According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robert De Niro, an actor who has made headlines for his darkly humorous criticisms of Donald Trump, may join title star Joaquin Phoenix in Warner Bros.' film focusing on the genesis of a Batman super-villain: the Joker. This film could contribute significantly to the mythology of one of the darkest villains in the Batman comics. Phoenix himself joins a long line of famous actors who have played the role of the Joker, including Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger. In the Warner Bros.' film, De Niro would play a talk show host somehow instrumental in the creation of the Joker as a criminal mastermind.

This would be the actor's first appearance in a comic book film.

The new comic book film will be called 'Joker'

Producer Todd Phillips ("The Hangover") and Warner Bros. are keeping it simple. This film about the origins of the Joker will simply be titled "Joker." The Hollywood Reporter indicates that the budget will also be simpler than the standard mega-budget for a comic book film, and the atmosphere of the film will likely resemble a crime drama, perhaps of the film noir variety rather than the blockbuster comic book extravaganza movies we have come to expect. If so, Robert De Niro, a veteran actor in crime dramas such as "Heat" and "Goodfellas," may be the perfect choice to join the cast.

This origin story may have unexpected elements

In Tim Burton's 1989 film "Batman," the Joker emerges as an insane villain who fell into and was disfigured by a vat of chemicals in a laboratory. The storyline in "Joker" is likely to be different and may surprise some audiences. The Wrap reports that this origin story will be based, at least loosely, on the one depicted in Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke," a 1988 DC Comics graphic novel.

In this version, the Joker is actually a failed comedian who is working without success to support his pregnant wife. His wife is killed in an accident and the Joker's face is permanently disfigured during a robbery in which he is forced to participate, after which point his sanity fails and he becomes the famous Batman villain.

Actors other than Robert De Niro are also in talks to join the cast of "Joker." The Wrap reports that actress Frances Conroy may play the Joker's mother. Conroy has played numerous roles in the "American Horror Story" series, which recently announced an apocalyptic theme for its upcoming season. Surely an actress from this series would be well suited for the dark universe that "Joker" is sure to depict, as an unnamed comedian spirals into madness and becomes Batman's chief nihilistic nemesis in Gotham.