Aka: Mr. J
Played by: Jared Leto
“I was just thinking,” says Jared Leto at the start of his phone conversation with Empire, “that the Joker would probably just say, ‘Fuck you,’ and hang up.” Fortunately, Leto is not the Joker. At least, not right now. It’s already the stuff of legend, how the actor became Mr. J throughout the six-month Suicide Squad shoot. He sent bullets to Will Smith, a rat to Margot Robbie, a dead hog to the crew. He assigned Jim Parrack, the actor playing henchman Jonny Frost, random errands at all hours, including spray- painting roses black and filling a backpack with nine-inch nails. And he never once broke character, prompting Smith to tell us, “I’ve literally never met Jared.”
“There was definitely a period of... detachment,” Leto reflects. It’s his very first interview about the role and we’ve caught him on tour with his band Thirty Seconds To Mars. Which explains his unexpected location: Greece, wandering the Acropolis at 11pm local time. “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 prick-hole.”
Spending night after night alone, Leto listened to gospel music from the 1920s (“I always get the sense that the Joker may be much older than people think”) and read literature on shamans. His take on the clown (tattooed, with Orville-green hair) is a live-wire nutjob. “It’s something different,” he promises. “If you don’t break rules, you’re not going to strike new ground.”
We ask if all this Method Joking requires a cooling-down period. There’s a quick burst of laughter — from Leto, Joker, or both. “I think I’ll be cooling down for the rest of my life.”
Origins: He's the one character in the film who doesn’t need an introduction as he’s been a pop cultural icon since Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane brought him to cackling life as Batman’s primary antagonist in 1940. He’s possibly the most famous comic book villain out there, appearing on TV and whenever Bats has hit the big screen. In the past, the likes of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger have played him, and Leto has a lot to live up to embodying the Clown Prince of Crime, the Jester of Genocide, the Harlequin of Hate, and the Ace of Knaves. He’s usually seen first as a criminal (in the comics, one named Red Hood) who falls into a vat of chemicals that bleaches his skin, colours his hair and renders him insane. It’s unlikely that will be explored here, as, like Ledger before him, Leto’s Joker appears to be fully formed when we meet him. The Joker isn't a member of the squad itself but rather an inmate at Arkham Asylum that early drafts of the script had Harley Quinn trying to break out.
Read our exhaustive Suicide Squad guide here.