Joaquin Phoenix has signed on to play The Joker in an origin story about the DC Comics super-villain, Warner Bros. Pictures announced Tuesday.

Todd Phillips is to direct the as-yet-untitled, live-action film from a screenplay he penned with "The Fighter" scribe Scott Silver.

"Phillips' exploration of a man disregarded by society is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale," the studio said in a news release.

The Hollywood Reporter said filming is set to begin in New York this September.

Batman's iconic nemesis The Joker previously has been played on the big screen by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto.

Phillips' movie is expected to take place outside the extended DC Universe as part of a new division that would allow Warner Bros. to tell unique comic book stories using different actors in the the title roles.

Leto is still expected to portray The Joker in a "Suicide Squad" sequel.

Phoenix, 43, has starred in the films "The Master," "Her," "Walk the Line," "Quills," "Gladiator," "To Die For" and "Parenthood."

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He will be seen starting Friday in "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot."

Phillips' credits include "Old School," "The Hangover" trilogy and "War Dogs."