Warner Bros./DC have two key installments in the DC Extended Universe due to arrive in 2016. First, director Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will continue the story from Man of Steel and introduce the DCEU’s Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), among other future Justice League members; then, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad shall introduce an important government official in the form of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) along with a gallery of super-villains – including the DCEU’s versions of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Joker (Jared Leto).
Fresh promotional images and screenshots from Suicide Squad have made their way online, including new pics that highlight the (former) Dr. Quinn and her “Mr. J.” Similarly, a number of Leto’s costars in the film have kept the focus on Leto and his version of the iconic Batman antagonist during interviews past, but now the Oscar-winner himself has weighed in – providing insight on his process for getting into the villain’s deranged mindset.
Leto, speaking to Empire (via CBM), admitted that if the Joker were doing interviews for Suicide Squad, he “would probably just say ‘F*** you,’ and hang up.” Fortunately, the Dallas Buyers Club actor was more forthcoming about his experience of playing the Clown Prince of Crime in Ayer’s DC comic book movie:
“There was definitely a period of…detachment. I took a pretty deep dive. But this was a unique opportunity and I couldn’t imagine doing it another way. It was fun, playing those psychological games. But at the same time it was very painful, like giving birth out of my prick hole.”
Some of Leto’s methods for getting into character as The Joker – like sending Robbie a rat pet – have already come to light. The actor also revealed to Empire that his other Joker acting techniques included calling the Suicide Squad actors playing the Joker’s henchmen at random times of the day (with orders to spray paint roses black and fill backpacks with nine-inch nails) – as well as listening to 1920s gospel music and reading about shamans. Moreover, much as Batman V Superman aims to distinguish itself in part by presenting a version of Bruce Wayne who is older than any iteration previously featured on the big screen, Leto indicated that his Joker has been around for much longer than some may’ve assumed:
“I always get the sense that The Joker may be much older than people think. It’s something different. If you don’t break rules, you’re not going to strike new ground. I think I’ll be cooling down for the rest of my life.”
Leto’s Joker does, indeed, shows the wear and tear of a villain who has long battled Batman on the streets of Gotham, based on his appearance in Suicide Squad – see, for example, his many fake teeth, presumably the result of years of him having gotten his face punched in by the Caped Crusader. DC movie producer Charles Roven likewise revealed to Empire that Leto’s Joker draws inspiration from the fashion of modern Mexico cartel heads – saying the character is, in some ways, “more social… a very successful and smart business besides being a sociopath” – and Ayer described Leto’s own take on the Joker, as follows:
“The Joker is the third rail of comic book movies. There’s a power to that character, and by some freaking miracle, through the incredible things Jared has done and the photography and all the other millions of things that went into it, we’ve cooked up something transcendent. He’s scary.”
Many fans have noted that Joker’s appearance in Suicide Squad appears to have been influenced by Los Angeles gang culture – something that Ayer has long explored as a filmmaker in his script work (The Fast and the Furious) and directorial efforts alike (Street Kings, End of Watch). Indeed, Roven’s description of the character as being more of a proper ‘crime boss’, who draws inspiration from real-life modern cartel heads (as opposed to, say, the anarchist version who’s depicted in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), appears to align with the idea that Leto’s Joker is taking more of his cues from real-world contemporary criminals, in multiple respects.
That all being said: many people still seem to have mixed feelings about Leto’s Joker on the whole (see his tattoos in particular), especially with such a limited amount of footage to judge his performance on at this stage. Nevertheless, to give credit where credit’s due, the folk behind Suicide Squad have done a solid job of selling this Joker as one who will be able to stand alongside the most famous iterations of the character from movies past – whether we’re talking Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, or Cesar Romero for that matter.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern on June 19, 2020.