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Suicide Squad: Jared Leto's Joker is no laughing matter

The actor takes his version of the iconic villain to new extremes

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Clay Enos

Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad is different than any we’ve seen before — less theatrical than Jack Nicholson, more unhinged than Heath Ledger — but no less psychotic. Despite all his power, this Clown Prince of Crime is having difficulty reuniting with true love Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) — a split that has left him agitated and… well, quite sad.

For Leto, the role was no laughing matter. “You’re kind of walking upon hallowed ground, and it deserves the very best that you can do,” the Oscar winner says. “It takes over your life and that’s what I needed to do for myself.”

He took over the movie in a way, too, sending a live rat to Robbie (nicknamed Rat Rat) and a dead hog for the entire squad. The entire process was something director David Ayer can only describe as terrifying — from the stress surrounding the act of re-creating one of the most iconic cinematic villains to Leto’s unconventional methods. “As an actor, he’s flinging himself into the abyss on that one,” says Ayer. “And he was scary on set. He was intimidating. He’d show up and it was like, ‘Dude, you are f—-ing creepy.'”

The fun didn’t end when filming wrapped. For a parting gift, Leto gave his costars horrific end-of-production presents, including a boxful of nudie mags, a dildo, a switchblade, and a used condom. (Yes, really.)

They didn’t seem to mind.

“The wrap gift was his fun way of getting back at all of us,” says costar Karen Fukuhara, who portrays sword-wielding Katana. “I wanted to keep everything.”

To prepare for the role, Leto met with psychiatrists and their most damaged patients to understand the sociopath mindset. But in the end, he relied on instinct, just like the Joker would. “You don’t know what the Joker is going to do next; you never do,” says Leto. “It was intoxicating to have no rules.” 

For more on Suicide Squad, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, featuring four special covers of the cast, on newsstands Friday, or available at www.ew.com/suicidesquad — and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.