Ledger‘s Joker won an Academy Award, Nicholson‘s Joker put the character onto the world stage, Hamill‘s Joker made an animated clown leap out of the screen and Leto‘s Joker…left us wondering. Sure, in the final cut of Suicide Squad Jared Leto’s Joker only received less than 10 minutes of screen time despite a range of other scenes being shot. But his look, his laugh, and his ways didn’t do for the character what the aforementioned men did. Every time we wondered if they could do it; that Aussie from Brokeback Mountain? No way. Luke Skywalker as a villain? You’re kidding me. Jack Nicholson is already a clown, why the makeup? With Leto this wasn’t as strong, because he already suited the craziness. And then we hear of him sending condoms to co-workers, and taunting them with dead rats, and we say “ok, this better be good…”
This compiled list is of 15 actors that would be great replacements for Leto. For the purpose of the choices, let’s pretend that Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie is going ahead and they’re replacing Leto with someone else for the Clown Prince of Crime. For any Joker performance that feels even slightly off needs a revamp. This is the greatest villain of all time, not some poor Marvel attempt at a villain like Ultron, what the hell was that? So here’s the list of 15 men capable of filling those shoes, with reasons why. Before you question the choices, read the descriptions and some of their most Joker like moments in the career. For sometimes the most left field players bring a performance you’ll never forget.
15. Jake Gyllenhaal
For this argument, I could basically refer you to the film Nightcrawler; that hair, that smile, that attitude, that ending…was it practice for greater opportunity? There’s no doubt Jake Gyllenhaal is one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, and he was once considered for the Joker role in The Dark Knight. But at that time he was very young. Now, with mature roles under his belt, Gyllenhaal is ready. He’s had his apprenticeship, and he brings the star power necessary for success. See this quote made during his best performance yet from Nightcrawler to really sell you on him:
“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you’d have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that’s what I’m telling you, as clearly as I can.”
14. Hayden Christensen
Think of it this way, Mark Hamill struggled with the weight of having played a young Skywalker for years and fearing that it destroyed his movie career before it really got going. Then he voiced the Joker in the Batman animated series and won over the world…why couldn’t Christensen do the same? He has the lanky build, that strange grin, intelligence and a point to prove. The role of Anakin has him typecast as some emotion wreck, but in the Joker, Hayden can put on the face paint and dissolve into madness. He’s at the age (and distance from his last Star Wars movie) that people won’t expect it…then BANG! Imagine the Canadian taunting Ben Affleck, harnessing all that criticism from his early days into a performance that realizes his potential. Affleck and Christensen side by side is a mirror image of the characters in the Arkham games. This is a role that pleads for risk, and if given the opportunity Hayden would snap it up. Toss away the tattoos and the pimp outfit, and bring out the purple suit.
13. Orlando Bloom
In his early days, Bloom was known for poor acting in otherwise blockbuster films (Troy, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven). But with less time for acting and more time for dating gorgeous women (Miranda Kerr, Katy Perry), it appears old Bloom has changed. Now he swims around with his manhood on full show, he’s no longer the skinny boy and he picks fights with Justin Bieber, so why not Batman? Bloom has evolved, and he would be an interesting candidate for our favourite villain. Remember the last time they placed a supposed pretty boy with limited acting chops into the role? Academy Award. Despite his Hobbit films, Bloom has dodged the big screen spotlight for long enough to make an impact on return. He has the right frame, face, and craziness to make an attempt, and we are sure he would love to toss away the elf shackles for a chance at villainy.
12. Adrien Brody
Brody was one of the choices to play the Joker in The Dark Knight film. His lanky build, distinct nose and recent success (an Academy Award) made him a wise choice…but he lost out to Ledger. Well, now we need an older criminal with more experience under his belt. Since 2008, Brody has played a soldier, tussled with King Kong and indulged with the comedy genre, so to put it simply, he’s more capable than ever before to tackle the role. His dedication is first class. For a man not blessed with looks, he surpasses his counterparts when alongside them on screen. He can play pain and then smile to the world. He is believable as a man that can change with one bad day. And he’s clearly a match when it comes to intellect. For all Leto’s charm, he can struggle to play an intellectual. Watch Brody in The Pianist, and then claim he isn’t worthy of becoming the Joker. In addition to all that has been said, he may have the creepiest potential grin of anyone on this list.
11. Iwan Rheon
Known for his portrayal as Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones, Iwan Rheon stated he studied Ledger’s Joker for mannerisms and speech. He taunted his opponents without a care for how brutal they died in his presence, and always kept a smile on his face. In the end, he was a coward, trying a range of tricks to thwart the do-gooders of the imaginary world. But that scene with him strapped behind bars at the mercy of his captors, there’s something so Joker-ish about his presence that puts the previously unknown entity into the top 15 choices for the biggest gig in Hollywood. The voice is another key aspect on why to support Rheon, it’s not deep, but it’s flexible and it scares others. There’s always a plan involved, a way to win when others think his guard is down. For those not familiar with his character, one of his key quotes is
“You forgot to ask one question! You forgot to ask me if I’m a liar! I’m afraid, I am. Everything I told you is a lie. This isn’t happening to you for a reason, well one reason: I enjoy it!”
10. Edward Norton
Combine Fight Club Norton with American History X Norton and Primal Fear Norton, and you have all the elements needed for the Clown Prince of Crime. At a great age and time in his career for a bout with the bat, Norton’s only sour point is that he has played an iconic comic book character already. In Fight Club Norton plays a man suffering from insomnia, split into two men. In American History X, he plays the leader of a neo-Nazi group with superb charisma and skill. And in Primal Fear, his first true role, we see so much Joker it is quite the laugh. In this, an Academy Award-level role, Norton is accused of murder, but he pretends to have two personalities, one of which he can’t control…all a lie, as seen in this next quote:
“Jesus Christ, Marty. If that’s what you think, I am disappointed in you, I don’t mind telling you. There never was an Aaron… counselor! Come on, Marty, I thought you had it figured, there at the end. The way you put me on the stand like that? That was f***ing brilliant, Marty! And that whole thing like ‘act-like-a-man’? Jesus, I knew exactly what you wanted from me. It was like we were dancing, Marty!”
9. Christian Bale
Yes, before the obvious is said out loud, Christian Bale played Batman in more films than any other actor (for now). But have you seen his performance in American Psycho or his dedication to losing/gaining weight for various roles, or how downright crazy the man can be? The role as Patrick Bateman is like an R-rated Joker; never have I seen a performance as close to the Clown prince of Crime than Bale’s turn as the literary phenomenon. Just read this:
“I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”
As a man, he’s on that descent and right at the beginning of the madness. Who knows Joker better than the man who faced the villain? It would be one of the most interesting choices ever made on screen. Make it happen.
8. Nicolas Cage
This man was destined to play characters with warped minds. A Joker that is older than Affleck would work, especially this Joker. Cage is downright nuts. His turn as Castor Troy in Face Off (I won’t begin to explain how or who is who, because I don’t have the word count) is part comedy, part action, part horror. We’ve seen him play the hero countless times, but rarely do we get the villain that we all know he prefers. Here’s some great dialogue from Face Off:
“I torched all the evidence that proves you’re you, okay? So, wow! Looks like you’re going to be in here for THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS! Now, I have got to go. I’ve got a government job to abuse and a lonely wife to f**k! Whoops did I just say that? I’m sorry… make love to! God, I miss that face!”
Few would dispute the reasoning behind his appointment. And an interesting note is his role in Kick-Ass, where he wears a Batman-type outfit and speaks like the original Adam West. He’s burned and killed…but what if the torture left him scarred? Sure, there is no link to Gotham, but it is through these hypothetical thoughts that a character can rise.
7. Cameron Monaghan
His role in the TV series Gotham warrants him a place on this prestigious list. Monaghan played the youngest version of the Joker ever seen on screen, and he sizzled to the point that fans petitioned for his future role as the iconic villain. We are yet to see him in full Joker attire, meaning the performances seen so far have barely scratched the surface. He combined Ledger, Nicholson, Romero and Hamill into one with quotes like:
“Everybody has to start somewhere. See, I have a vision and ambition and brains. You’re just a nutty old cannibal. How many people can you eat before that shtick gets old.”
Sure, he’s young…but what does it matter? Introduce him in a few years, and let him play the role for a decade. In a boy, he has everything the Joker needs, comedy, aggression, taunts and a chilling smile. Even his movement is spot on. For all Gotham‘s flaws, they managed to find someone perfect for the role. You still don’t believe me? Here is another one of the great quotes from the show from Monaghan
6. Daniel Day-Lewis
Old, yes. But capable? Of course. His role as the Butcher in Gangs of New York includes the lines:
“You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts. Somebody steals from me, I cut off his hands. He offends me, I cut out his tongue. He rises against me, I cut off his head, stick it on a pike, raise it high up so all on the streets can see. That’s what preserves the order of things. Fear.”
His role in There Will Be Blood showed off another side:
“Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I’m so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see? Watch it. Now, my straw reaches acroooooooss the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I… drink… your… milkshake!”
The Academy Award-winning veteran plays a villain better than most in history. Just when you think he’s given up on acting, he returns to dazzle the screen. At 59, he’s older than a Joker should really be…but this is an older Gotham. Day-Lewis takes a role and makes it his own, and we can only imagine how dedicated he would become to transform into the Joker.
5. Edward Furlong
In 1992 when Furlong landed in Hollywood as John Connor, his star began to rise. In American History X alongside another member of this list, he looked set to establish himself as an A-grader. But as with many child actors, he declined under the weight of the world. Drugs became solace, and he slipped away from the game. But while his turn as The Crow didn’t draw praise from critics, it demonstrated how he could thrive if given the opportunity in a creative world. Furlong is a guy that always looks in pain, but he can mask the hurt in amazing ways. The Joker requires a selection from left field, we’ve established this. Furlong didn’t burst on the scene to never be seen in a blockbuster again. There’s more to his story, surely. He has that way of speaking that oozes class and understanding. He’s a man that needs to focus on something, and what better role to focus on?
4. Macaulay Culkin
Paint his face white, his lips red and his hair green and Culkin is ready to go. In a recent skit, Culkin sounded like he already WAS the Joker. He’s damn scary, he’s thin, he can taunt and he’s so unpredictable you’re not sure if he’s even alive anymore. Culkin is basically a real life Joker and his childhood to adulthood story in a sinister voice would sound like the backstory of Batman’s enemy. Affleck against Culkin couldn’t ever be seen as a worthy fight physically, but Jesse Eisenberg was a twig matching up against Batman and Superman. The guy is only 35, he has some weird-ass rock band and he’ll probably cut his own face in the near future. If they are looking for a similar Joker to Ledger’s, this is your guy. Take the gamble, Hollywood. He’s nuts, right…or is he? Did he escape acting by pretending to be nuts, and we all took the bait? If you’re in doubt, head to YouTube and watch anything by him in the past 5 years…it’s bang on for the Joker.
3. Johnny Depp
While Depp has chosen some poor roles in his time, Captain Jack Sparrow remains an icon. After seeing the first instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean, his charisma, and selfish acts oozed Joker territory. Many people may moan and groan, but he’s an actor capable of making the purple-suited anarchist his own. Depp thrives in the likeable villain role, as his acting rises to the occasion. His recent turn as Whitey in Black Mass proved this as he was able to disappear into the character. Sweeney Todd had him slitting throats. Secret Window created a hidden evil. It’s as though Depp has been building towards something special all his career…and it just seems to avoid him.
“So the lesson you gotta learn is this, it’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it. And who you do it to or with. Huh? You follow?”
Depp was touted as The Riddler for a long time before Hardy was cast as Bane in Nolan’s final Batman film. And he could still play a fantastic Nygma. But let’s be honest, the greatest villain needs a class act, and few are classier than Depp.
2. Willem Dafoe
The internet wants this to happen, and so do we. If you’ve spent any time searching on Google Images, you’ll see the uncanny way Dafoe‘s face fits with Joker facepaint. He has played an iconic villain already – Green Goblin, Spiderman’s first nemesis – but that was years ago. Dafoe is nearly 60, but he’s fit. Little would need to be done in terms of transformation; dress him in the purple suit and let it rain. Affleck needs a challenge. Leto dissolved into the role, but he seems like a gangster trying too hard. Does he scare us? Is he capable of what we know the Joker can do? Dafoe is cast in the upcoming Justice League movie but they can still make Leto Jason Todd and allow Dafoe to be the true Joker, somehow…right?
If you need a reminder of how amazing Dafoe was as Green Goblin, check out this quote:
“You’ve spun your last web, Spider-Man. If you had not been so selfish, your little girlfriend’s death would have been quick and painless, but now that you’ve really pissed me off, I’m gonna finish her nice and slow. MJ and I, we’re gonna have a hell of a time!”
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
The greatest actor on the planet would be the perfect man to acknowledge Nicholson’s role (they sizzled together in The Departed) and accept the heavy crown lowered by Ledger. Leonardo DiCaprio could play gangster Joker, anarchist Joker, and psychopath Joker in one sitting with his hands tied and his eyes closed, he is that good. DiCaprio can play anyone, anywhere, and have energy left to coach his co-workers. Where others would be intimidated by the role, DiCaprio flourishes. Sure, he isn’t a fan of comic book type films. But billed as the man who could save the DC universe, I’m sure he could be coerced. Here is a man born to play difficult roles. He’s the actor of our generation, the king of the screen. If there is anyone who wouldn’t want to see what he could bring to the table, I’d be surprised. A master of dialogue, a proven winner when placed in the one-on-one (Joker and Batman rely on this) he is the biggest star that should don the paint.
The most vicious of DiCaprio’s characters may be Calvin Candie in the 2012 film, Django Unchained. His dialogue is fantastic, but perhaps he is never more like the Joker than when he said:
“If I took this hammer here and I bashed it in your skull, you would have the same three dimples in the same place as old Ben. Hey! Now lay your palms flat on the table top! If you lift those palms off that turtle shell table top, Mr. Pooch is gonna let loose with both barrels of that sawed off! There have been a lot of lies said around this dinner table here tonight, but that you can believe!”