At this point, it seems like one of the most minor characters in 2016’s Suicide Squad had a bigger impact than the movie did, despite its billion dollar gross. Jared Leto’s performance as a tattooed and chaotic Joker earned him a reputation as something between an overly indulgent method actor and a crazed jerk. It was hard to find anyone talking about the movie’s mediocrity in the face of Leto’s supposed on-set pranks.
Tweets and tabloids argued that the actor was giving disgusting presents to cast and crew during the movie’s production. These “gifts” allegedly ranged from animal corpses to used condoms — not exactly your typical Hollywood gift bag.
Jared Leto’s Joker pranks caught on quick
Of course, all press is good press when it comes to publicity. Outlets and commentators latched on to the idea, finding a new way to hate the already detestable character. Plus, plenty of folks came up with good jokes about the topic.
The rumors themselves, as we at Gossip Cop know, weren’t exactly accurate, however. They weren’t flat-out wrong though. Jared Leto did have a dead pig sent to Viola Davis, who played the government director of the Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie, who played the Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn, got a surprise live rat. He delivered a box of bullets to Will Smith in reference to Smith’s marksman character Deadshot. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who played Killer Croc, received a box of sex toys. And of course, there’s the condom thing.
How the Suicide Squad cast really reacted
Here’s the truth about those gifts. Viola Davis was taken aback by the pig corpse — who wouldn’t be? — but she added that after the initial shock wore off, she realized she’d have to up her game to keep up with such a dedicated performer. “Now I’m terrified as a person thinking ‘Is he crazy?’ but the second part was ‘Oh shit! I got to have my stuff together,’” Davis explained in an interview. “You talk about commitment and then he sends Margot Robbie a black rat. It was still alive in a box. She screamed, and then she kept it.”
Again, who wouldn’t be surprised by the sudden appearance of an animal, especially from Jared Leto? But as Robbie has clarified in interviews, she spoiled the rat while she had it. She even got him a tiny leash and hammock! If you’re not expecting a rodent in a box, it’s hard not to be shocked, but it clearly wasn’t a bad present in the end. The rat ultimately lived out its life in the care of Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro. That’s a better ending than Suicide Squad’s, for pete’s sake.
Will Smith was likely just as shocked as the rest, but it also made him realize just how dedicated Leto was to playing the Clown Prince of Crime. “Jared went full Joker,” Smith said in an interview. “The rule, generally, is never go full Joker, but he really set the tone. He wasn’t playing with it, he was dead serious. As an actor, he was going in… he really jarred [us].”
Likewise, Akinnuoye-Agbaje wasn’t expecting Jared Leto’s “present,” but he immediately played along with the in-character gift. “If you’re going to have that kind of party, at least invite The Croc,” he joked. “Don’t send me your dirty leftovers, that just isn’t right… You see why he ain’t part of the Squad, right? That’s just downright selfish.”
While the gestures would be out of place in most workplaces, it’s a different matter when you’re dealing with actors as passionate about their roles as Jared Leto. While it’s funny to read a fake quote about Will Smith hating his co-star, it’s just not based on reality. Their comments about being surprised are always taken without context or the knowledge that none of the actors actually lashed out over Leto’s process at the end of the day.
The cast was made up of experienced actors who knew what they were getting into when they signed on for a movie called Suicide Squad starring a character with “DAMAGED” written on his forehead. At worst, they were vaguely annoyed. At best, it made a mediocre filming experience into an entertaining anecdote. There’s no actual bad blood either way.
Jared’s Joker’s just joshing
The majority of the prank buzz centers around the most infamous of gifts. Jared Leto, however, refuted the condom claims. He said he and his team worked to keep things shocking and in character, but he didn’t mail bodily fluids to coworkers. The rumor came from an off-hand comment the actor made before the movie’s release that apparently wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and no proof of packaged protection has emerged.
“There’s so much hype and so much bullshit around that, but I think it’s just a fun thing to talk about,” Leto explained. “Even when the movie came out, there was so much misrepresentation about what went down, about the method acting crap. It’s just 90 percent of it was not even true and it just takes on a life of its own… everything’s great in that world, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Much like how Robert Pattinson is now known for despising the Twilight franchise (he’s since said that he’s got nothing but “warm memories” of the vampire romance), a few off-the-cuff lines from comprehensive interviews get turned into stories all of their own. As a result, context is lost when a quote is transcribed without any note of what prompted the answer. While the pranks and on-set antics did their job of getting the cast in a Suicide Squad-y mindset and got thousands upon thousands of folks talking about the film, they’ve become more of a meme than anything.
There’s nothing wrong with cracking wise about the movie — I wish the film was even half as entertaining as the idea of Jared Leto going rat shopping — but it’s important to remember the difference between reality and internet hyperbole. Let’s just be glad that social media wasn’t around whenever someone first came up with the idea of pairing rodents with actors back when Richard Gere was an A-lister.