The highly-anticipated reboot of Matt Reeves’ The Batman just landed in theaters. Featuring Robert Pattinson as the new caped crusader, the film follows Bruce Wayne in his second year of solving crimes for Gotham City. The film also introduced Paul Dano as the main villain, The Riddler, who will be the first in line to antagonize Batman in the first film.
Alongside Dano and Pattinson, they are joined by an ensemble cast that includes Zoe Kravitz as the new Catwoman, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon, and Andy Serkis as Pennyworth. But one mysterious character made a brief appearance at one point in the film, and that is Barry Keoghan’s mysterious character in Arkham Asylum.
After confirming that Keoghan is the franchise’s future Joker, the veteran filmmaker revealed more details about the character’s makeup design. Reeves said that he wanted to create a version that “went right back to the roots,” citing that this iteration was inspired by 1928’s The Man Who Laughs, which is the original inspiration for the comic book villain:
Reeves also shared that he opted to give this new Joker a biological condition for his smile, an approach that sets this villain apart from previous iterations such as Heath Ledger’s version from 2008’s The Dark Knight. The director of The Planet of the Apes explained his thought process for this significant choice for the character:
“He’s got this congenital disease. He can never stop smiling. And it made Mike and I think about — I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe there’s something here where it’s not something where he fell in a vat of chemicals or it’s not the Nolan thing where he has these scars and we don’t know where they came from. What if this is something that he’s been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he’s had this very dark reaction to it, and he’s had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head.‘”
So [it’s] this idea of him being very incisive and brilliant and being able to get into your mind and basically having this nihilistic point of view that’s like from his inception, from his birth, life has been a cruel joke on him. And this is his response, and he’s eventually going to declare himself as a clown, declare himself as the Joker. That was the idea.”
Given that The Batman is using HBO Max as a medium to expand the franchise, it’s possible that Keoghan’s proto-Joker will have his own limited series before eventually making a comeback to the big screen. Reeves previously confirmed that a spinoff that is directly tied to Arkham Asylum is in the works, and this could feature the Joker as one of its central characters.
At this point, it is unknown when this new Joker will make his proper debut in The Batman’s contained universe, but the director’s in-depth response about the villain implies that he has solid plans for the character moving forward.