Jared Leto’s method acting techniques cause controversy
By Rebecca Peterson, Staff Writer
With the summer release of DC’s Suicide Squad approaching, actor Jared Leto has been making headlines with his unconventional methods of getting into character as the Joker. Some of these methods include harassing fellow actors by sending them disturbing gifts such as used condoms and dead rats. Cast mate Viola Davis revealed in an interview that she’d been tempted to pepper spray Leto in the face for his antics.
Much of this has been praised, or critiqued, as extreme method acting. Leto, after all, has some enormous shoes to fill as the Joker, given that the last actor to portray him won an Oscar posthumously for his work. However, it begs the question; how much of this is done to get into character, and how much of it is simply a publicity stunt?
Actors have been doing odd things to get into character since before the dawn of cinema. Marlon Brando was one of the first actors to bring these techniques to film. Many actors these days have their own versions of the widely-used and vaguely defined method. Daniel Day-Lewis, for example, once spent a shoot operating on the same limitations of his character who suffered cerebral palsy, so the rest of the crew had to wait on him hand and foot.
Heath Ledger also spent much of his time preparing for his role as the Joker doing intense method exercises. He apparently locked himself away in a London hotel room and delved deep into his psyche through writing and art to try to find the character that would win him an Oscar. Many feel that may have contributed to his death through lack of sleep and a slow mental decline.
However, Ledger apparently never brought this personality to set outside his scenes. Between takes he was friendly with cast and crew alike, and certainly never sent Christian Bale a box of bullets. These breaks from character did not in any way impact his performance negatively, and likely helped him deal with the weight of his role.
Much of the criticism surrounding Leto’s methods are based in concern for his cast members, and no small amount of feeling that he might be “trying too hard” for a film that has a PG-13 rating. Leto has boasted about his dedication to the role to many outlets, claiming that people will want to “lock him away” once they see his performance.
Method acting has long been about how an individual actor delves into their deepest selves to discover something intense and excited to bring to the screen. Given that every actor has their own techniques for finding their character, inflicting one’s method upon a cast mate could prove destructive to their performance. Some actors, after all, prefer to leave their characters on set and go home to a preferably dead animal-free house.
Whether Leto’s methods are justified or a cry for attention will likely be decided once the movie is released August 3, when audiences can see his performance and judge for themselves.