‘Suicide Squad’ Director David Ayer Talks “Damaged” Joker

Jared Leto's Joker in Suicide Squad
Article by Carl Bryan

Where Did You Get That Ink?

The mysteries of Suicide Squad continue to unravel, even now almost four years after the film’s release. One of the things from the movie that was equally criticized and celebrated was the body art for Jared Leto’s Joker, who had countless “ha-has,” smiles, and other tattoos adorned across his skin.

The most obvious of these, and perhaps the most talked about, was the “Damaged” tattoo that was plastered across the character’s forehead. Even now people still talk about this completely unsubtle piece of characterization, but if you go deeper there’s a perfectly logical and in-character reason for the branding, as confirmed by the director.

Jared's Joker in Suicide Squad

Fan Theory…

It started when Director David Ayer responded to someone making a joke about his use of the tattoo which prompted a fan to post their theory about its meaning.

That account, (which features Jared Leto’s Joker as its avatar) wrote: “I think the damaged tattoo is actually pretty ingenious, but only for those who understand. Joker got the tattoo because batman damaged his smile in a failed attempt at revenge for killing Robin. All with the intent to antagonize and infuriate Batman simply by seeing his face.”

Ayer concisely replied: “Exactly.”

Four Years Later, and Leto Hanging On

Leto previously said he would still be open to returning to the role, while also admitting that it’s a bit of a long shot at the moment. Despite set photos for the Birds of Prey movie indicated that this version of the character would appear, Leto’s Joker was left on the cutting room floor, and all mentions of the Clown Prince of Crime were changed to a more generic looking Joker from the pages of DC Comics.

Joker and Harley make a new friend in Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie’s Take….

The silver screen Harley Quinn gave her opinion on The Joker after Suicide Squad in an interview with comicbook.com

It was either going to be a complete Harley and Joker story, or Joker has got to be out of the picture. I really wanted to see Harley in a girl gang and I felt there was a huge gap in the market for a girl gang ensemble action film. I felt like no one was doing that and I couldn’t understand why, especially a comic book movie.

From the very beginning it was a conscious choice of, they have to be broken up at this stage. I have a whole backstory in my head [of] what’s happened between what you saw at the end of Suicide Squad and what you see at the beginning of Birds of Prey.

The brief scene shot for Birds of Prey with this version of The Joker wasn’t actually played by Leto on set, California-based musician Johnny Goth took on the role. It’s unclear if Leto himself, or even his version of the character, will ever appear in another DC movie down the line, but the actor has already landed a part as a dark Marvel character, starring in Sony’s Morbius next year.


It’s fun digging up the motivation behind certain decisions being made on particular movies, as it’s interesting to “peel the onion” a bit on actors’ takes on iconic roles like the Joker and Batman. Leto’s Joker… too camp? Not enough screen time? Too over the top? Should it have been closer to Ledger’s or Phoenix’ portrayal?

What about everyone out there? Should Leto move on? Is his time as the Joker done? Let us know your thoughts.

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Carl Bryan

Doc B is a college physical education instructor that has coached numerous sports on the rec, club, and collegiate level. He has a wonderful wife, two awesome kids, and remembers when Kryptonite came in a lot of different forms. He also has learned not to utter "Mxyzptlk" backwards!