Where Are All The Actors Who Played The Joker Today?

The Clown Prince of Crime. The Jester of Genocide. The Red Hood. Jack Napier. Arthur Fleck. Over the decades, a certain clown-faced super villain has gone by many names, worn many faces, and come from many origins. Usually, he's an agent of chaos. Other times, he's a tragic figure. And every once in a while, he manifests as nothing more than a weird prankster. No matter what, this iconic figure is always changing, and every era recreates the Joker in its image.

For thespians, snagging a role like the Joker is something that can make or break your career. It's a daunting task, which is all too easy to mess up. Do you replicate the successes of the past, or try to forge your own new, different path? Plus, what happens after you wash all the green dye out of your hair? From Cesar Romero to Joaquin Phoenix, here's where all the actors who've played the Joker are today. 

Cesar Romero set the tone

In 1934, when Cesar Romero stepped foot in Hollywood, the self-proclaimed "Latin from Manhattan" was known as a professional dancer, and though he would've excelled as a leading man, most of his major roles were supporting parts. He took a break from the motion picture business during World War II, according to Military.com, to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. A few decades later, he was cast as the Joker in the cheesy 1966 Adam West Batman series, marking him as the first actor to ever put on the character's purple tuxedo. 

Romero refused to shave his famous mustache for the role, so the crew simply had to slather the lip hairs with white makeup, thereby creating the good ol' "can you spot the Joker's facial hair?" drinking game. Hey, he did have a great mustache. That said, don't confuse Romero's Movember-style protest with some sort of primadonna behavior. After all, he loved camping it up as the Joker, and according to The New York Times, he wasn't a fan of how later interpretations went in a darker direction. 

Romero lived a long life, full of frequent partying, but in 1994, a severe blood clot got him. He was hospitalized with bronchitis and pneumonia before passing away at the old age of 86. 

Jack Nicholson changed the game

Jack Nicholson's Joker might seem campy today, but back in 1989, his snarky and murderous depiction of a gangster clown shocked the world ... and redefined the Joker in a big way. Insanely enough, when Warner Brothers first courted Nicholson for the role, he balked at it, according to The New Zealand Herald. In order to push Nicholson into a decision, the producers started talking to Robin Williams about the part — yes, that Robin Williams! — and soon, Jack came running back with a rather unconventional proposal. He agreed to play the Joker for $6 million, as opposed to his usual $10 million salary, as long as he also earned a percent of the film's total earnings, merchandise included. Risky? Sure, but also brilliant. When Batman exploded into the stratosphere, Nicholson earned over $50 million from it. 

Nicholson's career was already huge, pre-Batman, and his post-Batman career continued steadily, with a particular highlight being his 1997 Oscar win for As Good As it Gets. Sadly, in recent years, he's disappeared from the public eye, and Biography reports that the cause may be memory issues. 

From Luke Skywalker to Clown Prince of Crime

Here's the funny thing about Mark Hamill. To one segment of the population, his name is permanently connected to Star Wars. To others, his defining role will forever be the Joker, a character he's voiced for almost three decades, from his early days on Batman: The Animated Series to his later work for the Arkham games. Back when the 1992 cartoon was first in production, though, Luke Skywalker wasn't exactly the first choice of the producers. They'd already hired Tim Curry, according to ScreenGeek, but when Curry came down with bronchitis, the part opened up ... and Hamill came in swinging. 

Since then, Hamill has become one of the most prolific voice actors in the business. For instance, he played Chucky in the Child's Play remake, the Hobgoblin in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and the Scientist in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. However, the Joker is still his touchstone role. He's the voice that fans always want to hear coming from the clown's mouth, and he's referred to his time in the role as "truly an honor." Most recently, he let loose with his Joker voice on Twitter, by reading aloud some of President Donald Trump's more bizarre tweets in his trademark cackle. 

The actor who played the Onstar Joker

Now that superhero movies are coming out left and right, it's crazy to imagine comic book fans getting excited over a silly commercial. Back in the early 2000s, though, the Batman franchise had been thoroughly assassinated by the 1997 flop Batman & Robin, so it was a big deal when the Dark Knight starred in a series of Onstar advertisements, according to Entertainment Weekly, one of which featured actor Curtis Armstrong as the Joker. 

Does this guy look familiar to you, behind the makeup? He should. Many will recognize him as "Booger" in Revenge of the Nerds, but he's had roles in all kinds of movie and TV projects. He never got to extend his Joker performance to the big screen, but recently, Armstrong managed to snag another quirky comic book character. As Screen Rant points out, he recently voiced Ezekiel the Cockroach in the DC Universe series Doom Patrol. 

Birds of Prey hired two actors to play one clown

Today, DC's Birds of Prey is about to become a big budget film, but back in 2002, the property was adapted into a middling TV series that ... well, didn't go so well, but you can't fault it for trying. The show depicts a post-Batman "New Gotham City," where Batman's daughter Helena teams up with Black Canary and Oracle, the former Batgirl, to fight crime. The Joker appears in the first episode, mainly just to reenact the infamous Killing Joke sequence where he paralyzes Barbara Gordon. Though the Joker's voice here is very obviously that of Mark Hamill, the guy on the screen is a stunt performer named Roger Stoneburner.

Wait, why have Hamill dub the role, instead of just playing it outright? Who knows. But hey, at least it gave Stoneburner a fun opportunity. Since then, he's continued doing stunt work for such films as Step Brothers and Ocean's 13.

Kevin Michael Richardson did a new take

The 2004 cartoon The Batman had some big shoes to fill, as the heir to the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series. In order to stand out, it had to reinvent the wheel. Nowhere was this more evident than in The Batman's radical take on the Joker, which broke from classic interpretations to depict the clown as a nightmarish, barefoot, acrobatic figure with the voice of Kevin Michael Richardson. That said, the show's decision to recast Mark Hamill chafed a lot of fans, one of whom was Richardson himself. In an interview with GeekMom, Richardson said that he was so deeply upset about Hamill losing the part that he poured all of his grief and rage into his Joker audition ... which, ironically, resulting in such a fascinating performance that he was cast. Hamill aside, Richardson's Joker voice was one of the most unique and layered offerings that the character has had, and Richardson loved playing the role.

Richardson has continued doing voice work ever since, with some of his bigger roles being the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bad guy Shredder, the animated version of Groot, and a few parts in various Transformers projects. 

A blast from the past

The 2008 animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold was a throwback to the zany Silver Age comics of the past, complete with a smiling Batman, Bat-Mite, and for the first time in a long time, a not-so-lethal Joker, who at one point even teams up with Batman to stop a fellow criminal mastermind from upstaging him. Hey, no matter what era you're in, those sorts of ego-driven shenanigans are pure Joker. With an authentic '60s design inspired by the work of Dick Sprang, according to Comics Alliance, this Joker's voice was supplied by veteran voice actor Jeff Bennett

Now, whether you know Bennett's name or not, you've heard his work. Most famously, he was the voice of Johnny Bravo, in the '90s cartoon of the same name. He's supplied voices for many other popular franchises since then, including Scooby-Doo, Young Justice, and Kung Fu Panda.

Heath Ledger forever redefined an icon

The man, the myth, the legend. 

At this point, Heath Ledger's depiction of the Joker is arguably the most iconic version of the character to date, largely thanks to the actor's deep investment in the role. When interviewed by Empire, Ledger said he prepared by reading all the relevant comics, locking himself in a hotel room, writing his own Joker diary, and experimenting with voices until he found the perfect Joker within. Needless to say, his portrayal ended up being a stunning win, netting the actor a posthumous Academy Award. 

By now, everyone knows about the sleep deprivation that Ledger suffered while he was playing the Joker, and the tragic fact that he died from an accidental overdose of prescription sleeping medications. However, the common belief that Ledger died because of some inherent darkness in the Joker role, or a "Joker curse," is false. As his sister later explained, he loved playing the Joker, had an amazing sense of humor, and certainly wasn't depressed about it. His insomnia issues, in reality, went much further back. 

Bender tells jokes

John DiMaggio, a former standup comic best known as Bender on Futurama — though he's also played live action roles in shows like NYPD Blue and Chicago Hope — voiced the Joker in the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood, which tells the story of a former Robin, Jason Todd, rising from the ashes and becoming a murderous vigilante, with his sights set on the Joker's death.

In an interview with Comic Mix, DiMaggio acknowledged that — like Heath Ledger before him — he also looked toward a certain Stanley Kubrick film for inspiration, describing his Joker as being like "Cesar Romero if he was in A Clockwork Orange." Since playing the Joker, DiMaggio has continued mostly working as a voice actor in cartoons like Ben 10 and American Dad, stating that he generally prefers the laid-back, studio experience of voice acting to the constant patience required for live-action roles. 

A dark Joker for a Dark Knight

To most viewers, Michael Emerson will forever be the villainous Benjamin Linus from Lost, though others might recognize him as Harold Finch on Person of Interest or Zep Hindle from Saw. Either way, if you don't know his name, you definitely know his face — and you might not realize that back in 2012, he voiced the Joker for the two-part animated film adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns

Yes, Ben Linus really played the Joker, and yes, he did a fantastic job. According to ComicBook.com, Emerson admitted that playing the Clown Prince of Crime was one of the most intimidating ventures that he ever undertook. After all, the character's legacy is hard enough to grapple with, but when you combine it with the sheer number of excellent performers who've done it before, it's hard not to balk at it. Since hanging up his animated blazer, Emerson has stayed in the DC universe, going on to play Cayden James on Arrow.

The proto-Joker and his twin brother

If you've ever tried to figure out what, exactly, was going on with the would-be-future Joker's storyline on the Batman prequel series Gotham, well, good luck. Basically, it involves a young, maniacal psychopath named Jerome Valeska who seems like a pretty Jokerish individual, then dies ... but not before turning his twin brother, Jeremiah Valeska, into a pale-skinned, equally murderous figure, who later becomes the real Joker. Eventually. 

Wonky plots aside, if there's one thing that everybody can agree on, it's that actor Cameron Monaghan made a fine Joker, even when he wasn't being called that. According to the Chicago Tribune, Monaghan fought for the role — which was originally just going to be a one-off — and went on to earn fan acclaim, convincing the producers to lean deeper into the Joker storylines than they initially intended. Based on Monaghan's successful Gotham work, it's likely that he'll have a whole bunch of new job offers lined up soon. 

Troy Baker had to follow Mark Hamill

When Texas musician Troy Baker was hired to voice a younger version of Mark Hamill's Joker for the prequel game Batman: Arkham Origins, he knew he had to prove himself. Following Hamill's Joker is enough of a challenge, but playing the same exact dude, minus a few years? Yikes. He was a big fan of Hamill's performance, himself, so he knew the stakes. 

To his credit, Baker decided to gun it. When Baker was introduced at a New York Comic-Con, according to Inverse, he decided to read — aloud, for the audience — a classic monologue from Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, in a voice that sounded every bit as Jokerish as Hamill himself. The room erupted in applause, and Baker has gone on to play the Joker on multiple occasions since, in various games and cartoons, while also voicing characters like Jazz in Transformers and Kraven the Hunter in Marvel's Spider-Man.

Jared Leto's controversial take

When you go down the list of famous Joker actors, from Cesar Romero to Joaquin Phoenix and beyond, there will always be a moment where you pause over the name of Jared Leto. The guy is a talented actor, as seen in Requiem for a Dream, and he probably could've been a great Joker, but his messy, bizarre performance in Suicide Squad didn't turn out well for anyone, least of all the viewers

Leto certainly gave it his all, and he allegedly stayed in character throughout filming, according to Thrillist, even sending cast members strange "gifts" like a live rat, anal beads, and ... uh, a dead pig. Despite all that effort, fans weren't impressed. As Insider wrote, the character came across as being "just a really angry dude who probably regrets his tattoos." Ugh. To be fair, Suicide Squad sucked for many reasons, with Leto's Joker — who appeared for what, 30 seconds? — being pretty far down on the list. 

Since then, when Leto isn't busy jokingly leading a "cult" of his fans in flowing white robes, he's looking for superhero redemption. According to Screen Rant, in 2020, he'll star as Marvel anti-hero Morbius, the Living Vampire.

Meet the Lego Joker

Zach Galifianakis, best known as Alan in the Hangover trilogy, voiced the Joker in The Lego Batman Movie. Now, sure, Lego Batman might have starred little animated toys as characters, but as The Root points out, it deserves credit for leaning heavily into the all-too-rarely explored unrequited love story between Batman and the Joker, which is usually pushed into the background (or outright ignored) by most film adaptations. Here, it was the central plot!  

When Galifianakis was first offered the Joker role, according to Cinema Blend, he immediately agreed ... before realizing, a moment later, that they were offering him a Lego version, rather than a live action part. Drat! Needless to say, Galifianakis got over his disappointment, and he turned in a fine performance. Since then, he's gone on to win widespread acclaim, and an Emmy nomination, for his role in the TV series Baskets.

Joaquin Phoenix is unlike any Joker from the past

Finally, the ball is passed to Joaquin Phoenix, who stars in the 2019 film Joker. While Phoenix certainly isn't the first person to play the clown, and he won't be the last, his portrayal is a little different. While most actors usually play the Joker as a suave master criminal, Phoenix is giving us a tragic, embarrassing failure named Arthur Fleck, as described by Forbes, and his performance has drawn critical acclaim. Post-Ledger, Phoenix has been the first big screen Joker to truly turn heads, and the movie's premiere at the Venice Film Festival earned eight minutes of applause, with Phoenix's performance seeming to be the key element. 

To dive into the role, The Hollywood Reporter says that Phoenix purposefully lost 52 pounds, which caused him to (in his words) "start to go mad." Phoenix also said that the Joker's bizarre and unpredictable nature fascinated him throughout production. Even on the last day of filming, he claims to have still been discovering new aspects of the character.

A jumble of Jokers

What about all those guys who portrayed the Joker in various animated series, direct-to-video films, and video games over the years? Here's what they've been up to. Strap in.

Lennie Weinrib voiced the Joker (and Mr. Freeze) on the 1997 animated series The New Batman Adventures. He passed away in 2006, after giving voice to Captain Crook in McDonald's commercials, Scrappy-Doo on Scooby-Doo shows, and the title character on the wacky H.R. Pufnstuf. Weirdly, the Joker showed up on The New Scooby-Doo Movies in the early '70s, but this time voiced by notable TV character actor of that era, Larry Storch. He's best known for his role as Corporal Agarn on F Troop, and he continues to work into his nineties, acting in plays and working through the personal appearance circuit.

In the 2014 animated small-screen film Son of Batman, veteran voice actor Dee Bradley Baker took a turn at portraying the Joker for a cameo appearance. He's likely far more recognizable for his work as talking East German fish Klaus on American Dad! And animation wouldn't the same without Frank Welker (pictured above, left). Playing the Joker on Super Friends is just one of the prolific voice actor's classic credits, alongside — wait for it — Scooby-Doo, Hefty Smurf, Curious George, Megatron on Transformers, and Nibbler on Futurama. He also voiced Grimace in in McDonald's commercials. In 2016, he was awarded an Emmy for lifetime achievement

Sure, Brent Spiner (pictured above, right) voiced the Joker on Young Justice, but he's still best known as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He recently reprised his role of Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day: Resurgence, was a regular on Cinemax's Outcast, and in 2020 he'll return to the role of Data in Star Trek: Picard. Meanwhile, Christopher Corey Smith played Joker in a few LEGO Batman video games, and you may recognize him from such recent other interactive titles as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Fallout 76, and Dark Deception. He also voiced English-language dubs of Hero Mask and Kengan Ashura.

So many japing Jokers

You thought that was all the people who'd portrayed the Joker over the years? Not even close. The Joker who teamed up with a spoon named Spoony in LEGO DC Comics Super-Heroes: Justice League – Gotham City Breakout? That's the voice of Jason Spisak (pictured) you hear. He stays busy with a number of franchises, breathing life into characters in various Lego, Marvel, and DC videos and video games. He played the Joker again in Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash, as well as the Green Lantern, and, most notably, Kid Flash on Young Justice.

There is perhaps only villain who can match the Joker in being both terrifying and amusing: The Cryptkeeper, the ghoulish puppet host of Tales From the Crypt. John Kassir voiced the character, and in 2010 he joined the world of Batman, portraying the Joker in a series of Super Friends shorts. He's appeared in hundreds of projects, most recently major animated fare like The Angry Birds Movie 2, The Emoji Movie, and The Grinch.

The 2016 video Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders marked the return of the cast of the campy '60s Batman: Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin), and imitating that show's Joker, replacing the late Cesar Romero, Jeff Bergman. This was a break from his regular gig — succeeding Mel Blanc as the voice of many Warner Bros. characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd. A gifted mimic, he plays Donald Trump on Showtime's Our Cartoon President. 

The fabulously named Lloyd Floyd worked steadily in video games and animation for nearly 20 years — he voiced characters in Max Payne 3, Saints Row: The Third, and in many Grand Theft Auto installments before he portrayed the Joker in DC Super Friends. That's about the last major credit for the voice actor, who also recently portrayed Luke Skywalker in Disney Infinity 3.0.