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James Gunn Reveals Why Leto's Joker Won't Be In The Suicide Squad

Writer/director James Gunn's upcoming soft reboot The Suicide Squad will likely be missing the original's most divisive element.

In a recent Q&A conducted on Instagram, Gunn appeared to shoot down the idea of Jared Leto's Joker appearing in his film in response to a question from a fan. The question: "How can you justify a Suicide Squad movie that does not have Joker in it?" (via ComicBookMovie.com)

While Gunn did not flat-out state that the character wouldn't appear in his flick, his response certainly seemed to indicate that he considered the Joker to be an unnecessary addition — while also demonstrating his familiarity with the comics, for good measure. "No one but me and a few others know all the characters in the movie," Gunn wrote, "but if the Joker isn't in the film, I don't think it would be strange as he isn't a part of the Suicide Squad in the comics."

Hey, now that he mentions it, that's absolutely correct, and it's the reason why some fans were puzzled at the character's inclusion in the original 2016 film in the first place. In case the brouhaha over Leto's interpretation of the character escaped you (or in case you just blocked it from your memory), the version of the Clown Prince of Crime presented in director David Ayer's Suicide Squad was just a bit different from the cinematic depictions of the past, and most DC die-hards agreed that it was not in a good way.

Leto's Joker's pasty white face and slicked-back, bright green hair were about the only facets of the character's physical appearance that the flick got right. The platinum grill and tattoos — including "HAHAHAHA" on his left shoulder and "Damaged" rendered in cursive on his forehead — made many fans see red when the Joker's look was revealed in advance of the film's release, and Leto's hyper-stylized, weirdly off-putting performance did little to quell their anger when it hit theaters.

Gunn's principal cast could already fill a good-sized bus; it was revealed last month with the release of a one-sheet that included a whopping 24 names, featuring both new and returning cast members. At this late juncture, it seems pretty unlikely that Gunn will sneak Leto into the film, and this latest comment all but confirms the fact that The Suicide Squad will leave the actor's version of the Joker out in the cold.

Will we ever see Jared Leto's Joker onscreen again?

Despite the extremely mixed reception to Leto's Joker — hey, some fans really dug him, and that's fine — Suicide Squad made enough bank that a solo vehicle for the character and a team-up with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn were briefly put into development. Both of those projects, however, were unceremoniously axed earlier this year — and that's not even the strongest indication that Warner Brothers has completely soured on Leto's version of the Joker.

Consider that the trailer for the upcoming Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) makes it clear that, especially as far as Harley is concerned, "Mr. J" is out of the picture. Heck, in the spot's opening seconds, Harley states flatly, "The Joker and I broke up," and the entire film — as evidenced by its title — looks to be revolving around Harley embracing her newfound freedom away from the influence of her tattooed, grill-sporting former beau.

There's also the fact that the standalone, Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker, released earlier this month, is making absolutely all of the money and has practically guaranteed its star a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Now, to be clear, writer/director Todd Phillips purposefully positioned Joker outside the continuity of the previous "Worlds of DC" movies, and he's also said that — while it's not completely out of the question — he never conceived the flick as one that would require a sequel.

While it's safe to say that Phoenix's version of the Joker is going to remain strictly its own thing, that doesn't mean that Leto was thrilled about Phillips' film. Recent reports have indicated that the actor felt "alienated and upset" by the fact that the movie was even put into development, and its ridiculous success and domination of the pop culture conversation this fall probably don't have him feeling any better about the whole thing.

At this point, it's not clear that Leto would return to the role even if he were asked — and it's also worth mentioning that during the time his DC projects were in a holding pattern, he went and scored himself another high profile superhero gig with the competition. He'll appear as the titular Living Vampire in next year's Morbius from Sony and Marvel, which will be the second film on the former's Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (or SUMC, if you're into the whole brevity thing). 

If that film even approaches the box office heights of the franchise's first effort — the Tom Hardy starrer Venom, which clocked over $850 million dollars at the worldwide box office — then the Morbius gig could become a recurring one for Leto. Heck, if Sony and Marvel Studios continue to play as nice as they have been in the last month or so, he could even find himself facing off with Tom Holland's wildly popular Spider-Man — and if he does join that guy's rogues' gallery, it'd probably take more money than Warner Bros. would ever be willing to pay to get him back into the neon green hair and Joker-themed tattoos.

In any event, it's beginning to look more and more like Leto's Joker will end up as a one-and-done, which will suit most fans just fine. There's a reason why Warner Bros. and DC sought out Gunn to bring The Suicide Squad to the screen — the guy knows what audiences want, and just as importantly, what they don't.

The Suicide Squad hits the big screen on August 6, 2021.