Why Lady Gaga is the perfect person to play Harley Quinn in Joker 2

Lady Gaga at the Met Gala 2019, looking very Harley Quinn
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After months of rumors, Joker 2 – officially titled Joker: Folie à Deux – has its Harley Quinn in Lady Gaga, and director Todd Phillips could not have cast a better actor for the role. Margot Robbie is a fantastic Harley in Suicide Squad, and Kaley Cuoco adds a little something extra to her vocal performance in the Harley Quinn animated series, but Lady Gaga was born for the role – more so than any other she's taken on yet.

I mean, hasn't it always felt like Gaga was Harley Quinn? A singer, dancer, actor, and overall industry enigma, Lady Gaga has been making headlines since she debuted her first single 'Just Dance' back in 2008. She is an icon, a person who often comes off as more of a caricature than a human being – so the sheer allure of her turn as such a legendary character is enough to draw people's attention. And if you consider that Harley Quinn traditionally has a Brooklyn accent and that Lady Gaga is from New York (and frequently proves she can already do what is basically a Harley impression), it's hard to see anyone else in the role. 

Plus, Gaga has already proven she can deliver an incredible performance on screen – she was Oscar-nominated for her role in A Star Is Born – and that she’s willing to go to great lengths to get into the right mindset for a role. Before 2021's House of Gucci, she lived as her character for 18 months, often speaking in an Italian accent. Joaquin Phoenix adopted a similar method when preparing for his role as Arthur Fleck in the original Joker; he went on a restrictive, controversial diet that caused him to lose over 50 pounds. Now imagine the two of them together, both going full Method with a capital M, and you can picture the kind of performance they'll be able to pull from each other. 

Folie à Deux 

Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

One major – and surprising – detail about Joker 2 is that the sequel will be a musical. It’s no wonder, then, that they wanted Gaga – her ability to dance, sing, and act is apparent, and my imagination is running wild with possibilities. The clip announcing Gaga's role features slow-moving silhouettes of her and Phoenix dancing to a rendition of 'Cheek to Cheek' by Fred Astaire. Gaga-as-Harley is wearing what appears to be period-specific clothes, which would make sense as the Astaire song debuted in the 1930s – perhaps she's portraying a version of Harley Quinn who is obsessed with old movies? Or one who randomly breaks into song not unlike the Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series?

There's also a clear connection between the tease and an iconic piece of Joker/Harley art. 'Tango With Evil' is a famous work from artist Alex Ross that was originally the cover of the Batman: Harley Quinn comic book from 1999. It's an homage to the work of 1920s artist J.C Leyendecker, who often created art depicting men and women dancing. Margot Robbie and Jared Leto re-enacted the artwork in a deleted scene from Suicide Squad, and it certainly seems like Folie à Deux is paying homage to it. 

When you consider the meaning of 'folie à deux,' the dancing together theme holds even more weight. It's defined as shared psychosis, or a shared delusional disorder where two people (usually family members) suffer identical or similar mental health disorders. The first Joker 2 plot details suggest the movie will mostly be set in Arkham Asylum, so perhaps the two are in there together. 

Joker 2 could very well depict Joker and Harley falling in love, bonding over their shared beliefs and mental states. As such, the visual of them dancing feels like they are united together in their "madness." Dancing has already been established as an important piece of Arthur's narrative in the original film: he tries to dance with his mother while stepping into the Joker personality, and he exuberantly dances on the steps after fully embracing his new identity. Harley and Joker dancing together is their way of expressing their truest selves – even if their truths are somewhat worrisome. 

Lady Gaga fits this role perfectly. Harley's flair for the dramatic will translate well – melodrama defines Lady Gaga's career, from her 2009 Paparazzi performance where she staged her own bloody death, to her recent turn as an Old Hollywood bombshell performing alongside Tony Bennett. She was made for the role of Harley Quinn in a Joker musical, and that's that, puddin'. 

Joker: Folie à Deux reaches cinemas on October 4, 2024. For more, check out our list of the most exciting upcoming movies heading your way soon.

Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.