Not only is The Joker easily the most iconic villain in the Batman mythology, but he might very well be the most recognizable and well-known villain in any medium. With a host of talented actors portraying the character in animated and live-action form over the years, The Joker has taken on many forms, but it’s Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight that stands out the most.
Jared Leto, who portrays a radically reimagined version of the Clown Prince of Crime in next week’s Suicide Squad, acknowledges that he’ll have some big shoes to fill, telling Rolling Stone:
“Heath did an impeccable, perfect performance as the Joker. It’s one of the best performances ever in cinema. I had met Heath before. I didn’t know him well, but he was a beautiful person.”
In fact, Leto was initially reluctant to accept the role because of what Ledger had been able to accomplish, but ultimately decided that if others had come before, then others could certainly come after:
“I think had it only been portrayed by Heath and it was never a comic book, maybe I would have felt that would be inappropriate. But I thought that given the history, it was OK. The good thing about other people having done this is that you know what direction not to head in.”
Even though Suicide Squad has yet to open in theaters, Leto’s approach has already become infamous thanks to his commitment to remaining in character for the entire duration of production. Cast and crew referred to him as “Mr. J” while he was on set, and he sent a series of disturbing gifts to his co-stars, including delivering a live rat to his onscreen love interest, Margot Robbie.
As far as prepping for the role and trying to get into the right headspace, Leto’s research was equally unorthodox:
“The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence. I was watching real violence, consuming that. There’s a lot you can learn from seeing it. Not every act of violence is committed with frenzy, either. I remember learning that. People can be calm. They’ve made their choice and go and do something, and it’s not in a frenzy. It’s methodical and sometimes even hypnotic and deliberate.”
We’ll finally get to see just how much Leto immersed himself in the role when Suicide Squad hits theaters on August 5.
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