When the first images of The Joker from Suicide Squad emerged, may fans didn’t know what to think. The Jared Leto version of Batman’s ultimate foe was… well, different. He has silver teeth and was covered in tattoos. It was drastically different than the Heath Ledger version that has become iconic as THE definitive version of the character.
As everyone knows, Ledger sadly passed away after just a single appearance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. It was a performance that won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (posthumously). It would be an incredibly art act for anyone to follow, a fact that was not lost on Leto when he agreed to the role.
“Heath did an impeccable, perfect performance as the Joker,” says Leto, according to RollingStone.com. “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.”
Leto added that he did have his doubts about following up Ledger’s performance, but realized there is room for multiple versions of The Joker in the entertainment universe.
“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,” Leto says. “But I thought that given the history, it was okay. The good thing about other people having done this is that you know what direction not to head in.”
Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson have played the character on screen, while Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame has cemented himself as the premier voice actor for The Joker in video games and the DC Animated films. So how will Leto’s version stand out as different than the previous versions? Well, there’s this:
Predictably, Leto’s process got weird fast. He started watching footage of actual violent crimes on YouTube, until he had to stop himself. “The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence,” says Leto. “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.” His eyes have gone cold. “It’s methodical and sometimes even hypnotic and deliberate.”
Suicide Squad hits theaters on August 5th.