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In the midst of a particularly chaotic time for Warner Bros. Pictures and its former DC Films unit, a curious story surfaced about two Joker films in the works. The first was meant to be an in-universe continuation of Suicide Squad story ideas with Jared Leto returning as the damaged clown prince of crime. The other concept seemed even more unhinged: a low-budget standalone character study from Hangover film series director Todd Phillips that would owe more to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy than it would any DC Comic.

Somehow, the latter went into production first, with Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix attached to star. And while the DC-connected Leto project floundered, Joker proved to be a surprise success. Naturally enough, Warners didn’t want to mess with a winning team and convinced both director and star to return for another dance in the pale moonlight.

But how can Arthur Fleck’s story continue? And, for that matter, did any of the first film actually happen, or was it just a tale spun by the Joker for his own amusement? Let’s take a look at everything we know about Joker: Folie à Deux.


A Folly of Two

Lady Gaga on the set of Joker: Folie a Deux

(Photo by MediaPunch/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images)

One of the earliest things Phillips revealed in the development of the sequel was its subtitle: “Folie à Deux.” The term refers to mental disorders of similar or identical manifestations shared by two or more people in close relationships. The tease, delivered via a script title page, led fans and various outlets to assume it could only refer to one person: Dr. Harleen Quinzel – aka Harley Quinn.

Although the two have not been romantically linked in the pages of DC Comics for quite some time, Harley will always be known for starting her costumed career as the Joker’s gun moll. So, naturally enough, the speculation led to her as the major new addition to the story. The guess proved correct, as word surfaced less than a week later that Lady Gaga was in talks to play the part.

So, if the two share a disorder, it is probably fair to say the film will concern the how and why of their initial partnership. In terms of Harley’s history in DC Comics and Batman: The Animated Series – the program where she first debuted – she was Dr. Quinzel, a young psychologist at Arkham Asylum whose attempts to treat Joker led to her becoming one of the facility’s lunatics. A retelling of that origin could be in order here. Or, perhaps, one informed by Arthur’s unique way of telling a story and filling in the gaps. Then again, maybe it is her chance to tell a story. The trailer released in April 2024 suggests Harley may be an Arkham inmate herself with both Dr. Quinzel and Harley Quinn manifestations of her own disorder.

Lady Gaga on the set of Joker: Folie a Deux

(Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)

But remember the Taxi Driver atmosphere Joker borrowed to create Arthur’s vision of Gotham City? When the addition of Gaga was announced, it came with the revelation that the sequel would also be a musical. While Arthur Fleck never admitted to being a Scorsese fan, it would seem the new movie will share some ideas with the legendary director’s New York, New York, his musical follow-up to Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli as a saxophonist and singer, respectively, who fall for one another but face harsh realities off stage even as their careers ascend. Despite the grittiness of the premise, Scorsese intended the film to be a love letter to the MGM movie musicals of yore, complete with more stagey-looking sets.

It still remains to be seen whether Folie à Deux’s genre twist will mean original compositions are in the offing – some speculated that Gaga might contribute to the film’s music herself – but we know Arthur and Harley will perform some sort of twisted jukebox musical. The trailer even puts them on stage to delight an unseen audience.

Also, as we know Arthur will make his way out of Arkham and inspire some sort of riot or crime spree, we hope the mayhem gets a showstopping number. But maybe all involved should avoid using Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” — The Batman already has that song down on lock.


The State Of Gotham

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Presuming the Taxi Driver Gotham of Joker was an invention of Arthur’s mind as he told his tale to the viewer, Folie à Deux may see the fair city reframed by Scorsese’s choices in New York, New York. The setting of the sequel may be brighter, but starker; more artificial, but somehow more fanciful.

That’s presuming Phillips will recreate New York, New York the way he recreated portions of Taxi Driver in the first film. It is possible he will choose less homage this time around and, perhaps, reveal what Gotham is really like. As it happens, location shooting in downtown Los Angeles already suggests an expansion of what Gotham City is – from an economically depressed New York of the 1970s to, perhaps, a neglected, but operatic burg constantly displaying its architectural ghosts?

Then again, the neglected history of downtown LA could play into the artifice of a movie musical Gotham. Either way, expect the town to retain much of its early 20th century skyscraper claustrophobia.

Also worth noting: the film shot for a time in New York, so the original Gotham vibe will be on display in some fashion. Additionally, the abandoned Essex County Isolation Hospital in Bellville, New Jersey plays Arkham in the film, establishing a very particular feel for the infamous fictional psychiatric hospital.

All of our speculation about the setting proved to be true thanks to the trailer, which revealed a mix of very stagey set pieces and locations that continue to evoke the Scorsese New York of the late ’70s. You almost have to wonder if one or the other is Arthur’s delusion. Maybe the other is Harley’s.


Inside The Clown Car

Zazie Beetz in Joker (2019)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Obviously, Phoenix returns as Arthur Fleck. From on-set photos snapped during the LA shoot, it’s clear Arthur has been eating during his time at Arkham as the actor is not nearly as emaciated as he was in the first film. That’s probably better for the actor’s health and possibly an indication that Arthur has found a creature comfort he enjoys.

Then again, his ultra-thin body in the first film may have been another one of his delusions.

Surprisingly, Phoenix is not the only returning member of Joker‘s cast. Zazie Beetz reprises her role as Sophie Dumond, the single mother who lived on Arthur’s floor in the first film. Throughout the tale, he claimed the two were becoming a couple, but a harrowing scene late in the film revealed the truth: she hardly knows him. It’s unclear just how she’ll factor into the film. Will Arthur cling to his fantasy? Will Harley bring her into some sort of therapy to force him into accepting a more objective reality? Or will Sophie just be tortured by a pair of increasingly unhinged people?

Lady Gaga, Berndan Gleeson, and Catherine Keener

(Photo by Kayla Oaddams, Kevin Mazur, Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images)

As mentioned above, Gaga will play Harley. Set photos and trailer footage of the star in a decidedly Harley-esque costume suggests she will embrace that identity rather quickly. No matter what she calls herself, though, her trajectory is clear. Will her romance with Arthur be one for the ages or will it be the cycle of neglect and abuse that led the animated and comic book versions of Harley to kick Joker to the curb?

Beyond the trio, Folie à Deux will also feature Brendan Gleeson, Catherine Keener, Jacob Lofland, and Harry Lawtey. It is unclear who they will play, but the options run from other Arkham doctors, a young James Gordon, other city officials, or more members of Arthur’s skewed upbringing. Additionally, as revealed in the trailer, Steve Coogan will appear in the film. Based on his brief moment in the video, one can assume he is Arthur’s caseworker this time around.


Behind The Makeup

Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips on the set of Joker (2019)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Phillips takes the director’s chair once more while sharing scripting duties with Scott Silver, who co-wrote the first film with the director. Director of Photography Lawrence Sher also returns from the first film, as do production designer Mark Friedberg and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. Taking over as costume designer from Mark Bridges is Arianne Phillips of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Don’t Worry Darling.

Phillips also serves as the film’s producer alongside Bradley Cooper with newly appointed DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran serving as executive producers – though don’t expect them to force any integration with their emerging film universe. As Gunn explained in early 2023, Joker: Folie à Deux will be considered a “DC Elseworlds” project outside the DC Cinematic Universe.


When Does It Premiere?

Joaquin Phoenix on the set of Joker: Folie a Deux (2024)

(Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)

The madness will continue on October 4, 2024.


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