Warner Bros. executives reportedly wanted less Joker in Joaquin Phoenix's Joker movie

Joker Easter eggs
(Image credit: DC/Warner Bros.)

The executives over at Warner Bros. no doubt have their happy faces on as Joker has quickly become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time (and has eyes set on a $1 billion box-office haul). Yet, during the planning stages, many of them were questioning whether Todd Phillips' Joker should have so much... Joker.

A report by Vulture details how certain high-ups were allegedly worried about releasing an origin story for the villain when Suicide Squad had recently introduced the world to Jared Leto's version of the character. 

"Maybe, some of the executives reasoned, Phillips’s origin story could set up a character who audiences would understand is based on the Joker, but who isn’t literally the Joker. Couldn’t he be some kind of peripheral figure instead?" the report claims, citing two sources familiar with the project. 

"The idea divided the studio chieftains, but everyone agreed transposing the actual Joker from his more familiar context as the Dark Knight’s most infamous antagonist and placing him on his own within a mash-up of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy was a risky move. Then there was the question of how it would resonate with DC Extended Universe fans, accustomed to straight-down-the-pike comics adaptations like Aquaman and Wonder Woman."

With Joker having made so much money at the box-office, those executives have likely had a change of heart. However, according to reports, Leto was "upset" by the decision to make a solo Joker movie about someone else's incarnation of the character.

A separate report also indicated that Jared Leto's tenure as Joker has come to an end following the success of Joaquin Phoenix's version. Sources claimed Leto tried to sway opinion on the Phillips' directed movie by “bitterly complaining” to his agents. The Oscar-winning allegedly asked his manager to go to Warner Bros.’ parent company to nix the Joker movie.

Speaking with GamesRadar+ earlier this year, Phillips indicated that Warner and DC wanted less connections to the comic books in the movie. "When I originally thought about the film, I didn't have all those things figured out," he said when asked about including Batman in the movie. "Once you start writing, you start giving things more meaning and you work things out. One of those things I was thinking, 'You know what would be fun? Having the Waynes.' But it wasn't a directive from DC. I would argue that DC and Warner Bros wanted less, to make it more separate from that universe. I can see why they would. But they never said anything in either direction. It wasn't like, 'Make sure you include the Waynes' or, 'Include that scene at the end.'"

Leto or Phoenix? Find out who came out on top in our ranking of the best Joker actors. Plus, for more clowning around, be sure to check out the big questions we had after the Joker ending.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.