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Director Matt Reeves Gives Joker Backstory

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Director Matt Reeves Gives Joker Backstory


Barry Keoghan as Joker in The Batman, with Robert Pattinson's Batman in the background.

Image: Warner Bros.

Since The Dark Knight debuted Heath Ledger’s Joker, the Clown Prince’s scars have been played up to a greater degree in later interpretations. As played by Barry Keoghan, the Joker of The Batman’s has scars that are far more than just his chilling smile. Fans got a look at that earlier in the week when WB released a deleted scene offering a glimpse at Keoghan’s Klown where he’s missing hair, has a twisted smile, and some blood on his nails.

In an interview with Variety, director Matt Reeves offered up some insight on what sets his Joker visually apart from the rest. Unlike the character’s typical origin story where he fell into a vat of chemicals, or Dark Knight’s open-ended humble beginnings, this Joker’s origin is much more straightforward and similar to Joaquin Phoenix’s recent take on the character. “He has a congenital disease where he can’t stop smiling, it’s horrific,” Reeves explained. The director went further, adding that the villain’s nihilistic outlook is due to how people treated him growing up. “He had this smile that people stared at that was grotesque and terrifying. Even as a child, people looked at him with horror, and his response was to say, ‘Okay, so a joke was played on me.’”

Reeves cited multiple references to IGN for this new Joker’s design, from Phantom of the Opera to David Lynch’s The Elephant Man. But in wanting his clown to be “distinctive and new,” Reeves decided to go back to the past: this Joker is based Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs. It was the original reference point for the villain when Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson created him back in 1940, but the character has moved away from that in the decades since. Sometimes, it’s been successful, as we saw with the aforementioned Dark Knight and Joker. Other times, you get interesting experiments like The Batman cartoon’s martial arts Joker, or…whatever Jared Leto was doing.

Joker exists in this new universe, but that doesn’t mean he’s automatically lined up for The Batman 2. Earlier in the month, Reeves stressed that the character’s only there to give the idea that Batman’s dealt with more than simple thugs in the two years he’s been around. While’s he got some ideas for where the character could go, it sounds like it’ll be some time before we have to worry about recycling Gotham’s most divisive threat for the big screen again.


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