Yes, another Jared Leto/Joker story. Much has already been written about the Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club actor and his new iteration of The Joker coming to screens in writer/director David Ayer’s villain-centric DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad later this year. Of course this was inevitable with a character as iconic as The Joker, and coming off a portrayal as singular as Heath Ledger’s turn. But Leto’s iteration of the character has also gained traction for his unique—and sometimes off-color—process. Leto is a method actor by trade, and going into Suicide Squad he operated much the same way he does on his other films, although this time he was stepping into the skin of a homicidal psychopath.
We’ve heard stories about Leto sending his castmates weird gifts and not breaking character on set, but we haven’t heard a ton from Leto himself. With Batman v Superman behind us, however, that’s about to change, and during a recent interview with EW, Leto spoke pretty candidly about his iteration of The Joker and his process to bring him to life. To begin, Leto and Ayer acknowledged that in order to step out of the shadow of past portrayals, they had to find a wholly new approach:
“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.”
Ayer let Leto go off and experiment and explore and then come back to continue their collaboration, but to begin with Leto likened the character to someone who doesn’t exist in a normal reality:
“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.”
In terms of research, Leto dove deep into the comics but then, after a time, opted to move beyond the source material:
“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.”