Jared Leto Talks Pressure of Following Heath Ledger's "Perfect Performance" as The Joker

"It's one of the best performances ever in cinema," the 'Suicide Squad' star told Rolling Stone about the late actor's Oscar-winning part in Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight.'
Warner Bros./Photofest
Jared Leto (left) and Heath Ledger

Jared Leto admits he had big shoes to fill when he signed on to play the role of The Joker in David Ayer's upcoming Suicide Squad, a part that had last been played by the late Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight.

Ledger, who died of an accidental prescription drug overdose shortly after the movie was filmed, won a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor.

Covering Rolling Stone's latest issue, singer-turned-actor Leto lauded Ledger's portrayal of clown prince of crime as an "impeccable, perfect performance" and discussed the hesitation he initially faced in being the next actor to try to perfect the villain's maniac laugh.

"It's one of the best performances ever in cinema," he told the magazine of Ledger. "I had met Heath before. I didn't know him well, but he was a beautiful person."

Leto shared that he was comforted in knowing that The Joker had a long history in the DC comic books and been played by other actors (Jack Nicholson, Cesar Romero) before Ledger's pivotal turn in Dark Knight

"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."

The Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman revealed that he went to extreme lengths to get into character, going so far as to watch real-life violent crimes on YouTube.

"The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence," he said. "There's a lot you can learn from seeing it. Not every act of violence is committed with frenzy, either. I remember learning that. People can be calm."

He continued to explain: "They've made their choice and go and do something, and it's not in a frenzy. It's methodical and sometimes even hypnotic and deliberate."

Leto's Joker makes his big screen debut in Suicide Squad on Aug. 5.

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