“It’s one of the best performances ever in cinema,” the 44-year-old actor said of Ledger’s creepy take on the character. “I had met Heath before. I didn’t know him well, but he was a beautiful person.”
Leto, who will portray the twisted comic-book villain in the summer flick, added that he felt immense pressure in tackling the iconic role, but was ultimately reassured by the many different iterations of the Joker that had come before Ledger’s.
“I think had it only been portrayed by Heath and it was never a comic book, maybe I would have felt that would be inappropriate,” Leto said. “But I thought that given the history, it was OK. The good thing about other people having done this is that you know what direction not to head in.”
Ledger fatally — and accidentally — overdosed on pills shortly after he completed filming for his role as the Joker for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008. He was 28.
The Australian actor went on to posthumously win the Oscar in 2009 for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the character.
Leto revealed to Rolling Stone the dark places one could get to in preparation for such a twisted character.
“The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence,” he said. “I was watching real violence, consuming that. There’s a lot you can learn from seeing it. Not every act of violence is committed with frenzy, either. I remember learning that. People can be calm. They’ve made their choice and go and do something, and it’s not in a frenzy. It’s methodical and sometimes even hypnotic and deliberate.”
The My So-Called Life actor first unveiled his take on the comic-book villain with a short video clip posted to Twitter back in April.
“Exclusive! Meet the bearded JOKER #JokerWasHere,” the Oscar-winning actor captioned the video, which featured the star staring straight into the camera and snarling like an animal.
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