Jared Leto hasn’t taken on many roles in the last few years. In fact, Suicide Squad is only the Oscar winner’s fifth movie in ten years. But what a role this is.
Following in the footsteps of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Jared Leto signed on to play the high-profile part of The Joker, the quintessential Batman villain, in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Fans around the world have been applying all manner of scrutiny and are more than ready to cry out if Leto’s work isn’t up to scratch. No pressure then.
Leto is known for completely immersing himself in parts, reportedly taking on a method approach and staying in character for much of a shoot. So of course, a role like this would call for no less dedication.
The actor spoke at length to EW about taking on the role and revealed his approach to bringing this fascinating character to life.
“We knew we had to strike new ground,” he said. “There had been such great work that we knew we had to go in a different direction. So you had a kind of direction from the very beginning, knowing that you can’t go that way, so you have to head this way. That was really helpful. But the Joker is fantastic because there are no rules. The Joker operates from instinct.”
And what if that instinct is decidedly malicious and crazy in nature? Well, his “method” would have to match accordingly. The actor apparently sent his co-stars, who include Will Smith and Margot Robbie, an array of messed up things “to create an element of surprise.” Items reportedly included bullets, a dead pig, anal beads and used condoms.
“I had to be committed beyond belief. And I did what I needed to do to deliver the best I possibly could,” Leto said. “There was a lot on the line and I want to do justice for all the work that has been done before. It’s not a part-time job. It’s immersive. It takes over your life and that’s what I needed to do for myself. Other people can show up and are genius but I did what I needed to do to deliver. And we had a good time with it. I think it was exactly what was needed for me, at least.”
In terms of preparation, Leto said the first step he took was to learn as much about The Joker as he could from the comics. After that, it was time to create his own take on the character.
“I think the fun thing about it is when people have done it in the past, there is some spirit of the Joker essence that they keep, but they either build upon something or tear something down and start again at the beginning. For me, I knew once I had gone through the process of educating myself, I had to throw everything away and start from the beginning and really build this from the ground up.”
As to what this “building” involved…
“I did meet with people that were experts, doctors, psychiatrists that dealt with psychopaths and people who had committed horrendous crimes, and then I spent some time with those people themselves, people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time.”
Leto’s process could result in a grittier, more troubling Joker than those we’ve seen before. But apart from the very intriguing trailer snippets and certain promo images, no one has too much to go on so far. Will Leto’s take on the hugely popular villain rival the high quality of potent work we’ve seen from other actors? We’ll find out what he brings to the table when Suicide Squad hits Australia on August 4 and the U.S. on August 6.