Photo: Randy Risling / Contributor (Getty Images)

Joker, Todd Phillips’ gritty, dark, grim, serious, gritty, important, gruesome, twisted, gritty, psychologically dense origin story for the Clown Prince of Crime, is now being staffed up in earnest: Deadline reports that Robert De Niro, he of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and, um, Analyze That fame, is in talks to join the cast.

It’s the third piece of casting news for the film, which is set to be co-written by Phillips (The Hangover), who will also direct, and Scott Silver (The Fighter). First came word that Joaquin Phoenix, who shares fellow Joker Jared Leto’s predilection for ignoring the boundaries between “acting” and “being a real live human,” was Phillips’ first choice for the role. Then came word that Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz, a real bright spot in Deadpool 2, was considering joining the film, in which something terrible will presumably happen to her character. Now De Niro’s circling the project, likely bringing even more gritty grim darkness to the project. Per Deadline: “Sources said he’ll play a talk show host, a formative figure in the development of the character who eventually becomes The Joker. But De Niro’s character is not a villain, I’m told.”

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As a reminder, this film is totally separate from the other standalone Joker film in the works, in which Jared Leto will reprise his role from Suicide Squad, to the delight of someone, somewhere. D.C. and Warner Bros. just love the Joker, man. This one is set to arrive on October 4, 2019. No word yet on if the shooting schedule will allow De Niro the free time to pursue his treasured hobby of saying “Fuck Trump” in every situation possible, particularly if cameras are around. One assumes he’ll find a way.