‘Suicide Squad’ Star Jared Leto Researched The Joker by Spending Time With Real-Life ‘Psychopaths’

“This is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation,” the actor says of his “Suicide Squad” character

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Jared Leto prepared for his role as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” by meeting with real-life psychopaths and their psychiatrists.

“This is someone who gets an extreme reward from the act of violence and manipulation,” Leto told Entertainment Weekly. “Those are the songs he sings and he is very in tune with what makes people tick. I did meet with people that were experts, doctors, psychiatrists that dealt with psychopaths and people who had committed horrendous crimes, and then I spent some time with those people themselves, people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time.”

“I guess when you take on a role, any role, you become part detective, part writer, and for me that’s my favorite time of the entire process, the discovering, the uncovering, and the building of a character,” he continued.

And Leto said he remained in character the entire time on set, playing pranks on his cast members and sending them a pig carcass, for example. Leto went above and beyond to make this iteration of the iconic Joker character different, a character for which the late Heath Ledger won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2009 for his portrayal in “The Dark Knight.”

“The Joker has been redefined, reinvented many times before,” he said. “I think the fun thing about it is when people have done it in the past, there is some spirit of the Joker essence that they keep, but they either build upon something or tear something down and start again at the beginning. For me, I knew once I had gone through the process of educating myself, I had to throw everything away and start from the beginning and really build this from the ground up. It was a transformative process. There was a physical transformation. There was a physical conditioning.”

And Leto admitted that the Joker took over his life because he was so committed to the character he was playing opposite co-stars Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney and Viola Davis.

“I had to be committed beyond belief,” Leto added. “And I did what I needed to do to deliver the best I possibly could. There was a lot on the line and I want to do justice for all the work that has been done before. It’s not a part-time job. It’s immersive. It takes over your life and that’s what I needed to do for myself. Other people can show up and are genius but I did what I needed to do to deliver. And we had a good time with it. I think it was exactly what was needed for me, at least.”

According to Leto, director David Ayer let the actor “loose” and let him “experiment and “explore” the character.

“He became a real person,” Leto said. “I don’t know if person is the right word. I think the Joker lives in between reality and another plane. Kind of a shaman in a way. It’s a very intoxicating role to take on. You have permission to break rules and to challenge yourself and anyone around you in a really unique way.”

“Suicide Squad” hits theaters August 5.