Fan theories abound about how his turn at playing Joker pushed Heath Ledger into a spiral of depression and drugs that ultimately led to his suicide. While nothing was ever proved, we have the word of the present incumbent in the role, Oscar Award winner Jared Leto, that there is a “period of detachment”.
After teasing fans with close-ups of his green-haired, paler-than-chalk and tattooed Joker in Suicide Squad, Leto finally posed for Empire magazine in the complete get-up of clown prince of crime. Gone is Ledger’s rumpled jacket or Jack Nicholson’s tailored suits, this Joker thinks psychedelic. A purple crocodile skin coat and Arkham Asylum sweat pants just look right with neon green hair and his tattoos. But the real takeway from the poster, that describes his as psycho and killer, is his creepy expression.
Leto also said that he went full-tilt nuts for the role, going to the extent of victimising his Suicide Squad colleagues. Joker henchman Johnny Frost, got the worst of it, as Leto would randomly call him during the day demanding he spray paint some roses black or fill a backpack with nine inch nails.
Margot Robbie, who plays The Joker’s girlfriend and super-villain Harley Quinn in the film, received a love letter from him with a live black rat. Will Smith, who plays Deadshot, got a bullet. He even sent a dead hog to the grew with a video letter of himself in character.
He slipped out of his character for the Empire interview, but just about. “I was just thinking that the Joker would probably just say, ‘F*ck you,’ and hang up,” he said before talking.
The actor said he read up on shamans and listened to 1920s gospel music to prepare for the role. The after effects were not pretty. “There was definitely a period of…detachment. I took a pretty deep dive. But this was a unique opportunity and I couldn’t imagine doing it another way. It was fun, playing those psychological games. But at the same time it was very painful, like giving birth out of my pr*ck hole.”
He also shed some light on Joker. According to Leto, he is an old soul. “I always get the sense that The Joker may be much older than people think. It’s something different. If you don’t break rules, you’re not going to strike new ground.”
And just how will he break out of character now that the film has wrapped up? “I think I’ll be cooling down for the rest of my life.”