UPDATE: New reports and comments from Leto shed new light on his status. They are outlined in the explanation below.
Warner Bros. and DC are making a Joker origin story outside of the DC Extended Universe that will feature a brand new actor in the role - but what does that mean for the current screen iteration played by Jared Leto? The news of the Todd Phillips-directed/Martin Scorsese-produced project has already caused quite a stir in how it from conception presents a unique take on the psycho clown, but despite not being part of the ongoing shared universe it does pose questions about one of its biggest poster children.
Leto was cast as the DCEU's Clown Prince of Crime in late 2014 and, after the villain's actions (killing Robin) were teased in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, made his proper debut in last year's Suicide Squad. That film had Mr. J a background presence during Task Force X's mission against Enchantress, meddling with Amanda Waller's plans and popping up in a handful of expository flashbacks before seemingly being killed off in a helicopter crash. However, as the movie treated dropping out the sky in a giant metal canister as a minor inconvenience (there were three such crashes and none were fatal) he turned up at the very end to break Harley Quinn out of Belle Reve prison.
That, and the fact he almost certainly has a multiple picture option in his contract made it seem likely we'd get another go round for the gangsta clown, but are the studio now going in a different direction? Let's take a look at everything we know about the Joker's DCEU future (and what else the origin movie means for Leto).
Jared Leto's DCEU Future Explained
Per Deadline's initial report, Leto is expected to still star in Suicide Squad 2 and Gotham City Sirens. The former is a straight sequel to his debut that is currently searching for a director, while the latter will see David Ayer spin off Harley Quinn and pair her with Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Out of the officially announced DCEU movies, it's also feasible he could appear in some of the other Gotham-based movies - The Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl - but none of these are confirmed. There are also rumors of a movie pitting him against love interest Harley, which may factor into the plot of either of the two confirmed movies or be its own separate adventure.
However, these are all a long way out: Suicide Squad 2 has had minimal noted forward development in the year since the first film; Gotham City Sirens, meanwhile, has recently been hit with rumors it isn't actually green-lit (it wasn't included in DC's list of upcoming movies at SDCC). At earliest, these movies can arrive in 2020, four years after the character's introduction - that doesn't say they won't happen but does leave them open to influence by changes to the plan.
And it's safe to say things definitely haven't gone to plan. Suicide Squad was a critical punching bag and while the editing - both shot-to-shot and overall pacing - was the generally-accepted core of the flaws, Leto didn't escape unscathed. He was widely called out for his barley-Joker, an unhinged mob boss a far cry from any recognizable version of the character who had his role vastly shrunk. Considering he was coming in the wake of Heath Ledger's mammoth performance in The Dark Knight just eight years previously and the movie's pre-release press had been dominated by maddeningly intense cases of method acting (which mainly involved sending sexual items to co-stars), that wasn't a good look. Leto was noticeably upset about this in interviews around release, meaning you not only had a character fans hadn't warmed to, but an actor burned by the experience.
That said, Suicide Squad was a very successful film - it made $745.6 million at the worldwide box office, only $100 million less than Batman v Superman, a project with much greater name recognition. In the ever-dispersing DCEU, that represents a major area ripe for further investment so no amount of criticism is likely to halt the sequel.
UPDATE 1: It has since been announced that a Harley/Joker riff on Gotham City Sirens has Crazy, Stupid, Love's directors attached and that Suicide Squad 2 has been fast-tracked, highlighting Warner Bros. investment in this wing of the DCEU.
UPDATE 2: Leto has also recently tried to downplay the rumors of being unhappy and a potential departure, saying he is committed to doing more films. These two new developments thus further make clear the actor isn't going anywhere.
And so we have a situation where Leto's return, at least for a couple more movies, seems likely. So where does this new film fit in?
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020