Jared Leto's acting methods on the set of Suicide Squad have become legend. We know that he stayed in character for most of the shoot. And that he sent his cast mates some very disgusting gifts, which included used condoms, dead animals, and sticky porno magazines. What we haven't heard about yet is the extensive research he did before climbing into the pale white skin of this madman. And this consisted of meeting with real-life murderers, psychos and psychotherapists.
In creating a new Joker for the big screen, Jared Leto is covering ground that has been well trotted on. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his performance as the clown prince of crime in The Dark Knight. And Jack Nicholson's turn as the DC Comics villain in 1989's Batman is iconic. Leto decided that he needed a deeper commitment to the character than has ever been seen before. And that meant carousing down some depraved alleyways on his way to finding villain nirvana. About crafting a new Joker, director David Ayer had this to say.
"The Joker has a lot of different looks, sort of built from the looks throughout the history of DC Comics but with a new sort of flair and flavor on him so he does feel like a modern-day gangster, because... he's always been a gangster."
Finally having shaken off some of his Joker persona, Jared Leto allowed EW to speak with him about the character, which he still wears in the back of his psyche. Until now, Jared Leto hasn't publicly spoken out too much on his role. He wants to leave an air of mystery lingering around the performance. About making the character new for audiences again, he says this.
"We knew we had to strike new ground. There had been such great work that we knew we had to go in a different direction. So you had a kind of direction from the very beginning, knowing that you can't go that way, so you have to head this way. That was really helpful. But the Joker is fantastic because there are no rules. The Joker operates from instinct. David and I had conversations and I think he trusted that I was going to go out and experiment and explore and come back with something for him to continue the collaboration with. And it was nice to have that trust from him. He really let me lose and encouraged me. That was a priceless thing when you're working with a director to have that faith and trust."
Jared Leto goes onto describe the kinds of research that went into finding who this version of the Joker is. This is no longer a comic book character in the hands of this Oscar winning actor. No, he insists that this is one of the most realistic versions of the villain ever seen in any medium.
"He became a real person. I don't know if person is the right word. I think the Joker lives in between reality and another plane. Kind of a shaman in a way. It's a very intoxicating role to take on. You have permission to break rules and to challenge yourself and anyone around you in a really unique way. I first started at the beginning, educating myself, researching, reading as much as I could, going back to the source material. And then at a certain point, I knew I had to stop doing that. Because the Joker has been redefined, reinvented many times before. I think the fun thing about it is when people have done it in the past, there is some spirit of the Joker essence that they keep, but they either build upon something or tear something down and start again at the beginning. For me, I knew once I had gone through the process of educating myself, I had to throw everything away and start from the beginning and really build this from the ground up. It was a transformative process. There was a physical transformation. There was a physical conditioning. There are a lot of things [I did]. It's probably better to not get into it but to the Joker, violence is a symphony. This is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation. Those are the songs he sings and he is very in tune with what makes people tick. I did meet with people that were experts, doctors, psychiatrists that dealt with psychopaths and people who had committed horrendous crimes, and then I spent some time with those people themselves, people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time. I guess when you take on a role, any role, you become part detective, part writer, and for me that's my favorite time of the entire process, the discovering, the uncovering, and the building of a character. Yeah, it's really fun."
Jared Leto goes onto talk about the character as though he is a person removed from the actor himself. He insists that he wasn't present for the shoot. But that, depending on who you ask, The Joker did have a great sense of humor. The actor then went onto talk about the video he made, which was shown to the rest of the cast right before a big dead hog was dropped in the middle of the table at the script reading.
"I think in the beginning it was important to set up and define our relationship, so to speak. [laughs] There were a lot of things. It was fun. You've got to remember doing these things isn't just about the result, it's the process. It's working with Mr. Frost, who is the Joker's henchman. It's making the choice and the decision of how am I going to introduce the Joker to the very first people who will meet him. So it becomes an exercise as much for me as it is for anyone else. And it's as much about the process as it is about the results. How do you go about these sorts of things? How do you work with the people around you? It was a lot of fun. The attention to detail and the process that we went through helped to bring a life to the character for me. Those actions and those gestures-the joker loves a grand gesture. Those were really important. And they were fun. The Joker is someone who doesn't take things too seriously."
Jared Leto is asked where he got the dead pig. He won't reveal that secret. He wants to stay focused on the task at hand, and that's making everyone believe The Joker exists. He goes onto reveal that the new look for the Joker was a collaborative process between himself and director David Ayer. He goes onto say that he made the movie crew extremely happy, which in turn made him happy. Even if he had to cut some of their tongues out.