Jared Leto Finally Chats About Playing the Joker for ‘Suicide Squad’

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The Oscar winner spoke about the challenge of reinventing the iconic villain.

How do you take on a role that’s already been performed by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger? When Jared Leto agreed to play the Joker in Suicide Squad, he decided to immerse himself both in the lore of Batman’s nemesis, as well as the criminal mind in order to create something special.

“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,” the acclaimed actor told Entertainment Weekly for their Summer Preview Issue. Because the prestigious role has such a history of incredible performances, Leto decided he had to fully commit to the maniacal character, reading everything he could find and even meeting some hardened criminals as part of his research.

“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,” Leto said. “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.”

As we’ve previously reported, the actor sent a number of disturbing gifts to his castmates during the filming process, including sending a terrifying messenger to deliver a pig carcass to the rest of the cast during a read-through. Leto explained that from the get-to, he had to approach this role like never before, and establish a unique rapport with the rest of the cast.

“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.”

The 30 Seconds to Mars frontman also spoke about the creative freedom of playing such a dastardly character. “He became a real person,” Leto said. “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.”

The Summer Preview Issue of Entertainment Weekly is currently on newsstands.