When Joker was in its early stages of development, rumors claimed Warner Bros. was looking to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as the Clown Prince of Crime. However, director Todd Phillips is now denying that the star was ever in the running for the role.
“We wrote the movie for Joaquin [Phoenix],” Phillips told The New York Times.
Joker would have been a very different type of turn for DiCaprio, who normally plays the hero/protagonist in his film. To be fair, he’s played some shady characters in the past (The Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort is not a “good guy”), but DiCaprio hasn’t tackled anything like the twisted and demented Arthur Fleck before. The closest comparison is probably wickedly evil slave owner Calvin Candie in Django Unchained, one of the few outright villain roles in DiCaprio’s filmography. Additionally, DiCaprio has never appeared in a comic book movie; he’s one of the few A-listers without a franchise to his name, but the standalone nature of Joker might have been appealing to him. Phoenix was in the same boat, turning down Doctor Strange in the MCUbefore agreeing to play the Joker.
Even with Phoenix earning strong reviews for his Joker performance, DiCaprio’s had a great 2019 himself. Making his long-awaited return after his Oscar win for The Revenant, DiCaprio received much praise for his performance as Rick Dalton in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Right now, both DiCaprio and Phoenix are in the running for a Best Actor nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, and cinephiles would love to see the two go head-to-head in an awards race. Of course, there’s a lot of time remaining before nominations came out, but even if both DiCaprio and Phoenix come up short, they can be proud of the work they did this year.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Shea Whigham. The film arrives in theaters Oct. 4.