Jared Leto has some big shoes to fill as The Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. He will be taking over the role after an almost universally lauded turn by the late Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, after Ledger himself followed-up on Jack Nicholson's memorable interpretation in Tim Burton's Batman.
Leto's bizarre off-screen antics are already the stuff of legend, as he has reportedly taken a decidedly method approach to The Joker, staying in character at all times on set and occasionally terrorizing his co-stars. He is not the first actor to take such an approach, of course, but with a character as disturbed as The Joker the results have the potential to be harmful to his health. The big question for audiences, though, is whether or not it will have all been worth it.
According to Suicide Squad writer and director David Ayer, the answer to that question is a resounding "yes." Speaking to Total Film Magazine (via DC Vertigo Daily), Ayer offered high praise for Leto's performance:
"What Jared has done is absolutely incredible. When he steps onto the set the world stops. Everything stops. What he's done is so powerful, so menacing, so palpable, you can feel him. The crew stops working and just watches him. I have to get everybody going again because he's so fascinating."
Of course, with the role comes a set of expectations from audiences that Leto may or may not live up to. Ayer is aware of this fact, and thinks that his take on the source material will thwart peoples' expectations, hopefully for the better:
"What’s interesting to me is how there’s been a lot to perception of what this film is because we have been exposed more than other movies. What people think this movie is is not what it is. There’s much more to come."
Can audiences set aside their preconceptions about characters as iconic as The Joker and Harley Quinn enough to enjoy Suicide Squad? That all depends on how well Ayer does bringing it to the big screen. A vocal contingent of fans were unhappy with Zack Snyder's dark, violent take on Superman in Man of Steel, and that reaction has colored expectations about his work in the follow-up, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Suicide Squad starts with source material that was already plenty dark to begin with, however, so audience expectations may be more in line with the final product.
Warner Bros. no doubt has plans for The Joker beyond Suicide Squad, so many of their hopes will be hanging on how well audiences react to Leto's tattooed take on Batman's arch-nemesis. Even if audiences end up rejecting his version, though, they can't say he didn't try.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.