Set to release August 5th, 2015, Suicide Squad is a movie of DC Comics villains who get one last chance to make right with the world by working for the government. Essentially they are recruited for suicide missions. Casting for the roles has just started and there is a lot of buzz around potential actors including Jesse Eisenberg, Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Tom Hardy.
For the role of the Joker, apparently Jared Leto has taken meetings to discuss him potentially playing the role. The last time we saw the Joker on the big screen was when Heath Ledger played him in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The performance was nothing short of magnificent with Ledger taking the comic book character to a new level, setting the bar for the next person to play the Joker at almost unreachable levels. Since, Ledger has passed away making it necessary to find a replacement. Is Leto the man for the role? Possibly, but there are many others to consider – of course we need to set some rules first.
No huge actors that have recently played lead, dominating roles. Also, they need to be able to share the screen so no Christian Bale and obviously, no Robert Downey Jr. To be clear, unless Martin Scorcese is involved, Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t interested either (last check Scorcese is definitely not involved). The same goes for Tom Cruise, even on a “happy” day.
So who would make the perfect Joker? You could go up-and-coming actor or an established veteran of the arts. I’m leaning toward the latter given the big Joker shoes Ledger left to fill. Given the visibility of this casting decision, maybe there is an actor looking for a John Travolta/Pulp Fiction type bump. There are a few established actors that have fallen off and are still looking for work. Also, any link to existing comic characters or action/horror would be beneficial. Casting needs to know you can behave in a trailer for hours while Joker make-up is applied. Let’s take a look at potential candidates to consider as well as some just for fun what if scenarios…
15. Brad Pitt
Not happening, I know, but Brad Pitt is not afraid of challenging roles. I also may be breaking the “too famous” rule here, but I don’t associate Pitt with being “actor famous,” more just “Hollywood famous.” He toggles between “big” movies and “small” budget movies with little regard for money or fame. Regardless of what you think of his acting, it’s clear Pitt picks his roles. He would have to take a break from making war movies – seems doable. For Suicide Squad, he could bring his Tyler Durden intensity (or insanity) to the role as the Joker. My only request is that wardrobe finds the red leather jacket from Fight Club. That’s a very Joker item to wear. Of course it would be a challenge for make-up to make him not so good looking.
14. Michael Richards
The Joker is long and gangly and has been known to make sudden movements. Hey, the Joker also makes jokes! You know who fits the profile? This one is clearly a reach in many ways, but hey, it’s not like the Joker has never gone off on a politically incorrect rant. In fact, that’s part of the job description. Also, a bonus job for make-up – if you thought it was hard to make Brad Pitt the Joker, well you would have your work cut out for you with Richards. I’m starting to like this idea, let’s start a movement: #KramerJoker.
13. Bradley Cooper
Mr. Cooper is presently tied up with Broadway and is contracted to do three more Hangover movies (just kidding, those are finally over, I hope); however, if he’s looking for a change… I don’t think we yet know how good Cooper can be as an actor. We know he can play drama and comedy (both would help playing the Joker), but what about villain? Can he be funny, dramatic and scary? Maybe his whole career hasn’t been preparing to perform on Broadway; maybe his destiny is playing the Joker. Maybe…
12. Jake Gyllenhaal
Obviously the buzz would be immediate if Heath Ledger’s Brokeback Mountain sidekick got the role. It would be somewhat fitting and probably wouldn’t end well, mostly because Hollywood casting decisions made with good intentions often don’t pan out. Then again, that marketing buzz would be pretty strong and sometimes that overrides other decisions in Hollywood.
11. Nic Cage
Leaving Las Vegas was a Nicolas Cage masterpiece and then at some point he started making the same movie over and over. Eventually, he shortened his name to just Nic, but still continued to make the same movies. If Cage can channel his inner darkness (See: Leaving Las Vegas) he could be a surprise in this role. Unfortunately Cage would probably be doing great and then decide to improvise and become Elvis. Cage always tries to be Elvis, it’s annoying.
10. Keanu Reeves
Did you know Johnny Utah is struggling to find work? It’s true; he isn’t getting the offers he once did. Could this be his Pulp Fiction? I’ll save everyone the time; the answer is no. This role is not right for Reeves and it’s mainly because no matter what role he plays he can’t leave Keanu far behind. In The Matrix, Speed and Point Break being Keanu worked for him. Playing the Joker? Not so much.
9. Tim Robbins
One of the great (underrated) actors of our time, if casting is looking for the Joker to be a little older and wiser than Ledger’s Joker, then Tim Robbins should be considered. For Robbins it’s a change for him to step out of his box and try something new. Prove that he still has a belly full of fired up intensity. His screen presence is never questioned, Robbins has always been able to pull eyes toward himself. Robbins would be a safe pick, you pretty much know what you are getting with limited upside.
8. Ethan Hawke
From Reality Bites to Training Day to The Coast of Utopia, Hawke has played many great roles in many great movies. Suicide Squad could be another notch for Hawke and may also broaden his horizons if he takes on the Joker character. Hawke has done White Fang and Gattaca, it’s time for a superhero movie. It’s time to consider Ethan Hawke as the Joker. The hardest part of this one is that Hawke is probably not interested in sharing the screen at this point in his career. Not saying he doesn’t like to share, just saying maybe not right now.
7. Steve Buscemi
Here is my pick. Steve Buscemi has appeared in over 1 million movies (loose estimate) and is coming off his run of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire so he is available. Buscemi plays creepy and badass well, really well. I can picture the scene now, normal dialogue and then that uncomfortable “Buscemi pause” happens, usually an appetizer before something disturbing occurs. Buscemi is able to act with no soul, that’s a compliment. I hope I never meet Buscemi in real life because I’m sure I will be disappointed that he isn’t as creepy as I had hoped.
6. James Franco
James Franco signing on to be the Joker would be shocking in many ways and may even spawn another James Franco documentary (a sure win/win for everyone who enjoys comedy). When Franco “retired” and started appearing in random places fans have continued to support Franco, regardless of what he does. This would be an interesting move for both his career as well as his fans who just want to see this actor work again, especially in what could be a uniquely challenging role for him.
5. Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon also ranks high on the creep factor, and I say that in a good way. He often transformed a non-descript character into someone you despise and want to spit on. That’s the sign of a great actor. Would Bacon be interested in this role? Probably not, he is getting “up there” in age (as are a few others on this list) and some would argue that the Joker is a young man’s game. Remember though that Bacon has rarely played by the rules (remember he was the one who danced when there was NO DANCING ALLOWED!), and was in X-Men: First Class, so there’s that.
4. Johnny Depp
I’m sure Johnny Depp is not interested, but then again this is Jack Sparrow, a character influenced by Keith Richards. Read that again and I think we can all agree that with Johnny Depp anything is possible. Depp did Edward Scissorhands and seems to like hanging out in a trailer smoking cigarettes and telling Hunter S. Thompson stories while getting makeup applied. This role could be right up his alley.
3. Jim Carrey
He has already played the Riddler and would be a natural fit as the Joker. Since Ace Ventura Carrey has done drama as well as continued comedy. Recently he has been in a funk with some of his roles (Hello, Dumb and Dumber To) and this would be a way for him to get back to a role that would be challenging and allow him to play to his physical comedic talents. The Mask was excellent, my expectations for Dumb and Dumber To are not excellent.
2. Edward Norton
Another actor that for some reason has hit a wall with the roles he has been offered (or taken). Norton was incredible in Primal Fear and American History X. The distrust and fear Norton can bring to a scene is outright chilling. I am aware Norton was The Incredible Hulk, but that was more CGI and something wasn’t right in the directing or script. Playing the Joker for Norton would be similar to when Ledger got the role, an opportunity to do something special with the part and make it his own.
1. Adrien Brody
In 2006 there was speculation that Adrien Brody would play the Joker, a role that eventually went to Heath Ledger. Would we still be talking about the Joker the way we do post-Ledger or would we be talking about the Joker in a whole new way had Brody landed the role? Remember, this is the guy who walked away from his life; girlfriend and food (lost over 25 pounds) in order to play the lead role in The Pianist. If DC is looking for a sequel to the great Ledger performance, look no further than Adrien Brody.