The actor, entrepreneur and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman chats about taking on one of film history’s most iconic roles.
This weekend, one of the summer’s last real tentpoles Suicide Squad is arriving in theaters featuring a slew of new villains, but their ringleader is Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, brought to life by Jared Leto. The Oscar-winner spoke with GQ Style for their second-ever issue about what it took to become the notorious clown.
“I don’t remember much hesitation,” Leto said of deciding to play the maniacal comic book character. “I’m sure that I considered everything when I got the call. But let me say a few things… Heath Ledger: Not only was he perfect at the Joker––perfect. There’s not a single frame where he’s not great. Not only was he perfect in that role, but it’s probably one of the best performances, not just of a villain but maybe one of the best performances on film, period. Period.”
After accepting the role, Leto decided to do a number of things in order to prepare and admitted that it was not an easy frame of mind to explore.
“There was a point where I was researching violence and was watching a lot of things that…things that it’s arguable if anybody should even see,” he said. “And I noticed that started to have an impact on me that I didn’t like, so I stopped. It starts to just get inside of you, violence and some of those things. But you know, I’ve made some pretty dark films.”
Despite the harrowing experience of taking on the persona of a violent, psychotic criminal, Leto also said that the Joker has a magnetism and a freedom that always connects with fans and viewers.
“He loves to push buttons. He loves to create energy. Any kind of energy. When I was on set, I think everybody in the crew was really happy to see the Joker again when he came back out. Because he’s a lot of fun to be around and to watch. You never know what he’s going to do next. He’s so spontaneous, and has no rules, that it was nice to entertain the troops, so to speak.”
During production, Leto earned a reputation for giving his co-stars some grotesque and unforgettable gifts. For instance, he had a pig carcass delivered to the cast during a script read-through, Will Smith was sent some bullets, and to Margot Robbie, who plays his equally-demented on-screen love interest Harley Quinn, he sent a live rat. When asked were procured the rodent, Leto mentioned the city that came to inspire Gotham, the Joker’s fictional stomping ground.
“Well, in New York, you’re never farther than three feet from a rat. There are rats everywhere, man. You want a rat, I can get you a rat. There are harder things to get!”
Head on over to GQ Style to read more…