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Jared Leto Reportedly Tried To Sabotage Joaquin Phoenix's Joker Movie

This Joker star may have had a serious case of jealousy. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jared Leto, who portrayed the Joker in 2016's Suicide Squad, reportedly attempted to sabotage director Todd Phillips' standalone Joker movie, which stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. 

The outlet cites anonymous sources that claim Leto was so hurt by and frustrated over the news that Warner Bros. was moving ahead with another Joker film that wasn't going to feature him as the infamous DC Comics baddie that he tried to kill the film before it officially got off the ground. Insiders with information about the situation and whom THR claims are "familiar with Leto's behavior" have indicated that Leto lodged bitter complaints to his agents at the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles — the same company that represents Joker director Phillips — after learning of the rival project. 

Leto is said to have asked his agents at CAA to stop Joker from getting made, allegedly claiming that the mere existence of the project was something of a slap in the face. The actor, who won an Academy Award for his work in Dallas Buyers Club, reportedly argued that "he wasn't being treated properly as an Oscar winner."

Additionally, Leto allegedly asked his music manager Irving Azoff, an entertainment executive who at the time managed Leto's band 30 Seconds to Mars, to contact "the leader" of Warner Bros.' parent company. It's unclear whether Leto requested Azoff to call Jeff Bewkes at Time Warner or Randall Stephenson at AT&T, as both were head honchos at the time. Regardless, the alleged reason behind Leto's inquiry to Azoff was to "get Warners to kill the Phillips film."

It's also been reported that Warner Bros. executives were "nervous" about Joker, given its dark tone and gritty, more violent approach to the eponymous comic book character's origin. The studio gave the project the greenlight nonetheless, but approved a budget of only $55 million — a sum that's small in comparison to other comic book movies and a budget that some people at Warner Bros. were reportedly hoping would frustrate Phillips and cause him to abandon the project altogether. Of course, we know that didn't end up happening. 

A source of Leto's has denied that the actor ever tried to sabotage the Phoenix-Phillips Joker movie, while Azoff, who no longer works with Leto, declined to provide a comment when THR reached out. 

The consequences of Jared Leto's behavior

Word of Jared Leto reportedly trying to kill the recently released Joker film comes shortly after The Hollywood Reporter claimed that the actor was "alienated and upset" upon hearing the news that the project got the greenlight. Leto reportedly also felt that Warner Bros. had been teasing him with the promise of his own standalone movie, and was hurt that a different actor received one instead. 

Now, it seems that the studio may not have been serious about putting together a solo Joker film starring Leto, as sources close to the production of Suicide Squad have noted that Warner Bros. "wasn't thrilled" with Leto's behavior prior to and during the shooting of that movie. Leto took an unorthodox approach to getting into character for Suicide Squad — which included sending a live rat to Harley Quinn actress Margot Robbie, gifting Deadshot actor Will Smith a love letter and a bunch of bullets, and bringing a dead hog to rehearsal. His terrifying efforts really weren't worth it in the end, as Leto's Joker was little more than a cameo in Suicide Squad. Another source has claimed that Leto tried to "'invent' a place for himself" in the film, which was "never really his movie," and it all backfired. 

Whatever caused Warner Bros. to back away from a Leto-led Joker movie and prioritize Phillips' project instead, we can't say for certain, but it seems clear that Leto didn't like how things played out. 

Though his alleged attempts to foil Joker were ultimately unsuccessful, his purported agony over the flick may have had a positive outcome: Leto and CAA are through. Sources close to THR have claimed that Leto was unhappy with the way his agents handled delivering to him the news of Phillips' Joker movie, feeling that he should have been told sooner and that his agents should have made a better effort to convince Warner Bros. to go through with his standalone Joker film. THR claims that the relationship between Leto and his CAA team of agents (of which he had four throughout his time with the company) grew so strained that there was "little love for the actor there" toward the end. Leto ultimately parted ways with CAA in the summer of 2019, joining WME instead. 

It would be easy to argue that Leto's reported unhappiness over Joker may have been a factor in him leaving CAA, but a source of Leto's claims that the two competing Joker projects didn't motivate his decision. A representative of Leto's also notes that the actor has a strong relationship with Warner Bros. as well.

Sadly for Leto, sources have indicated to THR that the actor's time as the Joker is probably over for good. He isn't included in Birds of Prey — which centers on Joker's ex-flame Harley Quinn, played opposite Leto in Suicide Squad by Margot Robbie — and is likely not going to be a part of the upcoming Suicide Squad reboot-slash-sequel directed by James Gunn. The filmmaker himself recently said that he doesn't think it would be strange for Leto's Joker to not be in the film, "as he isn't a part of the Suicide Squad in the comics." 

Ironically, the biggest reason why Leto's Joker days could be done is exactly the thing that the actor allegedly wanted to prevent happening at all: Joaquin Phoenix's performance was just too good. Insiders have claimed that there's a question of how Leto could ever follow up Phoenix with the version of Joker he presented in Suicide Squad after Phoenix gave what many feel is an Oscar-worthy turn in Joker. "It kind of ends his Joker run," the source said. 

For his benefit, hopefully Leto can find a way to reprise his role as Joker — preferably without any live rats, dead hogs, or forehead tattoos involved.