Joker Movie Casts its Young Bruce Wayne
The final pieces are coming together for Todd Phillips’ Joker. The gritty take on Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix)’s transformation into Gotham’s most prolific, unhinged villain has just cast Dante Pereira-Olson as the young Bruce Wayne and Douglas Hodge as Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler who becomes something like the young Bruce’s surrogate father. Pereira-Olson has already worked with Phoenix before; he played a young version of Phoenix’s character Joe in Lynn Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. Hodge has had a long career in both film and TV (Black Mirror fans will recognize him from last season’s “Black Museum” episode), working on Amazon’s hilarious Catastrophe, on the crime thriller The Night Manager, and in the Jennifer Lawrence film Red Sparrow.
There’s plenty of reasons to be excited about Joker, including the fact that a standout character actor like Shea Whigham revealed that the set’s been electric. The cast, which includes Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Bill Camp, Marc Maron, Frances Conroy, and Glenn Fleshler is outstanding. As is the idea of a 1980s-set film that, with its more modest budget and its connection to Martin Scorsese (both as a producer and using his earlier work, like Taxi Driver, as an inspiration) make Joker one of the most intriguing films with the DC imprimatur to date. Now that Wonder Woman 1984 has been moved back to its original release date of June 5, 2020, Phillips’ Joker will be the only big DC film to bow in the fall of 2019 (on October 4), which seems like the perfect season to re-introduce Gotham’s most iconic villain.
It’s unclear how big of a role Pereira-Olson and Hoge will have in Joker, considering this is a film about Fleck’s transformation, not Batman. Yet having a young Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the mix connects Joker to the larger world in Gotham, without making this about the larger DC universe and forcing Bruce Wayne to have a bigger role. It’s also interesting that in this iteration, the Joker is much, much older than Batman (as he was in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman). In Christopher Nolan’s beloved The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s ferocious, yet oddly truth-telling Joker was the same age as Bruce Wayne.
The most exciting thing about Joker is that Warner Bros. and DC have given Phillips, the cast and crew the free reign to reimagine the most iconic villain in all of comics as they see fit, and tell a story that won’t require a sequel or a spinoff. While Marvel has just about perfected the interconnected superhero universe, it’s refreshing, and intriguing, to have a movie come along that exists to tell a single story about a single character—one that happens to be one of the most interesting to come out of a comic book.
Featured image: Caption: JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Arthur Fleck in “Joker,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative. A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Nikos Tavernise