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Jared Leto Now Holds This Record For The Joker

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The Joker is a character that's been reinvented by some of Hollywood's most celebrated actors for decades — from Jack Nicholson's cartoonish take on the evil-doer in Tim Burton's classic Batman, to Heath Ledger's iconic, dark portrayal of the troubled villain in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, to Joaquin Phoenix's bleak and realist interpretation in Todd Phillips' recent Joker. Then there's Jared Leto's Clown Prince of Crime. Leto took on the role in David Ayer's 2016 film Suicide Squad, and has now become the first actor to get a second chance at playing Batman's sworn enemy in a live-action movie thanks to Zack Snyder's Justice League

That's right: With the long-asked-for Snyder Cut of Justice League, Leto has broken the record for number of times an actor has played the Joker in a live-action film. No other actor before him has ever done that twice (though Mark Hamill has voiced the character in a handful of animated films, so Leto's still beat in that regard). 

Released in March on HBO Max, the Snyder Cut orders up a second serving of Leto's Joker, albeit with a few adjustments. The film gave Snyder the opportunity to take back the reins of the 2017 film finished (some would say "ruined") by Joss Whedon. What he's delivered is a mammoth 242-minute movie tailor-made to the director's wishes — including the controversial inclusion of Leto himself. But Leto's presence in the film was far from a given. Here's how Leto's terrifying Joker came to grace — or rather, disgrace — our screens once again.

Zack Snyder lobbied the studio for more of Jared Leto's Joker

As it turns out, the Snyder Cut ended up being a comeback film for both Snyder and Leto. After Snyder left the production of 2017's Justice League following the death of his daughter Autumn, the studio turned it over to Joss Whedon, stripping away nearly all of Snyder's original vision. The film was not very well received, and from that mass of disappointment a fan campaign was born. That fan campaign would ultimately yield the four-hour Snyder Cut of Justice League that we're all enjoying from the comfort of our couches right now.

While all this was going on, Leto's Joker from 2016's Suicide Squad wasn't getting the respect the method actor had hoped for (with some even calling for his summary dismissal from the DCEU). The film itself was widely panned, with the actor's interpretation of the role seen as an absurd and thuggish caricature "too creepy for compassion." While Heath Ledger was certainly a hard act to follow — the actor posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 for his Joker — some fans believed Leto deserved a second shot at the role. 

Suicide Squad director David Ayer did, as well. In 2020, Ayer tweeted, "My heart breaks for Jared – he did magnificent work. Most of it remains unseen." Later, referring to the editing process undertaken by Warner Bros., Ayer doubled back on his sentiments, saying, "Jared was pretty mistreated during this. No one has seen his performance. It was ripped out of the movie." 

It's understandable then, that Snyder and his wife Deborah, who also served as a producer on Justice League, had to lobby to include Leto's Joker in his cut of Justice League. As Deborah Snyder explained to The Hollywood Reporter, they weren't sure how the idea would go over with studio heads. "At first, it was like 'No,' and then it was like, 'Well, maybe,' and then Zack was like, 'Do you want to see the scene that I worked on?'"

What's different about Jared Leto's two Jokers?

It's clear both Leto and Snyder took a cue from the Suicide Squad criticism and decided to tone down Leto's look for The Snyder Cut. Leto, like all of the other actors who've played the Joker, is an Academy Award-winning actor, clearly capable of taking the role in a variety of directions. This time, he brought the character to a darker, more subdued place.

While the Joker of Suicide Squad was decked out with short, neon green hair, flashy grills on his teeth, and a body covered in loud tattoos, Justice League's Joker displays a quieter energy, emanating a sadness similar to Ledger and Phoenix's performances that some are comparing to Brandon Lee in The Crow. His hair is now long and a darker green than it once was, and his tattoos have somehow disappeared.

Leto called his new character "an evolution," telling Stephen Colbert, "Certainly different directors, when you collaborate with somebody ... they bring out a different side."

While the meeting between Batman, played by Ben Affleck, and Joker, was one of the most highly anticipated moments of Snyder's film, it turns out that the two actors didn't even get to be in the same room during filming.

"The crazy thing is they were not on set together," Deborah Snyder explained to IGN. "We had to shoot them separately. We had this ticking clock and we had to get that scene shot because it had such extensive visual effects but all of the actors' schedules didn't align." Ultimately, according to Deborah Snyder, they got the go-ahead from the studio to include the additional scene. "It was something that Zack was like ... this is the end of our journey here. I really want to see Batman and Joker." 

Fans are equally thrilled that Leto got to make his comeback. "I've been saying since he was cast, that Jared Leto has potential to be an amazing Joker," @UsuallyRambling tweeted. "Thanks to the Snyder Cut, we finally get to see what he can actually do with the character."