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What’s the value of a villain? The Joker gets his own film

Danielle Chiriguayo Apr 3, 2019
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Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker.
Warner Bros. Pictures /YouTube

Could you imagine the world of Batman without his arch-nemesis, the Joker?

From “Wonder Woman,” to “Black Panther,” to “The Avengers,” superheroes have triumphed at the box office. Only recently has the supervillain been given its cinematic due, with films like “Venom” and “Suicide Squad”. Now, the Joker is getting his own film.

But what’s the value of an evil villain?

The Joker has appeared throughout the DC Universe, from the original 1940s Batman comic to his latest cameo in “Titans,” a recent TV addition. In between, he has appeared in cartoon adaptations, live action films, even video games.

The character’s first appearance, in “Batman #1” (first published in spring of 1940), is worth about $567,625, based on the price a copy of that issue sold for in 2013.

How much is the character worth to filmmakers?

More notable, however, are the on-screen appearances of Gotham’s “Clown Prince of Crime.” First appearing in the 1960s Batman TV show, the Joker has been portrayed by a litany of actors including Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill.

“The Joker,” scheduled for release in October, has an estimated budget of $55 million, with Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. It’s expected the Joker will appear in future DC films as well, including “Suicide Squad 2” and “Birds of Prey.”

In Tim Burton’s “Batman,” Jack Nicholson’s made approximately $10 million, while also securing a percentage of total earnings made by the 1989 film, including from any toys made in his likeness. Entertainment Weekly estimates Nicholson made at least $50 million from his portrayal.

Heath Ledger is thought to have earned $20 million for his portrayal of the Joker in the 2008 hit “The Dark Knight.” Ledger’s portrayal of the “Harlequin of Hate” won him much critical acclaim, including a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

While Phoenix’s salary for the role has not been made public, it’s fair to say his predecessors’ paychecks would have given the Joker plenty to smile about.

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