Although Joaquin Phoenix is yet to enter any talks with studio executives at Warner Bros. Todd Phillips has made it clear the actor is very much at the top of his list to take on the starring role as The Joker in his standalone feature.

The as yet untitled Joker origin story will see Phillips co-write and direct the movie which will delve into what it took for the Joker to become a mastermind criminal. Sources say the story will take place in the ’80s and have more of the look of a gritty crime drama than comic-book movie.

This news doesn’t mean that Jared Leto’s days are number in Warner’s DC Universe. The Phoenix vehicle is said to fall under a yet-to-be-announced new banner of DC Comics, which would give the studio the opportunity to expand the canon of the iconic comic-book characters with unique story angles that aren’t included in its current cinematic universe.

Leto is still expected to reprise the role of The Joker in the sequel to Suicide Squad which will be directed by Gavin O’Connor.

Phoenix, who will soon be seen opposite Rooney Mara in Mary Magdalene and play the role of Jesus of Nazareth as previously been approached to star in comic adaptations. These include the role of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the role went to Jesse Eisenberg after Phoenix turned down the role. He had also been in talks to star in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Marvel offering of Doctor Strange.