When Jared Leto was cast to play the most notorious sociopath in comic book history simply known as the The Joker, people weren’t sure on how he was going to prepare himself to give justice to the role most recently done by the late Heath Ledger.
But Leto does have a history of playing dark characters in the past, one of the most notable being Mark Chapman in the biopic Chapter 27, which centers around the murder of Beatles singer John Lennon. For The Joker, however, Leto needed to dive into a different kind of dementia, one that was less delusional and more sadistic.
As soon as teaser photos of Leto’s Joker were released last year, the pressure was immediately on. Ledger’s version in 2008’s The Dark Knight was gritty yet memorable, setting the bar on all time high. He also kept a journal, which chronicled how far he went for the role. Ledger had locked himself in a hotel room, delved into his character, but ironically, it toyed on his emotions and, according to some, had played a part in his accidental but untimely death.
Aside from Ledger, there was also Jack Nicholson who played The Joker in director Tim Burton’s spinoff of the franchise. It solidified him as an actor and marked the role as one of Nicholson’s most iconic ones yet. According to reports, Nicholson did acknowledge the fact that it was both “dark and challenging” to do. He even went on to warn his successor, Ledger, after he was cast. It is safe to say that if one is to base Leto on the promotional photos alone, he comes off as someone who falls in the middle of Ledger’s and Nicholson’s approach to the comic book villain. But he does promise to bring something new to the plate when viewers watch the antihero movie as soon as it hits cinemas.
“You just knew you had to do something different. You had to make it your own. That happens all the time,” Leto said. “Whether you’re a composer working on a piece of music that was written a century ago, or you’re an actor on stage, reinterpreting a play, it’s very common these days. Directors take on great works of cinema, actors reinterpret roles, that’s been going on for a great deal of time. From ‘Scarface’ to ‘Hamlet.’ In some ways it’s really interesting to reinterpret, redefine.”
Not one to disappoint, it looks like Leto has truly prepared to fill in the shoes left by his predecessors in 2016’s Suicide Squad. After all, he is playing one of the most buzzed about characters in the roster of big budget movies this year.
So how did Leto prepare for the role? By meeting up with real-life psychopaths of course. Oh, he did have to throw in disturbing pranks at his cast mates to make The Joker proud, some of which involved bringing a dead pig to the set as well as scaring co-star Margot Robbie with a dead rat.
Leto did admit to Entertainment Weekly that he met with “people that were experts, doctors, psychiatrists that dealt with psychopaths and people who had committed horrendous crimes. I spent some time with those people themselves, people who have been institutionalized.” That is a good way to start, as nothing beats meeting up with the actual killers to learn from them without having to kill in real life. Leto’s primary goal in doing so was to understand how a psychopath’s mind works. “To the Joker, violence is a symphony. This is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation,” Leto added.
With Leto being so committed to the role, he also gives good acting advice to those ready to take challenge themselves in the industry. He proves that capturing the imagination of audiences and directors alike means more than just looking the part. Sure, his iconic green hair, heavily tattooed body, and piercing are a rather modern and new take on The Joker, but what is more intriguing is how Leto is going to work with the elements and give audiences another memorable character that will send chills down their spine. This just draws more attention to the movie in the end and builds even more interest to Leto’s acting abilities when it comes to being versatile.
Suicide Squad, which also stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, and Cara Delevigne will be showing on cinemas this coming August 2016.