Jared Leto Reportedly Tried To Stop Joker. Maybe He Should Have Starred In It
Even before Suicide Squad was released in 2016, Jared Leto was already floating spin-off ideas for his Clown Prince of Crime. “I think it would be incredible to see Batman and the Joker go head-to-head!” he told the Toronto Sun. “I could easily just play the Joker a couple more times and then retire, because it’s so fulfilling and so creative and it’s so imaginative.”
We all know what happened next. David Ayer’s film was torn apart by critics, and Leto’s Joker was only given 10 minutes of screen-time. Then news broke that Warner Bros. had greenlit Todd Phillips’ grittier standalone take on the character starring Joaquin Phoenix, leaving Leto in limbo. The 42-year-old opened up about his confusion at the time, but conceded that there was “no ownership” with the Joker.
But according to the Hollywood Reporter, the Oscar-winning actor was a little less conciliatory behind closed doors. Sources say Leto even asked his music manager, Irving Azoff, to call the leader of Warner's parent company and get the film, which has gone on to gross over £700 million, canned. Leto’s camp denies the allegations.
The Hollywood Reporter believes that Leto’s prank-laden preparations for the role caused friction with the studio. The actor showered his co-stars with ToTaLlY TwIsTeD “gifts,” including a live rat, bullets and a dead pig. As far as method acting goes, it’s less Daniel Day-Lewis, more ‘Crazy Dan, the guy you refuse to share a room with on a Faliraki stag-do.’
It wasn’t all Leto’s fault, though. The Joker’s dialogue in Suicide Squad was sub-mum Facebook meme stuff, reaching a real nadir with, “If you weren’t so crazy, I’d think you were insane!” Then there was the costuming: metal teeth, popped leather collars and God-awful tattoos (including the word ‘Damaged,’ written in cursive across his forehead).
Certain scenes bordered on bizarre, too. How long did he spend putting the below together? Of all the Joker’s terrifying mental conditions, focusing on his time-consuming OCD probably wasn't the best choice.
Leto’s MySpace-tinged take on the character was clearly a bad fit for Todd Phillips’ hyper-realistic reimagining. But then, in retrospect, maybe we could have avoided much of the controversy that befell Joker if Leto had been given the nod over Phoenix.
One of the main points of critical contention with Phillips’ film is that the character is given a supposedly sympathetic origin story. His murderous transformation is fuelled by the cruelty of those around him, from uncaring social workers to violent street gangs. The movie arguably culminates in a moment of vindication for the character, and many believe it provides the wrong message to young, disaffected movie-goers.
But can you imagine anyone identifying with or going to bat for Suicide Squad’s version of the Joker? No chance. Society may be partly to blame for Arthur Fleck’s miserable life, but nobody forced him to get a pair of grinning teeth tattooed across his stomach, or buy a big, purple crocodile skin jacket, or not brush his teeth for what looks like years. That’s all on him.
Any sympathy you do have for the Joker would quickly diminish as soon as he did another one of those bunged-up snorts. In an alternate universe, the bullying finance bros who get murdered on the subway are the true tragic heroes of the tale.
In any case, we won't be seeing Leto's Joker any time soon. He's been left out of James Gunn's upcoming Suicide Squad sequel, and reportedly won't make an appearance in Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn standalone film. He won't mind too much: the actor is currently filming Morbius, another gothic superhero project. Local pigs, consider yourselves warned.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.