Suicide Squad actor Jared Leto will next tackle the role of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in a biopic by Rush Hour director Brett Ratner. The film is being set up by Ratner's RatPac Entertainment, after rights to Hefner's life story went up for grabs upon the death of producer Jerry Weintraub.
Hefner's recent death at the age of 91 re-opened debate about the Playboy founder's legacy, with many people viewing him as a progressive figure and others arguing he was a misogynist who commodified women. Hefner began building his empire in the 1950s with the founding of Playboy magazine, an influential monthly that featured top-drawer literature alongside photos of naked models. Later in life, Hefner became a reality star on The Girls Next Door, an E! series in which models from all over America traveled to California to realize their "dream" of living with Hef in the famed Playboy Mansion.
Brett Ratner has been trying to get the Hefner biopic going since 2007, when Robert Downey Jr. was rumored to be attached, and now he's settled on Jared Leto as the right man to play Hef himself (per THR). Ratner spoke about why he chose Leto to embody the charismatic and controversial media and lifestyle magnate:
"Jared is an old friend. When he heard I got the rights to Hef's story, he told me, 'I want to play him. I want to understand him.' And I really believe Jared can do it. He's one of the great actors of today."
A noted proponent of hardcore method acting (though he himself claims that reputation is overblown), Leto is known for fully immersing himself in his characters by not only transforming physically (he apparently blinded himself for Blade Runner 2049) but taking on extreme mental states. For his role as the villainous and revolting Joker in Suicide Squad, Leto reportedly cultivated an appropriately antagonistic relationship with his co-stars by playing disgusting pranks and generally behaving like he was himself an anarchic supervillain. Most of Leto's performance wound up cut out of the film, but tales of his on-set behavior would nonetheless pass into legend, much to Leto's consternation.
Hiring Leto to play Hugh Hefner will certainly get people talking about Ratner's Hefner biopic. One can only speculate about the myriad ways Leto might tackle a character who is mostly known for having refined tastes in everything, enjoying sex with lots of women and basically going through life as a care-free bathrobe-wearing hedonist. Given Ratner's friendship with Hefner, we can expect his version of the Playboy founder's life to be mostly positive, and only touch on the controversies about his alleged exploitation of women in a tangential way (if he touches them at all). So, don't expect Leto to go full-crazy in this one.
In addition to the Hefner biopic, the Oscar-winning Leto has also lined up the sequel Suicide Squad 2, where he will reprise his role as the Joker, and a planned Joker and Harley Quinn movie. Next year he can be seen as a GI who joins the Yakuza in the crime drama The Outsider.