Photo Credit: Richard Harbaugh/AMPAS, FX, DC Comics
De Niro is being eyed for the role of a talk-show host, according to Variety's sources, who plays an instrumental part in the Joker's origin story: he'll drive the Joker mad to a life of crime. The role has obvious, intentional parallels to Martin Scorsese's 1982 film The King of Comedy, in which De Niro played a failed comedian who kidnaps a talk-show host. But in the case of Joker, the roles are reversed with De Niro playing the host.
Though the 74-year-old actor, best known for his roles in The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, and Heat, has stayed away from the superhero genre, the Joker origin movie's 1980s crime noir-feel has drawn him to the role, per Variety.
Conroy, meanwhile, is in talks to play the Joker’s mother, Penny, according to sources close to The Wrap. Her credits include HBO's Six Feet Under and FX's American Horror Story. The two – De Niro and Conroy – join Deadpool 2 star Zazie Beetz, who's being auditioned for the role of a single mother who catches the attention of the Joker, as those circulating roles in the film.
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), who also serves as co-writer alongside Scott Silver (The Fighter), the Joker movie is said to be partly based on Alan Moore’s 1988 graphic novel “The Killing Joke.” In that story, the Joker is an unnamed engineer who fails as a stand-up comedian, turns to a life of crime in desperation, and transforms into the villain we know him during a heist gone wrong. "The Killing Joke" has previously been adapted as an animated film in 2016, where Mark Hamill voiced the Joker.
Joker is slated to release October 4, 2019. It'll have no connection to the existing DC film universe, which continues with Aquaman in December, Shazam! in April 2019 and Wonder Woman 1984 in November 2019.