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Despite being advertised as one of Suicide Squad's primary characters, The Joker didn't get a lot of screen time in the third DC Extended Universe entry. The result was moviegoers barely got to know this version of the Clown Prince of Crime, and Jared Leto was understandably upset that so much of his performance was trimmed. This seemingly reached its peak yesterday when Leto's alleged comments about being disappointed with how Joker was used in Suicide Squad were posted by a fan on Tumblr who heard him speak at the 30 Seconds To Mars Summer Camp.
It's since been reported that Jared Leto's comments were taken out of context and exaggerated, and the post that originally passed them along has since been deleted. There's no denying that Leto wasn't happy with how his role in Suicide Squad turned out, but as of now, I don't believe Leto is ready to jump ship, especially if Ben Affleck comes to him with a juicy part in the upcoming Batman movie. However, for the sake of argument, let's pretend that Leto is indeed extremely angry about what happened with Suicide Squad and either found a way out of his contract or Warner Bros decide to let him go due his comments. If he left this franchise, what would the studio's options be for The Joker? How could they get around this setback? Here are our three solutions.
Keep The Joker In The Shadows
This is the easies one to pull off, but it would anger a lot of fans. If they want to keep Jared Leto's version of The Joker alive without the actor actually being around, then they simply don't show him again. The Batman movie could name drop the cackling villain, saying he's causing chaos elsewhere in Gotham City or even some other major city. Maybe the Caped Crusader's first DCEU solo adventure could begin with the hero having just delivered Joker back to Arkham Asylum. A Harley Quinn-centric movie is also in the works, and if by then she's transitioned into a more independent woman (like she in the current comics), then she could address to one of the other characters why she left the Clown and cut him out of her life.
The Joker is Batman's most famous adversary, and after five theatrical appearances (six if you include Zack Galifianakis playing the clown in The Lego Batman Movie next year), it's not like he's lacking for representation. If worse comes to worse, let's give more screen time to the antagonists who haven't had their proper due yet. However, many would undoubtedly see this as an unfortunate bait and switch. There was all this set up for the criminal, but no delivering on the goods.
Recast The Role
If Jared Leto leaves the DCEU, then the most plausible way to deal with the situation is to get another actor to play Joker. The character didn't appear that long in Suicide Squad, so there's still enough room for another actor to add their own elements to the character. Plus, a lot of makeup and eye shadow is required to play Joker, so if they find someone with a similar height and build, the physical appearance wouldn't be that different.
However, the problem with this solution is that Leto did leave enough of a stamp on The Joker, and his replacement couldn't just toss those creative choices aside. This isn't like when the Marvel Cinematic Universe recast James Rhodes and Bruce Banner. Yes, those characters are important, but they're not the flamboyant, unhinged madman Joker is. Leto's replacement would have to keep some of those tics and traits intact to maintain continuity, and by doing so, that may come off as the actor doing more of an imitation than a performance. Still, Joker is a big enough character that the studio would be willing to take this risk.
Introduce A New Joker
This option might seem crazy at first, but hear me out. If you count how long Joker is seen in Suicide Squad, it would probably add up to seven minutes of screen time at most. Whether you liked this version or not, he didn't get nearly enough time to leave a complete impression, in contrast to Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger's versions. If worse comes to worse, DC and Warner Bros could overhaul the super villain and bring in someone new to take his place. The old Joker would be killed off, and this new one (presumably a talented copycat) would take his place. This version would more closely resemble his comic book counterpart, from the purple suit and gag weapons to the lack of tattoos. Harley Quinn could fall in love with the new Joker as a desperate attempt to fill the hole left behind by her true love, but when he starts being abusive to her, that's when she finally strikes out on her own.
Admittedly, this would be hard to convincingly pull off. If replacing Joker isn't done with the right amount of precision and creativity, it would just come off cliched or just ridiculous. That said, keep in mind that there's precedent for there being multiple Jokers in the DC universe. At the end of Geoff Johns' Justice League comic book run, Batman revealed to Green Lantern that he learned there are three Jokers running around, though he hasn't figured out yet precisely what that means. The DCEU could adapt this plot twist for their own needs by bringing in a successor Joker, and he would be the one antagonizing Batman in his upcoming movie. Oh, and for the love of God, don't identity who this Clown Prince of Crime used to be either!