Aug 3, 2016

A Look at Jared Leto and How Behind the Scenes Stories Can Ruin Movies

Jared Leto in Suicide Squad
For most people, Suicide Squad is a movie that's either being met with anticipation or an increasing eye roll due to ridiculous petitions to shut down Rotten Tomatoes. For many, the idea of a new DC movie is met with excitement because of the curiosity of what the filmmakers will do to alter the long held mythology. In this case, it's the first cinematic version of many of these characters, including Harley Quinn. However, it is the fourth major version of The Joker to be seen on the big screen. Many are wondering what actor Jared Leto will bring to the role, which has been occasionally lambasted for his off-beat look that strikes many as simply... wrong. However, there is one issue that may bother some more than a different looking Joker: Jared Leto himself. What happens when an actor's persona overshadows whatever he does? To be totally honest, it will be difficult to watch his performance without thinking of the behind the scenes fiascos that are bled into the narrative so finely. To be honest, Leto is a divisive figure and it may be tough to watch this movie just because of that. Good luck trying.
One of the benefits of time is that certain stories are forgotten about horrific forms of method acting, or simply tragic performances. Lawrence of Arabia stands on its own despite Peter O'Toole famously being drunk for most of it. Dustin Hoffman's anesthesia-free dental preparation for Marathon Man is an example of pointless method acting as well. However, most of these stories don't exist to modern audiences outside of film school or IMDb trivia boards. It would be difficult for the common man to be distracted by these behind the scenes moments that help to build some of cinema's most iconic performances, and some even less so. However, it's become an increasingly public thing. A man greatly injured his testicles while filming The Revenant. Shia LeBouf has made a late career out of experimental art projects. Now Leto almost seems to treat it as a bragging right. His method acting is nothing new to Suicide Squad specifically, as he is one of those with an extreme regiment that involves gaining a ton of weight (Chapter 27), losing a ton of weight (Dallas Buyers Club), or watching crime videos on YouTube for Suicide Squad.
To be fair, The Joker is an anarchic character who has left a toll on a variety of actors. This includes Heath Ledger's (The Dark Knight) tragic overdose due to medication he took as a result of the production. Of course, it makes Caesar Romero (Batman - 1966) look sillier. All he did was paint over his mustache. What has Leto done to prepare? The better question is what hasn't he done? Co-star Viola Davis reportedly hated working with him. He sent his co-stars a variety of things, including used condoms and a dead pig. It is the antagonistic kind that may emphasize why The Joker is menacing. It isn't too far fetched, as actors have held certain intimacies to enhance their performances. However, it's hard to not just read the prankster notion of Leto as a straight up jerk and not a member of the "Worst heroes ever."
This is all more than necessary for the simple fact that reports have now suggested that he isn't in the film for more than 10 minutes. It may work as a press beat here or there, but to hear it incessantly for well over a year already marks Leto as a twat. How does any of this impact the film? As I mentioned in a piece a few months back, method acting is dumb, and this is barely underneath Leonardo DiCaprio's asinine "I ate raw bison liver." claim from The Revenant. This isn't a post specifically about why this well regarded form of acting is such an inessential part of the film experience. It's more to ask if an actor's personal choices end up making the film a lot harder to deal with.
The truth is that Leto is an actor that in terms of cinematic contribution, I neither love nor hate. He has plenty of good movies to his credit that have entertained me personally. However, it has become increasingly difficult to appreciate him as a person because of the method acting that he does. It almost seems like an eccentric gimmick to draw attention to himself. It exists to point out how bizarre and "cool" he is for going the extra mile. True, I don't fault him for watching crime videos on YouTube. That kind of makes sense. However, his choice to play very elaborate pranks on his co-stars that can be down right repulsive are just that: repulsive. While it will be fun to look at it from a historical standpoint, it feels like a sacrifice of a good film to mention how raucous the behind the scenes of a major Hollywood production can be. I haven't seen Suicide Squad yet. I am curious to see it. It's just that I've increasingly lost faith in Leto's performance because of how little of his method acting has to do with that: acting.
This raises a question: what other actors are out there whose personal lives seem to overshadow the productions that they work on? I admit that Leto is a decent actor, and one that I am not entirely opposed to seeing again. However, I am not sure that I can watch even the trailers of his latest and not think of Leto the person being a jerk to his co-stars. Until further arguments come out, I don't see it all as a positive, but more some bizarre fiction made up to make his character sound far grander than he is. I don't want to be distracted, and I get the impression that in a few years that these instances will be removed from the film's DNA much like DiCaprio's stunt acting sob story in The Revenant.
I hope that it will be worth it. I don't know how the extemporaneous details will make it better, but even the presence of the otherwise quiet Margot Robbie and Will Smith seem more appealing to me. It could be because I don't feel bombarded with their acting technique as I am with Leto. It could just be that Leto is too eccentric and needy. I don't know. However, I do think that the issue here is that too much press can ruin a movie, even unintentionally. It might even impact how many see Leto in the future. He could do Oscar-caliber work again but still get maligned with "But you sent used condoms to your co-stars." It almost seems like it's not worth it, especially since it seems like the press circuit around the film doesn't look much better. I hope I can distract myself long enough to enjoy the performance for what it is, but it may be hard. I just hope it's good enough to not be a total, dare I say, joke. 

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