[Update: Jared Leto has officially been cast as The Joker in Suicide Squad]
The early reports and word from Warner Bros. themselves claimed that for the DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad - based on a team of villains and mercenaries, and coming in 2016 - the studio would be targeting some A-list stars for the ensemble cast, and that certainly seems to be the case. The latest reports claim that not only is Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Fight Club) in the running for the film, but the role he's being eyed for is none other than Batman's arch-nemesis, The Joker.
As far as rumors go, a potential casting of The Joker is in the top tier, so we recommend taking this news with a grain of salt. For many, the memory of (and events that followed) Heath Ledger's take on the role for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight cast doubt that a new version would come any time soon. However, TheWrap reports that Leto is currently "circling" the role in Suicide Squad as his first follow-up to Dallas Buyers Club.
The same sources claim that when Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Ryan Gosling were rumored to be the top picks for director David Ayer's supervillain team-up, it was Gosling who was being sought to bring 'The Clown Prince of Crime' to life in the new DC shared movie universe. Apparently the lengthy contract proved unfavorable to Gosling (as it had years before with Green Lantern), and Leto has found himself at the top of WB and DC's list.
Some might see a comic book movie role as an unlikely choice for Leto, given his lengthy hiatus from the screen to focus on other efforts - specifically touring with his band Thirty Seconds To Mars. However, THR's sources confirm the report that after showing interest with Marvel concerning Doctor Strange (a role that has yet to be filled) it's Joker that the actor is circling. Leto himself recently offered a mysterious tease to the outlet:
"I do [have my eye on one project]. I am excited about what's happening... There are incredible opportunities and I'm very grateful for them. I'm looking forward to making films again now that the tour is wrapping up. It's going to be an exciting 2015.
"I've sworn to keep my mouth shut but I think that very shortly there will be something to talk about, that's for sure."
If true, then it's clear that Warner Bros. is continuing to chart its own course for comic book adaptations; first courting David Ayer (Fury, Training Day) to lead the project, and now seeking one of the hottest actors currently shopping for his next feature. With Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor rumored to be joining Suicide Squad's cast, long term continuity seems to be the plan - almost guaranteed to mean bringing Jared Leto and Ben Affleck together on-screen down the road.
In the short term, the reports prove the benefits of landing a director like Ayer for what many will see as a lesser-known property. We've made our case for why Suicide Squad could prove worthwhile to the DC movie universe as a whole, free to take advantage of well-received villains, or introduce new ones to the movie universe without much risk. But with Ayer receiving praise for his work with the likes of Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf, he may be the kind of unique talent needed to attract actors in high demand.
We doubt that Suicide Squad will prove a carbon copy of the WWII-era drama, but the terms 'gritty' and 'hard-hitting' define the comic book version of the Squad perfectly. Ayer is already describing the film as "The Dirty Dozen with supervillains," so perhaps the comparisons are more accurate than one might assume.
It's easy to dream of one day seeing Leto square off with Affleck in a standalone Batman movie (which is coming before 2020), but for now, his role in Suicide Squad is a surprise in itself. We expected that the writer/director would be taking his own pass over the existing script once he landed the job, and that seems to be the case, as the casting rumors have consistently implied that the leaked roster may be tossed entirely.
The increased evidence of Joker also raises the potential of actually seeing fan favorite villain Harley Quinn in the movie as well, but it remains a mystery if that is the very role Margot Robbie is being eyed for, or newcomer Cara Delevingne. It's far too early to tell, but we'll keep you updated as more information arrives.
What do you think of the potential casting? Would you have preferred to see Gosling take a stab at the role, or is Leto a talent too big for Warner Bros. to possibly pass up? Is there another villainous role you think Leto could be eyeing himself? Sound off in the comments.
Suicide Squad will be in theaters on August 5, 2016.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for Suicide Squad updates, as well as TV movie and gaming news.