It seems that Warner Bros. — through its films based on DC Comics characters — has finally decided to stop trying to compete with Marvel Studios in terms of a shared superhero universe (which has resulted in Avengers: Infinity War on one side and Justice League on the other). With that out of the way, things actually started to get interesting for a moment there with word that Alec Baldwin would be playing Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, in the upcoming movie, Joker. Nothing lasts forever, of course, and only a day or so later the actor dropped out of the project due to “scheduling conflicts.” The search for Batman’s daddy begins anew.

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As a character, Thomas Wayne has been pretty significant in the mythology of Batman — it was the murder of he and his wife Martha in front of their son, Bruce, that led him down the road to becoming the Dark Knight. Until now, however, pretty much all the audience has ever seen of Thomas has been a sequence (usually in slow motion, oddly) of the three of them exiting a movie theater when they’re accosted by a robber and the parents are shot. While for decades this was attributed in the comics to an unnamed criminal, eventually he was given the name Joe Chill. And then, Tim Burton, in his 1989 film Batman, decided that the killer was actually the Joker, inextricably joining he and Bruce Wayne for the rest of their lives. With that in mind, the suggestion might be that we’ll find out exactly why the Joker murdered Thomas (not that the Joker needs much motivation to kill anyone) and what the relationship between the two of them was. 

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The Joker film is being directed by Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch, The Hangover trilogy, War Dogs), who is promising a “hard-boiled crime drama” taking place in Gotham City during the 1980s. What’s really interesting is the fact that Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Good Fellows, and oh-so-much-more) is a co-producer on the film. And then there’s the cast, which includes Joaquin Phoenix in the title role; and, in parts that haven’t been identified yet, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron, and — most exciting of all — Robert De Niro

The Joker has previously been played in live action by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. The new film, which is only budgeted at $55 million, will reportedly be R-rated like such recent genre fare including Logan and the Deadpool films. The film is expected to hit theaters on Oct. 4, 2019.