Jared Leto Remembers Heath Ledger as The Joker: "One of the Most Beautiful Performances in the History of Cinema"

Actor says he knew he had to do something "completely different" when he took on the role

By Jennifer Kline Aug 02, 2016 7:03 PMTags
Watch: Jared Leto Remembers Heath Ledger as The Joker

Jared Leto's castmates have lauded their co-star's intense dedication to his role as the Joker, but before accepting any praise, Leto wanted to give credit where it's due.

During the New York City premiere of Suicide Squad Monday, the actor took a moment to recognize late actor Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight. Ledger received critical acclaim for his take on the iconic character, but he died suddenly six months before the film's release.

"Heath Ledger gave one of the best performances—one of the most beautiful performances—not just of any villain, but in my opinion, ever in the history of cinema," Leto told E! News' Marc Malkin. "He was so incredible."

As he prepared for shooting, Leto meticulously crafted a totally new, unique version of the Joker. He knew the stakes were high and didn't want to in any way imitate the other actors who have taken on the role.

"Out of respect to [Ledger] and Jack [Nicholson] and everybody else, we knew we had to do something completely different," Leto said. "But what did inspire me by all those performances was the commitment that they made, how brave they were, and how they threw themselves into this role and created something so memorable."

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According to cast members, Leto took the part extremely seriously, with multiple co-stars noting that the actor never broke character, even when the cameras stopped rolling. Will Smith told Good Morning America he never spoke a word to Leto—only the Joker.

Ledger was also known for his full-on commitment to the role all through filming. After his death in January 2008, the actor's father shared some of the methods Ledger used to stay in character, including keeping diary written only as the Joker.

"In order to inhabit his character, he locked himself up in a hotel room for weeks," he said. "He would do that. He liked to dive into his characters, but this time he really took it up a notch."

Ledger's performance landed him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He died at age 28 in 2008.

Want to see Leto's version of the villain? Suicide Squad hits theaters Friday.

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