Jared Leto Discusses Filling Heath Ledger’s Shoes As The Joker

‘It's one of the best performances ever in cinema’

Of all the wild, menacing supervillains featured in the upcoming Suicide Squad, The Joker is arguably the most iconic. But given that the character was last portrayed by the late Heath Ledger — who won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in The Dark Knight — it may have also been the most difficult role to pull off.

In a new Rolling Stone cover story, Jared Leto admits Ledger’s heralded performance as the Clown Prince of Crime meant he had big shoes to fill.

“Heath did an impeccable, perfect performance as the Joker,” Leto said. “It’s one of the best performances ever in cinema. I had met Heath before. I didn’t know him well, but he was a beautiful person.”

However, Ledger was far from the first person to adapt the character, and Leto says he felt comforted knowing that several others — like Jack Nicholson in 1989’s Batman — have put their own spin on the classic villain.

“I think had it only been portrayed by Heath and it was never a comic book, maybe I would have felt that would be inappropriate," Leto said. "But I thought that given the history, it was OK. The good thing about other people having done this is that you know what direction not to head in.”

By now, we all have at least an inking of what that “direction” was for Leto. He further told RS that he prepped for the role by watching countless YouTube videos of real-life “violent crimes.” And to hear the cast tell it, Leto was quite the idiosyncratic presence on set, sending them disgusting gifts and never spending a moment out of character. You know, classic Joker oddities.

See the fruits of Leto’s labor when Suicide Squad hits theaters August 6.