Jared Leto’s turn in 'Suicide Squad' is the latest reminder that the technique has become more about ego and marketing than good performances. - NEWS SENTRY

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Monday, 15 August 2016

Jared Leto’s turn in 'Suicide Squad' is the latest reminder that the technique has become more about ego and marketing than good performances.

Of all the stories surfacing about the new DC Comics film Suicide Squad—from the dismal reviews to the box-office reports—the most disconcerting are the ones that detail how Jared Leto got into his role as the Joker. Leto was reportedly so committed to the part that he gifted the cast and crew with a litany of horrible items: used condoms, a dead pig, a live rat. To get into the character’s twisted mindset, he also watched footage of brutal crimes online. “The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence,” he told Rolling Stone. “I was watching real violence, consuming that. There’s a lot you can learn from seeing it.”
Watching Leto tell one disturbing tale after another makes one thing abundantly clear: Method acting is over. Not the technique itself, which has fueled many of cinema’s greatest performances and can be a useful way of approaching difficult roles. But Leto’s stories show how going to great lengths to inhabit a character is now as much a marketing tool as it is an actual technique—one used to lend an air of legitimacy, verisimilitude, and importance to a performance no matter its quality. Leto’s Joker is the latest evidence that the prestige of method acting has dimmed—thanks to the technique’s overuse by those seeking award-season glory or a reputation boost, as well as its history of being shaped by destructive ideas of masculinity.
Leto was, of course, following Heath Ledger’s towering, Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in 2007’s The Dark Knight, so he had to differentiate himself not just stylistically and on screen, but also in the press. There’s a lot riding on Suicide Squad, given that this spring’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice met neither critical nor box-office expectations (so far, the new film has succeeded at the latter, if not the former).
So it isn’t surprising that Leto and his castmates used shocking stories to help build a mythology around the movie. The director David Ayer, who went so far as to have his actors punch each other as preparation for their roles, gushed about Leto’s devotion. “He constantly has to give birth to himself, he goes away, he comes back, he shoots, he goes away,” Ayer told Yahoo UK. “The Joker is something you have to be, and you can see how exhausting and painful it is for him to be this character.”
Leto’s approach proved divisive among the cast and crew, and it didn’t exactly translate to a good performance (the Joker plays a surprisingly small role in Suicide Squad). But method acting of this sort couldn’t exist without the culture of permissiveness and indulgence Hollywood has fostered over the years. For the last few decades, particularly after Robert De Niro’s infamous body transformation for 1980’s Raging Bull, which netted him an Oscar, method acting has become a critical factor in the campaigns of actors seeking trophies. Actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christian Bale, and particularly Leonardo DiCaprio have spoken about how they lose themselves in roles—gaining weight, whittling themselves down, never breaking character, taking on accents and hobbies that affect their personal life. The underpinning of this strategy is the belief that to create great art one must suffer. But method acting has also become wrapped up in a brand of identity politics that tries to make the art form resemble more traditional forms of male labour, and by extension limiting the kinds of actors who receive praise.

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