Joker is easily the most popular Batman villain in the mainstream. Out of all of the Batman villains, he’s had the most incarnations in live-action films. Thus far, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jared Leto have played the titular villain. You can also add Cameron Monaghan’s version from the DC Gotham show to the list. In retrospect, Heath Ledger’s Joker never got his proper end as the actor, unfortunately, passed away; It’s completely understood that Nolan opted to veer away from the villain following the tragic death of Ledger despite original calls seeing the famed villain making his return in the third and final entry of the series. However, only Jared Leto got the short end of the stick when it comes to playing the iconic character. Leto was heavily advertised to the point where it appeared that he would be one of the main characters of the David Ayer film. However, Joker was only in Suicide Squad for less than ten minutes.
Now, this is a situation where it sounds as if politics came into play. Leto himself has said that he shot an incredible amount of footage for the character, though reports have claimed several different reasons why Leto’s appearance is so small. Some say that Ayer himself was unhappy with his performance. The director has denied these claims. Another reasoning is reportedly due to Warner Brothers being dissatisfied with the Oscar winner’s behavior on set. Leto is a method actor and his antics onset involved giving his co-star’s gifts, such as a live rat to Margot Robbie and bullets to Will Smith. He also sent dead pigs to the “Suicide Squad” ensemble cast during rehearsal. Warner Brothers has never confirmed this claim but given the fact that the studio instantly moved on from Jared Leto’s version of Joker then it wouldn’t be shocking if this was the true reason why.
This article isn’t a call for another Joker solo film. The Joaquin Phoenix version of the character is great and there’s no point in muddying the timeline of the DC universe even further. However, there’s still one aspect that the live-action films have failed to truly explore: the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship. Yes, it will create a dent in the DC timeline because a deeper focus on different Joker, but Warner Brothers has made it clear that they aren’t interested in continuing on with Zack Snyder’s vision, so it wouldn’t be much harm if one more story came out of that world. Now granted, Leto does come across as he’s acting at certain points in the film and that stupid damaged tattoo and on-the-nose dialogue only hampered his character, but the actor showed promise as Joker and certainly didn’t deserve the Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actor nomination. Going back to Harley Quinn and Joker, the dynamic between the two characters is why the former became one of the biggest names in the DC universe in the first place. When Leto made his Joker return in Zack Synder’s Justice League, it was confirmed that Quinn was dead. Warner Brothers is actually leaving money on the table by not diving deep into the troubled and toxic relationship of the two famed villains. In Justice League, Leto proved that he could have the chops to play the Joker character if given something meaty to work with. The Suicide Squad stuff was just the barebones of a relationship that was barely developed. Joker seemed more of a gangster in the David Ayer film, which is actually an interesting departure of the character. He’s still crazy, but a gangster-type Joker in a live-action film opens up fresh stories for the well-known villain. Plus, we can finally see how Robin died. We’ve already seen the aftermath of their relationship, what’s the harm of exploring the roots of what caused their dramatic split?
Obviously, money would be the harm here. Suicide Squad was a massive success as it made over $700 million worldwide at the box office, but anything Harley Quinn related has bombed following her introduction in the 2016 feature. However, Joker has continuously proved to be a massive success when it comes to the box office. His solo feature made over $1 billion at the box office. Granted, that was a different version, but there’s no denying the popularity of the character. There are so many intriguing layers surrounding Jared Leto’s Joker that it would be a shame if his final performance was Justice League. He actually seemed to be a changed man in the Zack Synder version. Gone were the hideous tattoos and that version was more in vain of the traditional character. How did he get to that point? Of course, it could be a simple explanation that Synder just didn’t like the way Ayer transformed the classic Batman villain, but it still created an interesting layer that could be explored. Jared Leto deserves a real opportunity at being the Joker. He’ll likely never get it, which is a shame as Warner Brothers is probably leaving a huge amount of money on the table.