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Real Psychopaths Helped Jared Leto Become The Joker

Jared Leto’s Joker arrives in theatres this summer, just eight years after Heath Ledger’s iconic, Oscar-winning take on the character in The Dark Knight. Having recently won an Oscar himself (for his transformative performance in Dallas Buyers Club), Leto felt confident that he could handle the role, but he didn’t take this challenge lightly. “We knew we had to strike new ground,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “There had been such great work that we knew we had to go in a different direction. So you had a kind of direction from the very beginning, knowing that you can’t go that way, so you have to head this way. That was really helpful. But the Joker is fantastic because there are no rules.”

Leto acknowledges that his performance in Suicide Squad is the result of a close collaboration with director David Ayer (Fury), but he also had to spend many hours researching the character alone. “I first started at the beginning, educating myself, researching, reading as much as I could, going back to the source material,” he explained. “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.”

In order to find a unique take on the character, Leto took a dangerously close look at real psychopaths—and had a great time doing it. “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.”

Suicide Squad arrives in theatres on August 5. Get a load of Leto’s Joker in the trailer below.