'Raging Joker'? Bring on the Scorsese Batman villain movie

Commentary: The "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" director's gritty, hard-boiled filmmaking is perfect for Bruce Wayne's psychotic, clown-painted nemesis.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read

Why so serious? The Joker may soon end up in a film produced by "Raging Bull" director Martin Scorsese, and that's a good thing.

UA/Warner Bros

No joke -- classic Batman villain The Joker may be getting his own hard-boiled origin movie, with none other than Martin Scorsese producing, according to a report from Deadline.com published Tuesday.

According to the report, the legendary filmmaker will produce the film along with Todd Phillips ("The Hangover"), and Phillips will also direct and write. Scott Silver, screenwriter of "8 Mile," will co-write the script with Phillips.

"This will be the first film under a new banner that has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters," Deadline reports, going on to say that  "the intention is to make an origin story that isn't part of any other iteration."

No title or release date were mentioned. 

A source close to the production told CNET Wednesday that the Deadline report is accurate, but cautioned it was premature to confirm Scorsese's involvement. (Duly noted, but we fans can dream, right?)

Let's break it down: The report of a Joker film fits right into the trend of digging established characters out of popular movie franchises and giving them an origin film. The Star Wars franchise is doing it with Han Solo, and reportedly with Obi-Wan Kenobi as well. 

Some fans are groaning that Hollywood needs to come up with fresh ideas, stop retreading characters and plots we've already seen.

But I'm a sucker for a good origin story, if told well. And moving on to characters we're not yet sick of (one rumor claims Boba Fett will get a standalone film someday) or from heroes to villains is a smart twist. If I have to see one more retelling of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, or that damn spider biting Peter Parker, I'm going to rocket myself off to Krypton (another over-told origin).

The yet-unnamed new DC banner seems promising. It'd be freeing for filmmakers to break from established canon -- just because a certain character did something one way in a one-issue comic book from 1972 shouldn't have to tie down modern writers. (And think of all the online fights to be had about which version was better...)

Who will star? Jack Nicholson, the late Heath Ledger and Jared Leto are among the actors who've played the clown-makeup wearing criminal, but according to the report, a new actor, "possibly younger," will take on the role. So far, so good -- a noir-esque, rain-soaked Joker prequel needs a new face, someone who can bring a freshness to the role as Ledger famously did (still the best in my view) and make us see what keeps the Clown Prince of Crime smiling.

"The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-'80s Gotham City that isn't meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese's films from that era." Deadline reports.

The involvement of Scorsese -- of "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Goodfellas," fame, among many others -- has film buffs buzzing. As our source noted, Scorsese's involvement can't yet be confirmed. And if he does take a role, it's unclear how much he'll actually be hands-on with the film.

But still. Raging Joker? The Last Temptation of Jack Napier? Goodfellas Who Wear Clown Makeup? Bring it on. 

Remember "Taxi Driver" and Travis Bickle's famed talking-into-the-mirror scene? It's easy to see the Joker in a similar situation, seeing himself as an image, always slightly distorted, and talking to someone who may or may not be there. Scorsese knows how to handle damaged characters, and the Joker is nothing if not damaged.

You talkin' to me, Hollywood?

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