Peak of the Week: Joker: Folie à Deux - Going Gaga for Harley Quinn

Ciarán Howley is obsessed with new photos of Mother Monster on the set of the new Joker film, playing the part of Harley Quinn. And so should you be.

On the 4th of August 2022, Lady Gaga posted a short teaser trailer to her Twitter page, confirming the speculation that she in fact would star in the Joker sequel. I feel like I say this about everything, but no, the internet really did lose its mind. People died.

No one died. In fact, Gaga’s Little Monsters were nothing short of enlivened by further rumours that the movie would in fact be a musical. The news was welcome, if not slightly odd. Released in 2019, Todd Philips’ Joker was a gritty noir-ish take on the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime, taking elements from the Alan Moore penned graphic novel The Killing Joke with a more explicit intertextual relationship to Martin Scorceces’ oeuvre. Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy are deeply ingrained in the film’s DNA - in fact this was one of the movie’s biggest criticisms.

Joker fared very well for a DC Comics movie adaptation. Following the collapse of Zach Snyder’s plans for a DC Cinematic Universe (à la the box office failure of Justice League), Joker represented a new tact. It’s a self-contained story with a good script and artful direction, dispensing with the breadcrumbing of future storylines in conventional superhero movies to get us prepared for the next seven to ten films. The film made over a billion dollars at the box office and Joaquin Phoenix even won an Oscar for his harrowing performance as Arthur Fleck, a misunderstood but very creepy down-and-out who becomes a vigilante and the face of an anarchic movement in Gotham City. 

The existence of a sequel came as something of a surprise. Director Todd Philips assertively reaffirmed that the film would be a stand-alone. The fact that there will be a sequel with Lady Gaga in a leading role is nothing short of absolutely mental. Gaga’s acting muscles have been well and truly flexed on us - her Oscar-nominated performance in A Star is Born, her camp mariticidal turn in House of Gucci and her Golden Globe winning role as the cutthroat ‘Countess’ in American Horror Story: Hotel. She’s a natural for the role of Harley Quinn, clearly. 

After weeks of filming across locations in New York, we finally got photographs of Gaga and Phoenix together on-set. The pair are a cartoonish site to behold, doused in streaky white makeup and dishevelled-looking costumes. Gaga’s got a bob to rival even that of Anna Wintour’s in a harlequin patterned dress and ripped tights. It feels like they’ve gotten the look right, but let’s hope the character is just as interesting and fleshed out as her male counterpart was in the first film. We don’t need another manic pixie Harley Quinn. We have 2016’s Suicide Squad to thank for that already. 

Here’s to a new lease of life onscreen for the Gotham siren and to a hopefully fabulous portrayal by Mother Monster dearest.