Playing the Joker is becoming a monumental achievement for elite actors as the character has now been played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix among others. Ledger and Phoenix provided acting performances for the ages and took the role to dark places not yet seen on screen. Ledger in particular took the role to absurd heights after his tragic overdose prior to the release of ‘The Dark Knight‘ in 2008. His death was ruled an accidental overdose on sleeping medications, something he had been taking as a result of sleep deprivation from the role. As sad as it sounds, Ledger’s death only added to the hype around the film and his acting performance, which would have gone down in history no matter what.
So given all that, it is no surprise that Jared Leto wanted his joker to be compared with Ledger’s. Suicide Squad came out before 2019’s Joker, so the opportunity was there. Leto’s character was marketed as a new slant but with the same dark, twisted method acting that Ledger had to endure. Producers referred to “how terrifying it was” when they would talk to Leto on set only to realize that they were actually having a conversation with “Mr. J.”, something Leto made his co-stars call him at all times.
Leto sent a live rat to Margot Robbie and a dead pig to cast members because, reasons. He allegedly never broke character during filming and was described as tough to work with by his co-workers.
But it’s all good though, right? It’s just method acting. Leto had enormous shoes to fill and if audiences were going to get another legendary Joker role, this stuff had to go on. Or did it, because ultimately, what even is the point of any of this? How does sending a dead pig to the cast make someone a good actor or bring them to dark places needed for a role? It doesn’t. All these stunts did was lead to some cheap headlines about how Jared Leto is SO METHOD BRO and absurd talk of how he was going to top Ledger’s role.
Anything was possible, but for any of this to work, the movie has to not be a flaming pile of garbage. Suicide Squad was built on a combination of star-power, iconic characters and ideas of a cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s only to completely bomb. The movie made no sense and much like Leto’s “method acting”, everything that went on in the movie seemed like it was done cheaply. They just slapped the DC label on a generic, CGI monstrosity and took the cash grab, which has been done countless times and will be done again.
What makes this disaster stand out, however, is Leto’s ridiculous Joker. They marketed this Soundcloud rapper looking Joker as the second coming of Heath Ledger’s twisted maniac who captivated audiences, and the failure is hilariously bad in hindsight. Had they just marketed this movie as any other film, nobody would have batted an eye at the shameless cash grab and Leto wouldn’t be mocked. Instead Leto and the film’s marketing team built this character up, and it failed in epic fashion.
This whole thing is like a real life version of Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder, and nobody involved picked up on it.
But, oh well. 2019’s film directed by Todd Phillips is an absolute masterpiece that has received critical acclaim. Phoenix’s performance is on par with Ledger’s and was everything Leto’s Joker wanted to be. Unlike Leto, Phoenix and Ledger were described as pleasures to work with by their co-stars. It turns out that method acting and staying in character can be done in a professional manner that makes sense. Who would have thought?
Jared Leto really thought his character was going to top Heath Ledger just because he sent Margot Robbie a live rat. So powerful and thought provoking!