By Eliana Dockterman
August 23, 2017

The Joker may be getting his own origin story — without Jared Leto in the lead role. The Hangover director Todd Phillips is working on a movie about how the Joker became Gotham’s most terrifying criminal, according to Variety. The film will be a gritty crime drama set in the 1980s, and Martin Scorsese is in talks to have a to-be-determined role in the production.

Though Jared Leto will likely reprise his role as the Joker in Suicide Squad 2, he will not be donning the purple suit for this new standalone movie. Heath Ledger, who perfectly embodied the crazed criminal — even winning a posthumous Oscar for The Dark Knight — will be a hard act to follow. But we have some ideas as to who could play a young Joker, just turning onto villainy. Here are our dream casting choices for the role.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler.
Chuck Zlotnick–Open Road. Jake Gyllenhaal in <i>Nightcrawler</i>

Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal has shown that he can play creepy, most recently as a seemingly winsome but in fact sadistic TV personality in Okja and a criminally ambitious journalist in Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal could excel in the role once occupied by his Brokeback Mountain co-star. Plus, his sister has some experience with the Batman universe and could offer some tips.

Ex Machina.
Universal Studios. Oscar Isaac in <i>Ex Machina</i>

Oscar Isaac

Though he’s now best known for his role as fighter pilot Poe in Star Wars, Isaac has serious acting chops. He’s currently playing antihero Hamlet at New York City’s Public Theater (to rave reviews), and he mastered the charming creep in Ex Machina. The Joker would be a cinch.

Leonardo DiCaprio in <i>The Wolf of Wall Street</i>
Mary Cybulski—Paramount Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio

If Scorsese does indeed produce the film, DiCaprio would be an obvious choice for the part. A Scorsese favorite, DiCaprio is adept at oozing charm even when he’s playing a morally corrupt man (see: The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can). But playing cunningly evil could be a new challenge for the accomplished actor.

James Franco in "Spider-Man."
CHEVILLOT P./GAMMA US—8425/GAMMA

James Franco

Franco has played smarmy, and he could truly excel in the role of a villain who brings both foreboding and levity to every conversation. Audiences have already watched Franco go from good guy to bad guy in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. With a little more acting experience under his belt, could he do the same with an even more iconic villain?

Riz Ahmed in The Night Of
Barry Wetcher—HBO.

Riz Ahmed

Ahmed played a suspect under investigation in The Night Of and could certainly tackle playing a real one in the Joker movie. The young actor has range: His scattered Bodhi in Rogue One suggests that he might be able to play someone both sympathetic and on the precipice of insanity.

Christian Bale on the set of American Psycho.
Eric Robert—Sygma/Getty Images

Christian Bale

After spending years playing a gruff-voiced Batman, it might be interesting to see Bale try his hand at the Dark Knight’s arch-nemesis. The role would mark a return to his American Psycho days, playing a maniacal killer.

Helen Sloan—Courtesy of HBO

Iwan Rheon

Some actors just excel at playing bad guys. Iwan Rheon, best known for his role as the smirking psychopath Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, could carry over that sinister smile to a Joker movie. The origin story will likely require a younger actor, and Rheon, at 32, could fit the bill.

Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage
Netflix

Mahershala Ali

Before he won an Oscar for his sensitive paternal character in Moonlight, Ali flexed his thespian muscles playing a villain in another superhero series: Luke Cage. That villain, Cottonmouth, concentrated more on his payout than causing chaos. But the Joker would be a challenge worthy of an actor who has proven he can play both contemplative and brash.

Ronney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Columbia Pictures.

Rooney Mara

The producers ought to consider mixing things up by casting a woman in the role of the Joker. Rooney Mara proved that she can break bad in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Her brooding mien would bring an air of mystery to the part.

Zach Galifianakis in "The Hangover".
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Zach Galifianakis

He may not be the most obvious choice to play a menacing character. But the comedian broke out thanks to Todd Phillips’ Hangover movies, and he recently played a comedic version of the Joker in the animated Lego Batman movie. He could be the perfect offbeat pick.

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