever happened [in October] where I marched in," the director explained. "When I pitched them Joker, it wasn't a movie, it was, let's do a whole label. They shut that down quickly, and I get it. Who am I to walk in and start a label at a film studio? But they said, let's do this one."

Are Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix open to Joker 2?

It's worth noting that, even in the wake of THR's jumping the gun, neither Phillips nor Phoenix has shot down the idea of Joker 2. In fact, Phillips might have poured a bit more gasoline on the flames when asked about the idea at an industry event hosted by Deadline in late 2019.

"When a movie does $1 billion and cost $60 million to make, of course [the notion of a sequel] comes up," Phillips said with a chuckle. "But Joaquin and I haven't really decided on it. We're open. I mean, I'd love to work with him on anything, quite frankly. So who knows?"

Phillips implied that if he and Phoenix do decide to revisit Arthur Fleck's world, though, it won't be the potential for more big box office bucks driving their decision. "[A sequel] would have to have a real thematic resonance the way this one did, ultimately being about childhood trauma and the lack of love, and the loss of empathy," he explained. "All those things are really what made this movie work for us, so we'd have to have something that had an equal thematic resonance."

Who would be in the cast of Joker 2?

Even if Joker 2 were to be confirmed tomorrow, at this early date, we wouldn't have any idea who might be filling out the flick's cast — but we do feel pretty safe in stating that there's absolutely no way Phoenix wouldn't return to further plumb the depths of Fleck's tortured mind if it were to happen. Phillips has repeatedly made it clear that there's no way he'd even entertain the possibility of a sequel if Phoenix, for whom he and Silver wrote the first movie, weren't on board.

Incidentally, while we can in all likelihood consider Phoenix a lock if Joker 2 gets the greenlight, the only other bit of info around potential casting which we could confidently go on record reporting concerns who we know wouldn't be in the movie: Robert Pattinson. The talented young actor will be portraying the title character in director Matt Reeves' upcoming picture The Batman, but Phillips has strongly implied that Pattinson's Bruce Wayne and Phoenix's Arthur Fleck exist in completely different continuities. 

Asked at the Toronto International Film Festival if it were possible that Pattinson's Dark Knight could appear in a Joker sequel, Phillips was unequivocal, saying simply, "No, definitely not." This actually makes a ton of sense — for as Joker's fans know, the film's relationship to DC lore is a complicated one.

What would be the plot of Joker 2?

Again, any attempt to parse out the plot of a potential Joker sequel would be an exercise in pure guesswork at this point. Of course, we can offer at least a couple guesses of the educated variety — but they mostly have to do with what the movie wouldn't be about.

First and foremost, as revealed by Phillips' comments at TIFF, the film would not in any way, shape, or form be about Batman. Yes, Bruce Wayne did appear in Joker — as a child of perhaps ten, and since Phillips has been clear on the fact that any sequel would simply continue to tell Arthur's story, it's likely that young Master Bruce would still be in Bat-middle school during the events of a potential follow-up.

We can infer from Phillips' determination to keep the focus squarely on Arthur that any sequel is also unlikely to focus on any other of Gotham's budding supervillains. There just might, however, be a slight chance that a Joker sequel could introduce a cunning, cackling threat to Gotham other than Arthur: the real Joker.

Follow us here: even since before Joker was released, fans have speculated that Arthur may not actually be the Joker with whom we're all familiar, but rather a sort of proto-Joker who serves as a formative influence on the real deal. The theory is compelling on its own merits, but it was lent a hell of a lot more credence than had been assigned to it previously when Phillips referred to it in the wake of Joker's staggering success.

Phillips raised the possibility unprompted in a wide-ranging Los Angeles Times interview. "There's a lot of ways you could look at this movie," the director said. "You could look at it and go, 'This is just one of his multiple-choice stories. None of it happened'... A lot of people I've shown it to have said, 'Oh, I get it — he's just made up a story. The whole movie is the joke. It's this thing this guy in Arkham Asylum concocted. He might not even be the Joker'... Maybe Joaquin's character inspired the Joker. You don't really know."

No, we don't — but if they deign to give us Joker 2, Phillips, Silver, and Phoenix have an opportunity to clear it up for us. Could we perhaps see the emergence of the actual Joker in a sequel? It's an intriguing possibility, but only time will tell.

Does Joker 2 have a release date?

Obviously, we don't yet have a release date for Joker 2, as the involved parties have yet to even commence talks. We don't even have an idea as to when the flick could potentially begin production, but it's pretty safe to say that Phillips and Silver would be inclined to take their time on the screenplay for a Joker sequel, crafting the most compelling story possible. In fact, the writing process would likely be among the lengthiest parts of any sequel's road to the screen.

We say this because, considering Joker's critical acclaim and box office clout, everybody involved has a strong incentive to make sure the that if the flick does get a follow-up, it's a worthy one. Rushing a second chapter to the screen would be folly; the first movie's titanic fan base will still be there in two or three years, and even at that time, the indelible mark left on pop culture by Joker isn't likely to have faded.

Having said that, however, it was a bit more of a streamlined process bringing Joker to theaters than is typically the case with comic book films. The flick was shot in roughly 12 weeks, and its post-production was also relatively speedy due to the fact that — unlike virtually every other comic book movie in existence — there were no CGI set pieces to be added.

In the best-case scenario, then, we could hazard a guess — especially if the recent kerfuffle happens to goad the involved parties toward the negotiating table relatively soon — that Joker 2 could conceivably premiere during a similar early October frame in 2021. Of course, we'll be keeping both ears to the ground for any official announcement regarding Joker 2, and the minute we have it, we'll be beating down your door with the news.