Is there any other character in the comic book movie world whose performer is as analyzed as The Joker? When it comes to the Clown Prince of Crime, it seems that people love to discuss how the actor playing him is tackling the role. SUICIDE SQUAD hasn't even come out yet, and I've already seen more articles than I can count about Jared Leto and what he's bringing to his portrayal of The Joker. I guess when you're joining elite company, with so many actors who have left an indelible mark on a character, people hunger for insights on how you'll do it justice.
Of all the actors who've taken a turn playing Batman's most famous rogue, none loom larger than Heath Ledger. His work in THE DARK KNIGHT was not only magnetic, complex, nuanced, and striking; It not only accomplished a rare feat by winning an Academy Award for a comic book movie; But it also is intrinsically tied to the final days of a promising actor's life. Indeed, Ledger's sudden death before TDK even came out makes the shadow his portrayal casts over the character even bigger than when he had to answer questions like, "How do you follow Jack Nicholson?"
So the specter of taking on the role must have been fairly insurmountable. Even for an actor like Jared Leto, who just won an Oscar of his own in 2014. That's why David Ayer was asked, during a set visit, what it was like to create an all-new take on The Joker for SUICIDE SQUAD in a post-THE DARK KNIGHT world.
Here's what he told ScreenRant:
"Yeah, I mean, you want to talk about the third rail of comic book movies. You know, when you have someone as talented as Jared, and then I think when you just accept that… Heath happened. Dark Knight happened. And you just move forward. It’s one of the oldest, most well-known villains in modern culture, and to leave him fallow, I think, would be a shame.
“I don’t know how to say it, he’s so… we instantly know who he is. We know how he makes us feel. We know how he’s going to behave. Just one little drawn picture of him, and a character that fantastically iconic and powerful almost emerges himself. And once you start touching that character, and playing with that character, he really does reveal himself in a lot of ways. And he’s so defined."
Much has been made of how much Leto has immersed himself in the work of creating The Joker, and Ayer had a little more to say about what it was like to have him on the SUICIDE SQUAD set:
"Jared’s done nothing short of just utterly transforming himself and has done an incredible amount of work. The mannerisms, his voice, everything. And when he steps on set, you feel it, you feel the energy. The crew feels it. It’s going to be… I believe, nothing short of a revelation.
“He’s in character. When he shows up here, he’s in character. He’s in his trailer, he’s in character. He emails me, he’s in character, it’s like…’whoa.’ He’s a little f***ing scary to be honest. It’d be nice to see Jared again. It’s been a while."
We'll find out what all of these endless analyses of Leto's work as The Joker amount to when SUICIDE SQUAD comes out on August 5.