After months of speculation, writer-director James Gunn confirmed the cast for The Suicide Squad. Familiar names returning from 2016's Suicide Squad include Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman and Jai Courtney; however, there's one notable name missing: Jared Leto.
Leto's portrayal of the Joker in the film wasn't universally praised, with much criticism centered on his peculiar method acting on set and campy performance. Nonetheless, with Leto's clout and A-list status, it was expected that he'd get another shot at the Clown Prince of Crime in the future.
Leaked photos from the set of Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) circulated this spring, showing an actor -- not Leto -- portraying the Joker in much the same way as Superman's cameo in Shazam! -- out of focus and more as an allusion. It's likely that this "appearance" is part of the break-up scene (or a flashback) that sets Harley off on her own and kick-starts her new arc.
As it stands, it's probable that it will also mark the final time this version of the Joker will be seen in DC movies (if the scene even ends up in the final film). Coupled with the fact that all the rumored projects in which Leto's Joker was set to star were put on ice, the Oscar-winning actor likely won't return to the role. One thing's for sure, however: He was never going to appear in Gunn's film.
In this case, it isn't as much about the story as it is personal differences. Gunn hasn't been shy about his feelings toward Leto. In now-deleted social media posts, he leveled several serious allegations against the actor.
Last year, when actor Dylan Sprouse commented about Leto allegedly private messaging models between the ages of 18 and 25, Gunn replied, "He starts at 18 on the internet?" Leto hasn't publicly responded to any of Gunn's comments or allegations.
Considering that Gunn wrote The Suicide Squad, and isn't part of the Leto fan club, it seems inevitable the film would be Joker-free. Warner Bros. wouldn't have fought the decision too much either, especially because of the "other" Joker in the pipeline.
Joaquin Phoenix's performance in Todd Phillips' Joker is receiving rave reviews and major awards buzz. Plus, the audience seems to be behind this iteration, unlike Leto's take which was divisive from the get-go. This is now the version of the character that the studio will want to get behind and focus on. Additionally, even though Joker is a standalone movie and not meant to be in continuity, Warner Bros. won't want to confuse the audience with two Jokers in DC movies.
In August, Leto told Variety that he "would definitely play the Joker again. It all depends on the script and the circumstances as it always does." Right now, it's looking like that ship has sailed and he'll have to make due with watching his "skwad" co-stars in the theater like everyone else. Whether he'd even want to work with Gunn, though, is a question that only the studio, director and actor can answer.
Written and directed by James Gunn, The Suicide Squad is set to hit theaters Aug. 6, 2021. Several cast members from 2016's Suicide Squad will reprise their roles, including Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. They're joined by David Dastmalchian, John Cena, Joaquin Cosio, Nathan Fillion, Mayling Ng, Flula Borg, Sean Gunn, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Pete Davidson, Taika Waititi, Alice Braga, Steve Agee, Tinashe Kajese, Daniela Melchior, Peter Capaldi, Julio Ruiz, Jennifer Holland, Idris Elba and Michael Rooker.