David Ayer Says Joker’s ‘Damaged’ Tattoo Was ‘One Step Too Far,’ Reveals ‘Suicide Squad’s Timeline Was Changed During Editing
While Joaquin Phoenix’s brand-new Joker is frollicking around New York City subway platforms, the creator of the previous movie Joker is opening up on social media about what he says were his missteps in his unconventional concept of the character.
That man is David Ayer, the writer and director of 2016’s Suicide Squad, which featured a Joker, played by Jared Leto. In lieu of the old Crown Prince of Crime with the permanent grin or the dirty, scarred agent of chaos that Heath Ledger played in The Dark Knight, we got Leto covered in pasty white skin, one rubber glove, fake teeth, and tons of tattoos — including a conspicuous “Damaged” across the forehead. Ha ha?
It’s this particular detail that Ayer now says was “one step too far.” (It was his idea, too.)
Even while offering this concession, Ayer maintains that he still liked the detail, and reiterated the explanation that he gave in interviews (like this one in Empire) before Suicide Squad came out about why the Joker would ink that word on his face: Namely that after the Joker killed Robin and Batman retaliated by breaking his teeth and locking him away in Arkham Asylum Joker got that word etched into his face as a “message to Batman” that his smile had been permanently damaged. (I guess Arkham has a really good in-house tattoo artist?)
Ah, but some astute fans on Twitter noted that Ayer’s explanation doesn’t actually line up with the finished film; we see Joker with the grill he gets after Batman knocks his teeth out before the events that Ayer describes. The director then admitted on Twitter that Suicide Squad’s “timeline was changed” after shooting.
As someone who has sat through Suicide Squad (more than once!) this is maybe the least surprising thing I’ve ever heard; the movie had obviously been heavily massaged in the editing room. (Rumors at the time was that Warner Bros. was so enthused by the reaction to the film’s more colorful and comedic trailers that they tried to rework Ayer’s very dark film to make it lighter.) But however you slice it, the “Damaged” tattoo was an odd choice. Will audiences be more welcoming of Phoenix’s Joker? We’ll have to wait and see — and who knows, maybe that movie gets changed after filming, too.