EXCLUSIVE: “I found it a real honor to be asked to continue the tradition,” Jared Leto says of playing Batman’s decades-long archenemy The Joker in Warner Bros’ upcoming Suicide Squad. An Oscar winner, a musician with his band 30 Seconds To Mars and a documentarian, Leto also has been trying his hand as an interviewer with the hefty likes of Edward Snowden, Jeff Koons and ex-VP Al Gore through his AOL Build series Beyond The Horizon.
Having debuted October 6 last year, the Leto-directed series ran for 10 weeks. With a new 10- to 15-minute show every Tuesday, the self-described “series about the future of humanity” featured one-on-one interviews between Leto and the likes of Gore, Snowden, Deepak Chopra, Walter Isaacson and more on topics of technology, the environment and the security state.
With another season of the stylized series on the horizon and the first season in contention for an Outstanding Short Form Non-Scripted and Reality Series Emmy, Leto recently chatted about his AOL gig and its subject matters. As for the garish elephant in the room, the circumspect actor also discussed tackling the Joker role in the David Ayer-directed DC Comics pic alongside Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis and others — and whether he’ll be at Comic-Con for WB’s Hall H presentation next month ahead of the movie’s August 5 release.
DEADLINE: It’s not like you haven’t been busy of late. Why did you decide to both direct and host Beyond The Horizon?
LETO: I’ve always been interested in leaders and rule breakers and artists and politicians. So I thought it would be a really unique opportunity to sit with these people in an intimate way and to learn a little bit about them and how they see the world.
DEADLINE: How did the interview with Edward Snowden come together?
LETO: I had traveled to Russia and met with Snowden, which was a pretty involved meeting that required encrypted communication and the like. And it was fascinating because of who he is and what he’s done. And more so because what’s going on between our two countries, Russia and the U.S., and to meet Edward Snowden in Russia was unforgettable. After that meeting, we did the actual interview at a later date.
— 30 Seconds To Mars (@CiMarsLover) December 14, 2015
DEADLINE: You start the show by asking him if he is a traitor. You know the divisive reaction he invokes — so what did you think of Edward Snowden?
LETO: I found him to be someone who had an incredible and very articulate point of view and I wanted to learn more about that. So I was glad we were able to make that a part of Beyond The Horizon. Because, at the end of the day, there was a moment there, regardless of your opinion on him or his actions, and it was easy to connect because we were two Americans sitting in a hotel room in Moscow.
DEADLINE: You do take your own approach when…
LETO: Well, I’m not a professional journalist, so I think when talking to someone like Al Gore or Edward and all of the other people I interviewed that it was a bit more disarming. I think people felt probably a bit less on-guard. I asked questions that I was interested in asking and learning about and we had conversations that were perhaps more intimate than they may have given somewhere else. There wasn’t an agenda that I had so people could speak their mind on a bipartisan playing field. My only agenda was to really share their perspective and investigate that.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to have Beyond The Horizon on AOL and not say, a cable station or broadcaster, which I’m sure would have been open to the idea.
LETO: AOL was the best choice because of the reach and their push into focusing on content. They give artists like me the ability to execute a vision and have real ownership over that vision. That and what I liked about that situation was the freedom that I got from them.
Because Beyond The Horizon was never meant to be conventional or for broadcast, it was always a show that was built for this generation. Something that you can consume on the go via mobile. So I think around 10 to 15 minutes was the sweet spot for us. It seems to be a good length for something that’s a bit more involved than a short piece of content that you may find on YouTube or elsewhere that’s less involving.
DEADLINE: When are we going to see more of them?
LETO: We have a second season that we’re prepping for right now. We’ve got an incredible list of people lined up. I’m going to do it again because it was so rewarding and it was challenging in its own way. It was also really fun and exciting to meet and talk with this people. I liked being able to preserve a moment in time, their perspective, and share some of their thoughts with people all over the world.
DEADLINE: So let’s talk about something else that a lot of people anticipated being fun and exciting – Suicide Squad. We’ve seen bit and pieces and trailers but what’s coming?
LETO: You can anticipate a lot of chaos and a hell of a lot of fun. And, I think, something completely different than other movies in the genre.
DEADLINE: With the expectations high and your commitment to the character as high, what was it like playing the Joker?
LETO: Aww, it was a role of a lifetime. Really, it was an incredible honor to be asked to play the part. Look, there have been so many incredible performances of the Joker over the years. Then there’s the wonderful artists that have drawn this character and the writers that have written the Joker for 75 years and more through television and film and animated projects. I found it a real honor to be asked to continue the tradition. I’m so grateful that I had the chance, that’s my honest answer and my thoughts on it.
DEADLINE: So, honest answer, are we going to see you make an appearance at Comic-Con next month with the rest of the Suicide Squad gang?
LETO: (laughs) You never know!