Jared Leto is our new Joker—here’s why that’s a big deal

In case you didn’t hear the cries of excitement all over the Internet yesterday, Jared Leto will play the Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie in 2016. To put it simply, this is kind of a big deal for us, and for Leto, and for superheroes — ahem, villains — everywhere.

First, let’s get the talk about Suicide Squad: it’s basically a group of DC comic super villains who fight for the good guy’s side. Yes, they’re bad, but in helping to save the day they turn a little bit good. There’s obviously a lot more backstory to the team, but that’s the gist of it. It does not feature such iconic characters like Batman and Superman, but rather Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the Joker.

Here’s the first reason this casting news is important: Suicide Squad will be the first time the Joker will grace the screen since Heath Ledger’s astonishing performance in The Dark Knight. In the canon of superhero villains, the Joker is kind of king, and he’s been made only that much more important to superfans thanks to Ledger’s work. Taking on the role is like taking on a legacy. Leto’s totally the dude for the job, but if you look around the Internet, everyone’s taking this casting choice seriously and waiting to see how it will work out.

Second reason why this is big: Leto just won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. (In between touring the world with his band 30 Seconds to Mars, of course). It’s commonly believed that the first post-Oscar role for any actor or actress is the toughest — if only because they need to follow up with something even BIGGER.

“There was this little event called the Oscars that basically changed my life,” Leto told the Hollywood Reporter last month. “I’m not really in a hurry to jump into another film unless it’s something I can’t say no to. I want to make sure it’s special.” Obviously, this one’s pretty special. With a film this big, Leto reaches the next stage of his career: box-office action hero (or villain as the case may be). Of course, he’ll always be Jordan Catalano to us.

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