"I think I'll be cooling down for the rest of my life."
That's what Jared Leto had to say about playing the Joker. He also said something a bit more graphic, but we wanted to spare you the slightly nauseating analogy.
Suicide Squad is finally within our sights, and amid the cacophony of anticipation, one question remains supreme: will Jared Leto's Joker live up to the hype? The trailers gave us a taste of the madness, but the true indicator of Leto's commitment to the role was his immersive, perverse and disturbing preparation. This is the guy that gained nearly 70 pounds to play Mark Chapman, John Lennon's assassin, the role that left Leto with a debilitating case of gout.
His dedication has only grown over the years. On Suicide Squad, when he wasn't busy terrifying the cast and crew, he taunted them with gifts and messages that would have sent HR departments scrambling to the rescue. The fact remains: Jared Leto's Joker wasn't just a part of the movie, he was a sinister presence in the cast and crew's lives both on and off the set.
These are the 15 WTF Ways Jared Leto Prepared For the Joker:
15 He Stalked Drug Lords of Instagram
According to David Ayer, the Joker’s tattoos and teeth tell a tantalizing story. Indeed, the clown villain is blinged-out for a reason. To ground the character in a more modern reality, Ayer and Leto used the drug lords of Instagram as a foundation for the Joker of 2016. This criminal underbelly of Instagram has bikini-clad women holding RPG’s, massive tigers sipping from private pools, and gold-plated AK-47s next to Gucci bags. This is the world that Jared Leto’s Joker has come to inhabit, the lifestyle that he has chosen to lead. Though Heath Ledger’s Joker may incinerate a pile of cash, Leto’s iteration may have a bit more interest in the good life. “A lot of it has to do with creating a character with some kind of history and footprint in our world,” Ayer says. It’s true to the Joker’s past, as well. In several comic iterations, the Joker and Harley Quinn actually owned hyenas.
14 Creeped Everyone Out 24/7
Film sets can be intimidating, but with Jared Leto’s Joker hanging around, Suicide Squad was downright menacing. The role of Batman’s nemesis is already the stuff of legend, particularly after Heath Ledger left such a lasting impression. We know the role is haunting to watch and even more enveloping to inhabit.
Jared Leto took things to the next level. Scott Eastwood kept his distance, for fear of disturbing Leto’s focus, and Will Smith claims that in six months of non-stop filming, he never “actually met Jared Leto… we’ve never exchanged a word outside of ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!” Leto’s dedication to method acting and his character became the beating heart of the Suicide Squad set, so much that when he showed up to film, David Ayer claims “the birds [stopped] flying. He’s f***ing terrifying.” With that description, you can almost picture a cool breeze and dark clouds accompanying Leto as he arrives on set.
13 Spent Time in the Asylum
The new Joker’s forehead literally screams, “Damaged.” How fitting, then, that Leto spent countless hours meeting with longtime tenants of a psych ward. To be clear, Leto’s visitations with the inmates weren’t just friendly meet and greets. These were immersive experiences with individuals who have truly lost their marbles. Leto met with what described as “people who had committed horrendous crimes… people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time.” In short, these sound like the sort of fellows the Joker would recruit, the madmen from Arkham Asylum.
On paper, Leto's madhouse visits might sound like an off-the-grid school experiment, like a field trip to a soup kitchen. Don’t be fooled. Spending time with the truly insane and their psychiatrists would be damaging to the soul and exhausting to experience. Still, Leto has the stamina for such emotional demands: “The Joker is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation," according to Leto.
12 Hired Henchmen
For all of the sick jokes and tricks Leto played on the Suicide Squad cast, most were completed by his hired guns. Not only did Leto stay in character as The Joker, he absconded from the set and ordered his lackeys to deliver his twisted gifts. Before we dive into the more grotesque and demented particulars (and we will), it’s key to mention that Leto employed a henchman to do his dirty work. While it probably wasn’t Panda Man, who would have scared the daylights out of any sane individual, it may have been Jim Parrack’s Jonny Frost as the master of the Joker’s insane ceremonies.
Whoever carried out the clown's wishes, Viola Davis (who plays Amanda Waller) confirmed that Leto sent stooges to do his bidding of harassing the Suicide Squad's top dogs. Like a FedEx delivery team of the most twisted order, Leto’s henchmen executed some truly ludicrous tasks.
11 He Gave the Cast a Dead Pig
The Godfather has many classic moments, but none so memorable as the studio executive awaking to find a bloody horse head in his sheets. Some say his scream still echoes through Hollywood. With Suicide Squad, Jared Leto found a way to update that animalistic threat by having a henchmen interrupt the cast’s rehearsal and drop a dead pig on their table. It’s the kind of headline that sends PETA on a witch hunt.
Without a doubt, this bizarre gesture got everyone’s attention. In Viola Davis’ words, the henchman “plopped” the pig on the table, which implies a particularly intimidating level of nonchalance. Indeed, this grand statement of hog harassment happened near the start of filming, setting the tone for the increasingly wacky occurrences to come. Though Leto hasn’t commented on the pig gift in particular, he did admit to “[having] fun, playing those psychological games.” But the games didn’t stop there…
10 He Gave Margot Robbie a Live Rat
Jared Leto and Margot Robbie may have never worked together prior to Suicide Squad, but that didn’t stop Leto from creating their fabled relationship according to the comics. Harley Quinn (Robbie) and the Joker have a truly abnormal and patently abusive relationship. Their mutual love for violence and sadism makes them a match made in heaven. Even when the Joker smacks her around, Quinn claims his violence “feels like a kiss.” That street runs both ways, of course, so after Margot Robbie signed onto the film, he made sure to welcome her with style.
While some costars grab dinner and drinks to build a rapport, Leto decided to package a live rodent and ship it to his character's lover. How romantic. As Shakespeare said, “How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!” Not quite Romeo and Juliet, but it’ll do. Of course, he did send a love letter along with the rat, and the furry critter became quite popular among the Suicide Squad cast. Venustiano, as he has been named, now lives in Toronto with Guillermo del Toro.
9 He Sent Bullets to Will Smith
Deadshot is the best marksman in the DC Universe. Of all the members in the Suicide Squad, he is also the most willing to die. Given Deadshot’s comfort with handguns and rifles, it might have made sense for Jared Leto’s Joker to send a box of bullets to the nihilistic assassin. Unfortunately, Will Smith is more facile with separating his characters from real life, so when he received the ammunition at his private Los Angeles residence, he was understandably taken aback. As a megastar for several decades, Smith has doubtless received some bizarre gifts over the years, but bullets would understandably be cause for alarm.
Viola Davis also received a box of bullets and has admitted to being on guard when she met Jared Leto (out of his Joker character, mind you) after shooting wrapped. “You know, I got into a few fights when I was growing up… but it scared me a little bit. I almost had my pepper spray out.”
8 Made Video Messages for the Squad
Pre-recorded videos from the Joker are nothing new. In The Dark Knight, they were effective tools to rile up the Gotham police and make Batman anxious. How about sending similarly viral videos to the cast and crew of your movie? That’s a bridge too far, and during Suicide Squad, Jared Leto recused himself from the group’s festivities with a carefully planned introduction video.
According to Adam Beach (who plays Christopher Weiss AKA Slipknot), Leto debuted his maniacal Joker while subtly informing the cast that he was taking a leave of absence from the squad. “Basically, what he said was, ‘Guys, I can’t be there but I want you to know I’m doing my work as hard as you guys. The video he showed is in character. It blew our minds away.” Though it remains privately held for now, we can only hope this video will wind up as an extra on the Suicide Squad Blu-ray.
7 Performed as The Joker in Thirty Seconds to Mars
Beyond what he has created as the Joker, Jared Leto is a multi-talented individual. Along with his Academy Award-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club, his movie resume includes Prefontaine, Fight Club, American Psycho (“Hey, Paul!”), Requiem for a Dream and Lord of War. In addition to his impressive acting credits, he has been the front man of Thirty Seconds to Mars since 1998, leading three additional albums since their freshman debut in 2002.
The level of his artistic success is borderline absurd, so it makes sense that as Leto prepared for Suicide Squad, the Joker would spontaneously appear mid-concert at Thirty Seconds to Mars. Fans ate it up, knowing they were watching Leto chisel away at his character and take him public for a fleeting moment. To be fair, with neon-green hair and all the other physical accoutrements, it must be hard to not dip into the Joker’s voice from time to time.
6 Slept in Prison
“Excuse me, warden. When you leave, please close the door behind you. I’ll be staying here tonight.” Though this may not be the exact conversation between Jared Leto and the guards of his choice prison, they’re probably not far off. Indeed, the Joker himself is no stranger to the slammer. He has spent much of his adult life behind bars, so when Leto took up the Joker's maniacal mantle, he wanted to know how prisoners felt.
As legend has it, after David Ayer and the cast had finished filming in a prison, Leto (still firmly in character), asked the crew to lock him in the cell, hide the key and leave him alone for the night. The more he could feel at home in Belle Reve, the better. For Leto’s sake, hopefully CCTV cameras weren’t recording his prison cell. We can only imagine what kind of absolute madness he created.
5 Only Responded to “Mr. J”
Famous actors have a long history of bizarre on-set behavior. For Jared Leto’s Joker, it was important to create an environment that facilitated the actor’s dedication to the “method” without interfering with the day-to-do demands of filming. While he would not respond to “Jared,” “Mr. Leto,” or any iteration of the actual name on his driver’s license, he would respond to “Mr. J.”
This balance allowed for several opportunities: in addition to protecting his priority of staying in character, “Mr. J” also furthered Leto’s aura on set. Just imagine being Margot Robbie waiting for her scene partner to arrive and being told, “Mr. J is heading to set.” That would send chills down your spine and provoke a gut-level reaction even the best actors couldn't recreate. Indeed, “Mr. J” made the Joker a sort of phantom presence on set. That is, until you heard his laugh coming from around the corner.
4 Isolated From the Cast
David Ayer is different than your typical director. A veteran of the United States Navy, Ayer served as a submariner, the source of his inspiration for the underwater thriller, U-571. The point is, David Ayer is a man’s man. That’s why he had the cast of Fury and Suicide Squad fistfight with each other before filming. As Ayer says, “You learn a lot about who a person really is when you punch them in the face. It gets rid of a lot of the actor stuff.”
Jared Leto did not participate in the pre-production pugilism, however, because he was locked away in his own world. That’s how Leto wanted it, and David Ayer undoubtedly agreed. The isolation aimed to helped bond the squad and make them a proper military unit. Additionally, the ostracizing create a mystique around Leto, so that whenever he joined up with the squad, the balance of the team would inevitably shift.
3 Sent Playboy Magazines to Killer Croc
As soon as the cast received the dead pig, they returned the pork corpse to Leto with a message of their own. According to Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Killer Croc, the experience “had the effect of unifying [the squad] as a group because then it became us against him.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, however, the gifts kept coming. The Killer Croc actor received a particularly loving souvenir of “sticky Playboy magazines,” covered in an unidentified viscous substance. While Akinnuoye-Agbaje can hope these fluids didn’t derive from the Joker himself, other presents from Mr. Leto suggest otherwise. In addition to the pig, the rat, the bullets and the tacky adult magazines, Leto also sent anal beads to the cast to affirm the Joker’s lack of propriety. Despite all of this, one final gift put Jared Leto’s Joker into new-found territory that earned the actor a fair amount of shade on social media.
2 Sent Used Condoms to his Costars
Screenwriter Danny Bowes called it “the nadir of misunderstanding about what Method acting is and how it should be undertaken.” Mr. Bowes, of course, is referring to the used condoms members of the Suicide Squad allegedly received from Jared Leto. Little is known about the genesis of these prophylactic gifts, or exactly who used them, but that didn’t stop Rose McGowan for throwing the red flag in retaliation. The actress took to Facebook to call for penalties, asking, “In what other industry would this be sanctioned? It’s not something to be celebrated, it’s something to sue over.” Other industry pundits expressed similar outrage, and Viola Davis said that had she received the condoms, her husband, known in college as the “headache ball,” would have taken Leto’s Joker to the task. Most of the squad seemed to take Leto’s pranks in stride, however, as Margot Robbie enthused: “What he’s doing with the character is so cool.”
1 Practiced His Laugh in Public
The Joker laugh either works or it doesn’t. With so many great iterations of it over the years, from Jack Nicholson to Mark Hamill to Heath Ledger, Jared Leto knew he had to break new ground while maintaining the malevolence and mischief inherent in the Joker’s voice.
As you can imagine, his tactics used to achieve the ultimate Joker laugh were slightly unhinged. If you heard strange and unsettling laughter in New York or Toronto sometime between 2014 and the present, you were probably in the presence of Jared Leto. As the actor has revealed, he would frequent the metropolitan streets of the Big Apple perfecting his Joker laugh. The more unexpected and invasive, the better, and Leto admitted to work-shopping the voice until it would really “get under people’s skin.” From the footage we’ve seen thus far, Leto appears to have nailed the minimum demands of the role while making the character his own.
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