The Joker is one popular guy. A day after word broke that Warner Bros. was developing a JOKER origin story movie for Todd Phillips (WAR DOGS) to direct as part of a series of non-DCEU standalone films, news comes that THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN movie is in the works. THR reports that Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the directors behind CRAZY STUPID LOVE, FOCUS, and the Tina Fey dramedy WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, are in final negotiations to write, direct, and produce an untitled movie centering on THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN, with Jared Leto and Margot Robbie reprising their roles from SUICIDE SQUAD.
The film is described as a “criminal love story” and will revolve around the two characters that were introduced in the 2016 villain-centric movie, and as such will be a movie that takes place within the DC Extended Universe. The plan is for this to move forward after the studio makes SUICIDE SQUAD 2, which is a priority. Warner Bros. had zeroed in on Jaume Collett-Serra (THE SHALLOWS) to direct that sequel, but he instead opted to take on Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE. They’re currently out to directors as SUICIDE SQUAD 2 is firmly on the fast track.
Why the hustle? THR reports one issue involves actors’ holding agreements—many of the actors from SUICIDE SQUAD signed contracts to appear in future films and sequels, but those contracts would appear to have expiration dates or at the very least dates at which the DC films lose their “priority” on the very busy ensemble’s schedule.
What this means for GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, the female-centric DCEU spinoff, is unclear. Deadline suggests that this JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN movie is a new version of that, and that SUICIDE SQUAD helmer David Ayer is no longer attached to write and direct. That film originated from Robbie herself, who put the idea to Warner Bros. of a DCEU movie centering on female characters based on the comics run GOTHAM CITY SIRENS. She was attached to produce and Ayer signed on to write and direct, but it’s unclear if that project evolved into this JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN movie or if GOTHAM CITY SIRENS is still in development.
This move comes as Warner Bros. is setting its plans for the future of its DC Comics adaptations. JUSTICE LEAGUE opens in November, AQUAMAN is in production now, SHAZAM is set to start filming early next year, and WONDER WOMAN II now has a firm 2019 release date. The studio is also looking for a top-tier director for FLASHPOINT, and is developing various other DC films like Joss Whedon’s BATGIRL, Chris McKay’s NIGHTWING, and of course THE BATMAN that has Matt Reeves directing and Ben Affleck maybe (or maybe not) playing Batman-and may not be part of the DCEU.
But Warner Bros. is also shaking things up, as evidenced by yesterday’s news of the JOKER origin story. In addition to these aforementioned DCEU films, which will be in continuity with each other and presumably cross-pollinate characters, Warner Bros. is putting together a label under which they can create one-off DC Comics adaptations with ambitious new takes on the characters. This JOKER origin movie will have an actor other than Leto in the lead role and will have no connectivity whatsoever to the DCEU—it’s basically a superhero art film with no strings attached and no franchise to build toward. This, I’ve argued, is a dumb play by Warner Bros: their main universe is still a mess and this is going to confuse the movie going public. The only reason I can see for WB to head in this direction is that they can’t get any creative-types to work on DC properties due to the DCEU’s reputation and they’re trying to attract creatives by discociating DCEU connections. Matt Reeves has as much as stated that this is the reason he joined THE BATMAN: WB told him it would be a standalone venture.
But the studio does also have its DCEU movies, and it appears a JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN film is in the cards. Ficarra and Requa have been in the WB family for a while now, dating back to 2011’s CRAZY STUPID LOVE, so their involvement in the DCEU isn’t a huge surprise. Moreover, they also helped get the smash hit NBC series ‘This Is Us’ off the ground, directing the pilot and executive producing the series. This JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN movie is clearly a departure for the duo, but the recurring thread through all their films is a pretty firm focus on character with a strong emotional core.