The dark side of protraying the clown prince of crime
The Joker is a dark and unstable character that has no limits to his depravity. To portray a disturbed and unbalanced murderer do you have to remove your own conscious and explore an unthinkable side to your personality you never wanted to acknowledge before or even knew existed?
With Jared Leto’s portrayal of the mindless jokester ready to hit theatres in August with Suicide Squad, how did the Thirty Seconds to Mars singer get into the state of mind to portray a psychopathic clown who relishes in the pain and suffering of others?
Based solely on the trailers, it’s abundantly clear that Leto’s take on the character will remain the sadistic and flamboyant character that we have come to expect, complete with all new tattoos and metal teeth. And just like Heath Ledger before him, Jared’s erratic behaviour and antics raised the eyebrows of a few of his colleagues, such as sending his co-stars used condoms while on set: “I did a lot of things to create dynamic, to create an element of surprise, a spontaneity and to really break down any kind of walls that may be there. The Joker is somebody who doesn’t really respect things like personal space or boundaries.”
Adam Beach, who plays Slipknot in the highly anticipated action flick, recalled how Leto gave one cast member ‘’a nice love letter with a black box with a live rat in it” According to Beach other disturbing gifts received by cast members from Leto included bullets, anal beads and a carcass of a dead hog with a video message. “The video he showed is in character. It blew our minds away. Then we realised that day, this is real.” Beach explained.
The Academy Award winning actor is known for his realistic approach when it comes to playing different characters and he has proved it before while playing a transgender woman in the film Dallas Buyers Club. However, he thinks the Joker is not someone who can exist in reality. Hence, he had to read literature on shamanism to get into the character.
Leto stated: “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.”
“The Joker is fantastic because there are no rules. The Joker operates from instinct,” Leto spoke of the artistic freedom of portraying someone so carefree yet devious, “I knew I had to be committed as much as possible. I had to be committed beyond belief. And I did what I needed to do to deliver the best I possibly could,” he added.
And finally in a fitting tribute to the men who played the part before him, Leto was quoted as saying that jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger would “approve” of his performance. Leto continued: “We walked in a completely new direction. I think we knew that we had to do that. It was important to do that. When the Joker has been done and done so well, it gives you a bit of an indication of where you shouldn’t go. There’s a bit of a map there. That’s the good part about it.”
Leto ended by saying: “Joker has been written about in pop culture for 75 years. I’m just the latest in the long list of people who have redefined and reinvented this character. The actors, the voice actors, the television series, the writers, the artists and the fans. People have taken the Joker and reinvented and redefined for 75 years. It is really special to be asked to do that.”
Is the curse of the Joker simply superstition and coincidence or is it something more deep rooted? Is there emotional attachment from playing someone so tangled and elaborate? What are the psychology effects of having gone to the darkened planes of the mind of a grinning homicidal manic? To play the part of a deranged killer one moment and go home to your wife and children in the evening, surly the erratic behaviour of pretending to be a smiling lunatic must mentally be exhausting. To then kiss your wife goodnight and wipe away the white makeup before tucking into bed for the night must be a difficult translation, even for a professional actor. From insane to mundane in a blink of an eye. How can you go back to being normal when you have travelled to the edge of insanity and back?
The joker in a pack of cards is different from everyone else. He’s not a club, diamond, heart, or spade. He’s not an eight or a nine, a king or a jack. He is an outsider. He is placed in the same pack as the other cards, but he doesn’t belong there. Therefore, he can be removed without anybody missing him. But what if you have ventured too far into the darkness to ever truly escape the shadows? He who laughs last laughs seems to laugh the loudest.