Lady Gaga in line for Joker sequel with a musical twist

Lady Gaga
(Image credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker was a dark, twisted surprise hit with critics and audiences in 2019 that almost immediately inspired talks of a potential sequel. 

Well some recent, surprising news has signaled that one is well on the way: first, that Lady Gaga is in talks to take on the iconic role of Harley Quinn, the Joker’s infamous girlfriend, and second, the sequel is apparently a musical.

For anyone in need of a refresher, Joker saw Phoenix star as Arthur Fleck, a party clown that has dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, though he suffers from mental illness. When he kills three men harassing a woman on a train in his clown make-up, he becomes a cult-like figure in the city. All the while he continues to break down mentally and falls further into a new, dark persona.

Joker was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, and saw Phoenix win for Best Actor. It also became the fourth highest-grossing R rated movie of all time.

Some news about the sequel had started to trickle out recently, including the title, Joker: Folie à deux. But the biggest bit came from The Hollywood Reporter, which shared that Lady Gaga is in talks to join the sequel and that the movie is going to be a musical, according to sources.

Let’s tackle those one at a time, starting with Gaga. While THR clarifies that a deal is not done for Gaga to join the sequel, if/when finalized she would play Harley Quinn. In the comics and most adaptations, Quinn begins as the Joker’s psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, only to eventually fall in love with him and join in his criminal activity. 

However, Joker took a different path with Phoenix’s character, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for this new Harley Quinn to be tweaked in unknown ways as well. At the very least she is going to be different than Margot Robbie’s recent portrayal of the character in movies like The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey.

The musical aspect is also really interesting. Joker was dark, but outside of the staircase sequence that saw Phoenix exuberantly dancing there was nothing about it that screamed musical. It would also be an entirely new genre for director Todd Phillips, who besides Joker is known for comedies like The Hangover; though he did help produce 2018’s A Star Is Born, which starred Lady Gaga.

And for anyone wondering what’s the deal with the title, Joker: Folie à deux, the subtitle is a French term that means "an identical or similar mental disorder affecting two or more individuals, usually the members of a close family." Perhaps that is what connects Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck and Gaga’s Harley Quinn in this new story, though any and all plot details are currently being kept under wraps.

Even with all of this news, there is no reported timetable for when Joker: Folie à deux could be coming to movie theaters. Whenever it does, though, it is going to be getting a lot of attention. 

In the meantime, Joker is available to watch on HBO Max.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.