It’s been just over a year since we got the first look at Suicide Squad‘s version of The Joker, as portrayed by Jared Leto, and to say the startling revisions to the character’s iconic look were controversial would be something of an understatement. Covered in tattoos and sporting a chrome-plated smile, Leto’s embodiment of the Clown Prince of Crime is pretty far removed from what fans have grown accustomed to, but for director David Ayer, this was a very calculated decision.
Speaking to Yahoo Movies from the set of Suicide Squad, Ayer says that everything about The Joker’s look comes from a meticulously crafted origin. Essentially, there’s a method to the madness:
“A lot of it has to do with creating a character with some kind of history and footprint in our world, and not have this sacrosanct being outside of our continuum, our reality. If a guy like him really existed today, where would he come from? How would he do business? Who would he know? What would he look like? In my mind, I took a lot of inspiration from drug lords on Instagram. It’s a great way to understand the lifestyle of a villain.”
The social media accounts of drug kingpins might seem like a strange place to draw inspiration, but after a quick Google search it’s pretty easy to confirm that Leto’s style isn’t that far removed from people that actually exist – it’s just a little more purple, and who doesn’t want a little more purple in their life? Now, about those tattoos:
“The tattoos tell a very specific story, and eventually people will decipher them and understand what’s going on, but obviously they’re contentious, any time you do something new it’s contentious. There’s very specific stories and easter eggs in those tattoos. And even his teeth, there’s an entire story behind that which is absolutely canon. It’s putting his history on his body. This Joker is a little more working class, who I believe could live in our world.”
I’ve long been operating under a theory that The Joker’s chrome teeth are a direct result of previous run-ins with Batman, and that a few well-placed punches made custom dental work a necessity. But even if I’m wrong about that, it’s nice to know that Ayer has a very specific reason for updating and altering the character’s style.
Ayer also talked about the cameradier and bonding that took place between the members of the Suicide Squad, and how Leto – who remained in character throughout production – wasn’t part of that process:
“With Jared, it’s tough for him. He constantly has to give birth to himself, he goes away, he comes back, he shoots, he goes away… The Joker is something you have to be, and you can see how exhausting and painful it is for him to be this character. But you can feel it when he comes to work, the crew feels it, everyone feels it. It’s like the birds stop flying. He’s f***ing terrifying.”
We’ll find out just how terrifying Leto can be in a few more weeks. Suicide Squad hits theaters on August 5.
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