Will Jared Leto play the Joker again? What ‘Birds of Prey’ means for the character

Harley Quinn’s striking out on her own

If you’ve seen Suicide Squad, you’ll know how little Jared Leto’s Joker featured. Nor was he in the recent Birds of Prey trailer – spearheaded by Margot Robbie’s grinning psychopath Harley Quinn. In the promotional material for Suicide Squad, however, he was everywhere. So what gives? Why did that iconic character get left behind in the DCEU? Well, a lot went on behind the scenes, away from the prying eyes of reporters and the fandom. Here’s a handy timeline to get you up to speed on the future of the character.

Why was Jared Leto hardly in Suicide Squad?

Leto’s Joker was strongly influenced by David Bowie, but he didn’t get quite as much stage time as the Thin White Duke. Speaking to NME in 2016, Leto commented: “We shot so much footage. There are so many scenes that are not in the film.” He went on to reveal he hadn’t “actually seen the film”, but that the movie should be viewed as “an introduction to the Joker” rather than a feature film.

Later, in an interview with Esquire, Margot Robbie was able to shed some more light on the situation. “They probably realised that the emotional through-line of the story had to be the mission we were on,” she said. “There’s a lot [of Joker footage] but it just didn’t make sense to confuse the present storyline with that.”

Convinced? No, us neither. There’s definitely more to this story than ‘the Joker was a distraction, so we left him out’. Leto himself has admitted that he was “isolated” on set and most of his scenes were “contained”. He even said he felt like he “was off in the corner of the cafeteria watching all the other kids.” Not the vibe you want from your star villain.

Is the Joker in Birds of Prey?

When the first full-length Birds of Prey trailer dropped on Wednesday, there was one question on everybody’s lips. Where’s the Joker? The Clown Prince of Crime was conspicuous by his absence – and given Harley’s off-again-on-again romance with the painted jester, people were right to ask.

At first, it seemed like a standalone movie was in the offing. On release, Leto talked up the possibility of getting his own spin-off – “I think that would be great to dive in deeper to the Joker and expand the story, and to learn more about this sick and twisted – but lovely – strange man,” he revealed to NME.

However, it looks like Jared Leto has been sidelined for now. Warner’s Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix, is about to hit cinemas and the studio won’t want to confuse audiences with another portrayal. At least not in the same year.

Will Jared Leto play the Joker again?

While producers seem wary of a return, Leto is well up for it. In a recent interview with Variety, Leto said he “would definitely play the Joker again.” However, it “depends on the script and the circumstances as it always does.”

Sorry to put a spanner in your spokes, Jared, but the filmmakers have other ideas. James Gunn’s franchise reboot, The Suicide Squad, is slated for 2021– and it features a fairly different cast to the original. Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn, but Will Smith’s Deadshot is to be replaced by Idris Elba and there are new roles for John Cena, Taika Waititi and Peter Capaldi. No place, as of yet, for the Ace of Knaves.

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Admittedly, Joaquin Phoenix’s reimagining of the character isn’t directly connected to the DCEU. So it wouldn’t stop Leto reclaiming the mantle, but it definitely reduces the odds. In addition, director James Gunn has been careful not to call his project a sequel, which implies it’s closer to a full reset than a continuation of the previous story. In summary, it’s not looking good for J-Leto.

What’s Jared Leto in next?

The 30 Seconds To Mars frontman has taken a breather from acting over the past few years, but there’s plenty in the pipeline. Staying in the comic book domain, Leto finished shooting Morbius in June. Set in Sony’s Spider-verse – alongside Tom Holland – the film follows biochemist Michael Morbius who tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease. Unfortunately, he ends up infecting himself with a form of vampirism instead. Bloodsucker-based shenanigans ensue.

When does Morbius come out?

Morbius hits the multiplex on 31 July 2020, a full year ahead of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.