The Joker Returns


On October 15th Warner Brothers Pictures and DC Comics announced their massive film slate for the next six years. Following the model of the Marvel Universe, Warner Bros. and DC will be unveiling two films each year, ranging from independent character films, such as ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘The Flash’, to ensemble epics like ‘Justice League’ and most interestingly, ‘Suicide Squad’.

In the comic book universe, ‘Suicide Squad’ is an antihero team of incarcerated supervillains, who commence a series of black ops missions for the government in exchange for shortened prison sentences. The Squad includes fan favourites such as Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn and the Joker.

As soon as the news dropped that Warner Bros. would be making a ‘Suicide Squad’ film, comic book lovers and cinephiles alike began to wonder if Warner would do the unthinkable and bring back the Joker, who seemed to be moving towards cinematic retirement after Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar win for The Dark Knight. It’s not that Ledger is the only person to ever play the Joker; Jack Nicholson famously portrayed the maniacal villain in Tim Burton’s original ‘Batman’. But Ledger brought the character to life with such brilliance and vibrancy that it seemed unlikely that any filmmaker would take the risk of dishonouring Ledger’s legacy by reincorporating the character.

In fact, reports have stated that the original script for Suicide Squad, written by Justin Marks, who wrote the never produced David Fincher ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ as well as the upcoming Jungle Book live action film, did not include the Joker. But once director David Ayer, whose recent film ‘Fury’ has impressed critics and audiences alike, came aboard, he requested that the character be rewritten into the film, partly due to the fact that Harley Quinn, the Joker’s comic book love interest, plays a major role in the film and will be portrayed by The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie.

Once reports of the Joker’s reincorporation hit the Internet, rumours began to swirl and opinions began to fly. And while people were certainly surprised to see that the Joker would return, just six years after Ledger’s rendition hit screens, there was little backlash, with a public response that verged more on intrigue than disgust.

The latest rumours surrounding the Joker’s casting have honed in on recent Oscar winner and 30 Seconds To Mars frontman, Jared Leto. Leto, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar alongside Matthew McConaughey in ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’, appears to be imminently close to taking on the role. His turn as the AIDS infected transvestite, Rayon, was revelatory for the actor, who had taken a four-year hiatus from acting to focus on his music. The role of Rayon featured Leto in heavy make-up, and his complete disappearance into the role tells me that he could be the guy to carry the torch from Heath Ledger’s memorable performance.

The Leto news comes with a rumour that he is the second choice for the part, after Warner Bros. tried and failed to bring Ryan Gosling on board. But Gosling, whose best roles in films like ‘Drive’ and ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ have featured him as a quiet, more reserved character, seems like less of a fit than Leto, whose magnetizing presence in ‘Dallas Buyers’ left audiences both entertained and heartbroken. If ‘Suicide Squad’, which already boasts the aforementioned Robbie and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, is able to bag Leto, as well as its other desired targets, Tom Hardy, Will Smith, and Jai Courtney, Warner Brothers could have a massive hit on their hands.