The newly released film The Batman has a wide variety of characters introduced, all of which pave the way for future film and television installments. One of the most notable of these characters, however, is an unnamed Arkham Asylum prisoner played by Barry Keoghan. In fact, that’s specifically what the character is credited as in The Batman as well – “Unnamed Arkham Prisoner.” But now director Matt Reeves has stepped forward to confirm his real identity – and indeed he is none other than The Joker.
This was confirmed by Matt Reeves while speaking with IGN, who explained that at this point in time the unnamed prisoner in The Batman is more of a proto-Joker. It seems there was a cut scene from the film which would’ve further fleshed out his character, but it was ultimately removed from the film.
“What’s interesting is that the reason that Joker’s in the movie is there was actually another scene that was earlier. And because the movie is not an origin tale for Batman, but it’s his early days, it really is an origin tale for the Rogue’s Gallery’s characters,” Reeves said. “And for me, I think [it’s] this idea that the Joker is not yet the Joker, but they already have this relationship.
“The scene that was not in the movie, the scene that this is really the companion to, which is actually a really cool scene that will release at some point, it’s a scene where Batman is so unnerved because the Riddler is writing to him. And he’s like, ‘Well, why is this guy writing to me?’ And he figures he’s got to profile this killer,” Reeves said, revealing things then took an almost Silence of the Lambs/Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter-like turn. (Or, as DC Comics fans might point out, it’s reminiscent of Batman seeking out Calendar Man’s help in The Long Halloween.)
“He goes to see another killer that he’s clearly had an experience with in these first two years. And this killer in this story is not yet the character that we come to know, right?” Reeves said. “So everybody’s in their infancy. So in the comics, these characters often declare their alter egos in response to the fact that there’s a Batman out there. And so here, we have a Joker who’s not yet the Joker.”
He further elaborated how this version of the character was designed:
“In the scene that you’ll see in the future, you’ll see that we worked on what he looked like. And he’s held in this very suspenseful way, away from you visually. But I wanted to create an iteration of him that felt distinctive and new, but went right back to the roots,” Reeves said. “So he’s very much out of the Conrad Veidt mold and that idea of the silent film of The Man Who Laughs.”
He also explained that there’s a reason for why the Joker constantly smiles and laughs in this new universe:
“He’s got this congenital disease. He can never stop smiling. And it made Mike and I think about — I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe there’s something here where it’s not something where he fell in a vat of chemicals or it’s not the Nolan thing where he has these scars and we don’t know where they came from. What if this is something that he’s been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he’s had this very dark reaction to it, and he’s had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head.’”
He further explained:
“So [it’s] this idea of him being very incisive and brilliant and being able to get into your mind and basically having this nihilistic point of view that’s like from his inception, from his birth, life has been a cruel joke on him. And this is his response, and he’s eventually going to declare himself as a clown, declare himself as the Joker. That was the idea.”
He also teased that the Joker’s appearance as a prisoner in The Batman doesn’t guarantee he’ll show up in the first sequel. Rather, it’s to indicate that crime never does stop in Gotham. As such, it’ll be interesting to see when we do get to have the full version of The Joker on-screen with this new iteration of Batman.
The Batman is currently playing in theaters.