Joaquin Phoenix has never done a sequel. And though his latest movie, Joker, is set in an expansive comic book world, the idea of a second film always seemed unlikely. That just wasn’t the way it was constructed. Joker is a character piece. A provocative, standalone ode to ‘70s cinema. But then this weekend happened.
Joker grossed almost $140 million over its first three days, becoming the largest October opening of all time. That kind of success almost always means a sequel — but in previous interviews, co-writer and director Todd Phillips has frequently said “no” to the idea.
“We really like that this movie lives on its own,” he told ET, for example. However, in other interviews he also made it sound like a sequel was more about Phoenix’s interest than himself or anyone else.
“I would do anything with Joaquin Phoenix, any day of the week,” Phoenix told Total Film back in August. “There’s nobody like him. If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool.”
So, maybe, it’s ultimately up to Phoenix. Would he be up for revisiting a character for the first time? A new interview has surfaced that suggests he just might.
“Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about [the character],” Phoenix told Popcorn With Peter Travers in an interview posted last week. “I talked to Todd a lot about what else we might be able to do, in general, just to work together, but also specifically, if there’s something else we can do with Joker that might be interesting. So, it ended up being a dream role. It’s nothing that I really wanted to do prior to working on this movie.”
Well, that’s certainly a change of pace.
He continued, “I don’t know that there is [more to do]. Me and Todd would still be shooting now if we could, right? Because it seemed endless, the possibilities of where we can go with the character.”
Here’s the full interview. The moment in question is 21 minutes in.
Though these quotes are a bit of a pivot from what everyone was saying before the film’s release, one thing does seem certain: If Phoenix and Phillips were to come back, it almost certainly would be to further explore Arthur Fleck. The idea of Joker versus Batman is not something Phillips has expressed interest in. Like, at all.
As many of you now have seen, the film ends in a very open-ended manner, with Fleck ultimately embracing the comic book persona fans have become familiar with over the years just before the credits roll. There’s certainly much more that could happen from there. Plus, there’s even a popular theory that, because Bruce Wayne is so young in the film, Fleck isn’t the “real” Joker but merely the inspiration for an even more horrible person. So, if Phillips and Phoenix wanted, that idea of Fleck inspiring someone else could be a way to dovetail Fleck’s story with a version of the Joker that does meet up with the Caped Crusader. They could have their cake and eat it too.
All of that is purely speculative, of course. It also ignores the moral and social issues the film has brought up for many people — issues that even the studio itself seemed sick of dealing with as it would not let the press do interviews at Joker’s premiere.
Money is great, but making a Joker sequel may not be worth it for the amount of negative press it would surely generate. On the other hand, shouldn’t artists be free to create their work, no matter what the reaction?
As you can tell, this idea is much bigger than making a simple sequel. It’s also worth noting that, though Phoenix made these encouraging comments recently, they don’t really mean anything. He could change his mind. He could backtrack. Anything is possible. The only real information on whether a Joker sequel will happen is surely flowing through Warner Bros. and the offices of Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips as we speak. However, while the idea of a sequel at first seemed unlikely, now it’s just a little less so.
Joker is now in theatres.