The Joker isn’t the modern prototypical villain for nothing. He’s scary, sadistic, manic, and usually funny all at once. It takes someone who can inhabit that myriad of elements to form the character’s personality and bring it to life. These aspects of the character are what make the Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger incarnations stand out the most. There exists a darkness within him, which collides with his brand of jovial chaos, that only few who have taken on the Clown’s mantle have been able to perfectly embody. Jared Leto seems to be another such actor.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Leto spoke of how in preparing for the role, he discovered reading and research wasn’t merely enough. He needed first-hand experience that could only be acquired by visiting a mental institution and meeting with doctors and their patients.
“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.”
When asked what he specifically did, the following was Leto’s response.
“There are a lot of things. It’s probably better to not get into it but to the Joker, violence is a symphony. This is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation. Those are the songs he sings and he is very in tune with what makes people tick. I did meet with people that were experts, doctors, psychiatrists that dealt with psychopaths and people who had committed horrendous crimes, and then I spent some time with those people themselves, people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time. I guess when you take on a role, any role, you become part detective, part writer, and for me that’s my favorite time of the entire process, the discovering, the uncovering, and the building of a character. Yeah, it’s really fun.”
Anyone else get goosebumps while reading his comments? Jared Leto speaks about his craft so elegantly that it’s almost as fascinating as his actual work. No wonder he was chosen to don the green hair and that horrifying red smile.
Suicide Squad arrives in theaters on August 5.
Images: Warner Bros.