Venice Film Festival: Is ‘Joker’ On The Cards? Early Speculation Swells For 2019 Edition

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EXCLUSIVE: With Cannes in the rear-view mirror, film industry attention is now turning to the autumn festivals and what titles are shaping up as the ones we’ll be talking about throughout awards season. Having steadily cemented its status as the go-to fall launchpad for awards hopefuls, including three of the last five Best Picture Oscar winners, the Venice Film Festival is currently putting together its 2019 lineup, with the highly-anticipated reveal set for July 25.

From Joker to Roman Polanski to The Irishman and Ad Astra, chatter is increasing over what may or may not show up on the Lido from August 28-September 7.

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Premiering a comic book movie at a major film festival would be a bold move, but we hear that Joker is sitting out ComicCon in favor of a fall springboard which just might be Venice. Warner Bros unveiled footage of the Todd Phillips-directed DC origins story at both CinemaCon in April and CineEurope in June, exciting exhibitors and audiences while the trailer has been viewed over 52M times and counting.

The movie, whose footage at CinemaCon played like an homage to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King Of Comedy, stars Joaquin Phoenix in what looks to be a bravura performance. He has his fans on the Lido, having shared the Best Actor Volpi Cup in 2012 for The Master. WB has also found recent glory in Venice with such striking out-of-competition films as Gravity and A Star Is Born.

While Black Panther broke new ground with the Academy by becoming the first superhero film to get a Best Picture nomination, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it was WB’s The Dark Knight which helped break the mold for what a superhero movie can be back in 2008. That movie scored eight Oscar nominations and two wins, including a posthumous Best Supporting Actor win for Heath Ledger as The Joker.

Another bold move, for the controversy, would be if Venice chief Alberto Barbera selects Roman Polanksi’s Dreyfus Affair drama, An Officer And A Spy. We hear this is potentially in the offing, if the filmmaker can edit the historical French-language pic in time. Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Seigner, Jean Dujardin and Mathieu Amalric star in the Gaumont release. While this may seem foolhardy from a U.S. vantage-point, Polanski doesn’t face the same level of censure in Italy, a country which has taken a light touch approach to the MeToo movement.

Among other big-ticket titles, there has been speculation for months that Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman could make its debut in at the Italian event. On paper, the film probably has this season’s strongest awards credentials and Venice is the most Netflix-friendly of the major Euro fests, notably having launched Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma last year. However, we are hearing that it’s unlikely The Irishman will be hopping a vaporetto, and that it could also sidestep Toronto. The movie doesn’t have a release date yet, but a previous Netflix teaser indicated a “fall” launch.

Noah Baumbach’s currently untitled next work, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver (the latter also a Volpi Cup winner), may be hitting a fall festival, possibly both Venice and Telluride? If that were the case, the Netflix film, about which little has been revealed, would screen in the early days of the Italian festival before jetting to Colorado. David Heyman is producing.

Sticking with the streamers, Amazon’s Kristen Stewart-starrer Against All Enemies is a Venice possibility. This was a movie some expected to see in Cannes, although Deadline exclusively reported that was not to be the case. We hear buzz that the Civil Rights drama in which Stewart plays iconic actress Jean Seberg has its eye on the Sala Grande. There may also be a potential spot for Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne (the buzz is also strong on this one).

Another movie many were predicting for Cannes has also been speculated for Venice: Brad Pitt thriller Ad Astra was moved off of its late-May date and into the fall once the Disney/Fox merger completed. James Gray directs the New Regency title that centers on an astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of the planet. Several space movies have blasted off in Venice in recent years including Gravity, Arrival and First Man. On paper, Ad Astra looks a strong bet, but there’s a chance the team eschews festivals all-together.

Also from the combined Fox/Disney stable, Ford V Ferrari would certainly rev up Venice. Christian Bale and Matt Damon star in the James Mangold-directed pic about the race to build a revolutionary car for Le Mans in 1966. Buzz we’ve heard on the Chernin Entertainment production is extremely positive.

Among Netflix titles that could launch on the circuit this fall are City Of God co-helmer Fernando Meirelles’ The Pope (Venice likes a church tie-in — think: The Young Pope and Spotlight) with Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins; David Michod’s The King starring Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, Timothée Chalamet and Joel Edgerton; Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted with Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck; and Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded The Laundromat with Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman, which also could recall 2017 triumph Spotlight. Netflix has a big roster this fall and it’s not expected that each of those titles would sail to the Lido, although Toronto is expected to have a healthy contingent from the streamer.

Elsewhere, Hugh Jackman-starrer Bad Education, about the Roslyn (NY) Public Schools corruption scandal of the 2000s, could go to Telluride, but could also do double duty. We’ve been hearing that Renée Zellweger’s Judy Garland biopic Judy is another possible candidate.

From Fox Searchlight, a big winner on the Lido in recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok follow-up, Jojo Rabbit, hopping into the Sala Grande. The comedy-drama, billed as an “anti-hate satire,” is the story of a young boy in Hitler’s army who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Waititi was on the Venice jury last year.

Also at home in Venice, Pablo Larrain could be back with Ema. The drama that co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal is currently being finished, we’re told, and the plan would be to get it to a fall fest. Larrain had a terrific reception on the Lido with Jackie which went on to three Oscar nominations.

Another potential is About Endlessness by Swedish auteur Roy Andersson whose last film A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence won the Golden Lion in 2014. Tom Hardy-starring Al Capone pic Fonzo is an outside bet.

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