Why A Johnny Depp Turn As Joker Isn't A Great Idea

Rumors are apparently circulating that famed scarf-wearer Johnny Depp is being targeted as the next Joker to foil Robert Pattinson's Batman, with Kevin Smith calling him, quote, "Perfect" for the role. We're already on record as thinking that Pattinson is gonna be a hell of a Batman, so it would only be appropriate that he get a hell of a Joker to go up against. Johnny Depp is a fine actor, really running the gamut from "what a fine performance!" to "ugh, fine," but he should be out of the running for Joker. These Johnny Joker rumors are almost certainly just that, rumors being leaked to gin up interest in the movie, but on the off chance they're serious, we'd like to provide some counterarguments.

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First, similar to the Joaquin Phoenix Joker, there's an age discrepancy between Bat and Villain. Depp is 56, Pattinson is 33. That's not exactly a prime fighting age, and Depp doesn't exactly seem like he'd be the type to go put on a bunch of muscle for the role. But you know who we believed as a Joker built physically to counter a strong, serious Batman? Heath Ledger. Take a look at the man's forearms when he rolled up his sleeves. Hoo boy. Excuse me, why am I sweating?

Even though they didn't really do much in the way of hand-to-hand combat, Ledger still played foil to Christian Bale's Batman in part because they matched in age (five year difference) and physicality. It helped to sell the idea that they were a match intellectually too, and when you rewatch the movie it becomes clear that Ledger's Joker
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was probably a soldier in some capacity. One of the better Jokers we've had, oddly enough, is from the Arkham video games. They've got Mark Hamill on the voice acting, but it's a very strong Joker. He's listed in the game at 6 feet tall, 160 pounds, which means he's built like a collegiate slot receiver or a lanky cornerback. He uses every pound of that to go toe-to-toe with a much thicker Batman regularly throughout the game. You're not thinking about an aging Mark Hamill behind the voice, you're thinking about how you're gonna punch this dude into next week, because he's making it hard. He's got the physicality
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and the brains -- it's a Joker that really makes you work as Batman.

A Depp Joker would've worked a little better with a different Batman, and even then only maybe. Pattinson is likely gonna be a stronger Batman in a similar vein as Christian Bale, and needs villains that counter that. Looking at Depp's previous roles, this isn't gonna happen. Even when he was swashbuckling around as Jack Sparrow, his performances had an element of "don't touch me!" to them. They were more elaborate choreography sequences built around getting plot elements to connect, even moreso than a lot of fight scenes often are. A lot of the more violent stuff (and we say that very loosely) in the Pirates movies was built around set destruction and wacky escapes, and the Joker is not a Jerry Bruckheimer production.

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So while Tim Burton probably would've found a way to make a Depp Joker work, Burton's best stab at a Joker was hardly a Joker at all -- it was just Jack Nicholson in clown makeup. Which isn't a bad thing! It's just that an ideal Joker performance makes you see Joker, not the actor playing the Joker, and it shouldn't matter if that actor is Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, or Jesus Christ himself. Ledger was enough of a character actor, and not a personality or mega star, that he didn't have that Nicholson-esque problem. James Gunn basically sees a tie between Ledger and Phoenix, but you could really make the argument that while Phoenix's acting performance was impressive, the movie's take on the character was fundamentally wrong. Like, "Hey, there's Joaquin Phoenix playing something they're calling the Joker."

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So to wrap this all up in a neat little bow, in order to counter Robert Pattinson's Batman, we need a Joker who's a little younger, a little stronger, has way less name recognition, and can put just enough of his own spin on the character. The question is, will WB be willing to take the right gamble when making that casting choice? The last time Depp might've been able to pull off a Joker performance "the right way" was during the Joel Schumacher Batman era, and that's not a movie any of us want in the 2020s.

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