Killing the Joker is one of those fantasies that crop all the time in alternate universe or Elseworld comic books; given that he’s generally the ultimate test of Batman’s “No killing” ethos—on account of how he’s a mass murderer who can’t be kept imprisoned for more than like a week—any number of DC Comics stories (The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s The Batman Who Laughs) have speculated on what would happen if someone finally got so mad that they just decided to kill Joker off once and for all.
We can now allegedly add actor Jared Leto to this list of certified attempted clown killers; per a new piece today in The Hollywood Reporter, there have been accusations made that Leto was so pissed about the reveal of Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker movie—which essentially invalidated his own largely abortive run as the character—that he attempted to leverage his status in order to have the movie killed.
First off, we should be very clear: Although THR tends to be scrupulously reliable with stuff like this, there’s a decent amount of cloudiness to this story, with Leto’s camp denying it ever happened, everyone else involved refusing to comment, and all of the attributions coming from unnamed sources “close to the situation.” (We also need to take into account our own biases; there’s something very psychologically satisfying about the idea of Leto throwing a tantrum somewhere, the “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead starting to run, as he wonders whether all those dead pig corpses he mailed to his co-workers were for naught—but that doesn’t automatically make it true.)
With all those grains of salt taken, Kim Masters’ story quotes sources who say that Leto was so outraged at the idea of being usurped from his position as the Official Clown Prince Of Crime that he reached out to his now-former manager for the music side of his career, Irving Azoff, to ask him to ask the head of Warner Bros.’ parent company to cancel Phillips’ movie, before it could fully pick up steam. (Said source also notes that Azoff refused to pass the request on.) The same story also alleges that Leto was royally pissed at his management at CAA—at which, he was already on his fourth representation team, apparently, for, uh, reasons—for not warning him that a younger, sexier, more Scorsese-ish Joker was coming down the line. (Leto has since parted ways with CAA, too.)
All of which reportedly comes back to the fact that Leto really did seem to think that he was building some kind of supervillain legacy for himself with his weird-teethed take on the role. Hence his dismay when large chunks of his performance didn’t even make it into 2016's Suicide Squad, something he commented on publicly while doing press for the film. (James Gunn has all but said that Leto won’t appear in Suicide Squad 2, presumably because the set’s postal carrier would riot.) The THR story goes so far as to suggest that Leto was outraged he wasn’t being treated like “an Oscar winner”—for Dallas Buyers Club—by his agents, who should have been doing more, in his estimation, to keep a rival clown from taking his place.
Again, people close to Leto are denying all of this—Jared Leto is just fine, they would like you to know, and normal. (And it’s a verifiable fact that Leto is still working with Warner Bros., filming John Lee Hancock’s Little Things—although he’s also talked about how he felt “tricked” into joining Suicide Squad in the first place.) In any case: He’s probably not coming back to play a green-haired supervillain any time soon. (Instead, he’ll be getting his comic book kicks by taking on the role of “living vampire” Michael Morbius over in Sony’s little Venomverse.) And with Phoenix unlikely to return to the role—given the standalone nature of Joker—it does actually seem like the mad clown has been defeated at last, by that greatest of superheroes, Hollywood behind-the-scenes drama. Rest easy, Gotham City: You’ve only got, like, 5,000 other costumed maniacs to worry about now.