James Gunn Explains Why The Joker Isn't In 'The Suicide Squad': He "Wouldn't Be Helpful" In A War Situation

Apologies for bringing up a painful memory, but we all remember Jared Leto's Joker, right? The pale guy with silver grills, neon green hair, and a grating laugh? He had the word "damaged" tattooed across his forehead? It's a hard look to forget (no matter how hard you try). Well, if you haven't heard the good news, by the grace of James Gunn, he will not be making an appearance in the new iteration of The Suicide Squad.

The upcoming villainous get-together stands alone from David Ayer's 2016 film of basically the same name (Suicide Squad, no "the"). In a recent chat with The New York Times, Gunn revealed that he never explored the idea of Leto returning as the Joker. His explanation was simply, "I just don't know why Joker would be in the Suicide Squad. He wouldn't be helpful in that type of war situation."

Based on the trailer, Gunn's The Suicide Squad promises to be a wild, action-packed ride. It's quippy and explosive, and it's pretty hard to imagine that tatted-up Joker fitting into the movie's oddball energy. Most of his scenes in the 2016 film happened in isolation, or solely alongside Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, but even those didn't exactly ooze chemistry. And Gunn seems determined to bring the characters back to the basics: pure fun.

For Gunn, it was never about responding to or even acknowledging Ayer's film. He added,

I wanted to create what I thought of as the Suicide Squad. For me to react to David's movie would make it the shadow of David's movie. I wanted it to be its own thing completely.

Reimagining The Suicide Squad

In the interview, Gunn talks about looking at different elements of the first film. He said:

When Warner Bros. said they wanted me to do this, I watched the first movie for the first time, and I called them back and said, what do I have to keep from this movie? And they said, nothing. They said, listen, we would love it if Margot's in the movie but she doesn't have to be. You could come up with all new characters or you could keep all the same characters.

This kind of free-range meant Gunn could take the movie wherever he desired, in terms of both characters and plot. So he exercised that right.

The Suicide Squad sees the return of many familiar faces from the first. This includes Robbie's Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, and Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag. But when it comes to characters added, Gunn dug into the depths of DC comics for characters that promised chaos. This includes Sylvester Stallone as a shark-man hybrid that devours at least one whole man and Weasel, a child-eating monstrosity whose character design will be seared into your brain.

You won't be shocked to learn that neither people-eating creatures were considered the heart of the movie. The Suicide Squad has a large, star-studded cast, with many other familiar faces making appearances. It's an ensemble movie through and through but Gunn explained that if anyone should be considered the single protagonist, it's Idris Elba's character, Bloodsport.

I wanted somebody who had that gruff, "Unforgiven"-type feeling about him. This guy who had been reduced from being a bigshot supervillain — he took Superman out of the sky — who is now scraping gum off the floor at the beginning of the movie. He absolutely doesn't want any part of it — he just has accepted this is his life. And I just think that character is Idris Elba.

Elba plays a technologically advanced mercenary who joins the task force to be reunited with his daughter, Tyla (Storm Reid). Of course, actually accomplishing his goal will involve overcoming a ton of obstacles, occasional aliens, and a very strange group of co-workers. But here's hoping that works out for him.

The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max (for 31 days) on August 6, 2021.