Periodically, I like to check in on my friend Louise to find out her take on the latest in pop culture news. So when she sent me a YouTube link to a video by Thirty Seconds to Mars (specifically, the band covering a Rihanna song, “Stay“, which she described thusly: “Brilliant. What a slayer. Crushes the original 10x over.”) I absolutely had to call her. First, to tell her about my encounter with the band, when lead singer Jared Leto’s thug drummer brother Shannon Leto grabbed my tape recorder*, and second, to see if she knew a) that the band is fronted by Jared Leto, the actor and b) if she knew that Leto was playing the Joker in an upcoming movie – a fact which I knew would hit home with her because she absolutely loved Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
When I actually started recording our conversation, I’d just told her that Leto was starring as the Joker. As soon as she heard that she started rattling titles for new Batman movies, like Dark Knight Awakens (yes, a conflation of The Dark Knight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens) until I was able to get a word in edge-wise and explain that no, Leto was going to be the Joker not in a new Batman movie but in a new superhero (well, supervillain if you want to get technical) movie called Suicide Squad.
Louise: Is that named after Suicide Girls?
Louise: That was a good one though. [laughs] I knew it sounded familiar. I knew it sounded familiar from somewhere, “suicide.” Why are they calling it that, though? That doesn’t make any sense.
Shawn: It’s not a Dark Knight movie.
Louise: Spider-Man? Did you say Spider-Man?
Shawn: No, you said “Spider-Man.”
Louise: I’m getting Spider-Man and Batman mixed up. I thought they were the same. I don’t know. [angrily] Who’s in it then? Batman? The Joker’s Batman.
Shawn: No, there’s no Batman.
Louise: What? [incredulous] The Joker’s in his own movie? Oh, come on. The Joker’s in a movie on his own.
Shawn: He’s part of a team called the Suicide Squad. They’re a team of–
Louise: Oh so the Penguin’s going to be in it too? And Catgirl, or whatever?
Shawn: No, it’s not all –
Louise: This is stupid. No one’s going to go to this movie.
Shawn: It’s not all Batman super-villains. It’s other supervillains, like–
Louise: [angry and incredulous] All the supervillains from the comic books are going to come together and unite? Oh right.
Shawn: Not exactly…
Louise: You mean Aquaman’s going to be in it? The guy with the stretchy arms [Mr. Fantastic from Fantastic Four]? Mr. Stretch the Elastic Man?
Shawn: He’s not a villain.
Louise: Well I don’t know who they are. Mr. Brick [The Thing]?
Shawn: No, he’s a good guy too.
Louise: Oh, for God’s sake. Oh I know! The Scarlet!
Louise: The Scarlet… Spider? No. I don’t know any bad guys then. What are they called? No, I can get this. [Pause]. Uhm. No I can’t actually. I can only think of Captain America. I don’t know any bad guys. The Joker. And the Penguin! But different people. Who fought Spider-Man? Nobody. What did Spider-Man do anyway? What did he do? Who’s in it! Penguin’s not in it?
Shawn: No, Penguin’s not in it.
Louise: Is it one bad guy from each movie? And united them? Who’s bad against Superman? Who’s he fighting? I don’t know what Superman did.
Shawn: You’re missing the point.
Louise: What are the bad guys going to do together? Bad things?
Shawn: They’re recruited, they have to save the world against some threat.
Louise: Oh, I get it. I GET IT. That’s what it means, it means we’re all going to unite to save the world but we’re not, we’re going to send everyone to FEMA. That’s it. Nice movie. Foreshadowing.
Shawn: To FEMA?
Louise: FEMA camps. Underground tunnels, they’re going to gas all the people who are going to get killed. Six billion. That’s what the movie’s going to be about. The bad guys are going to pretend to be good guys but THEY’RE NOT. They pretend to be good guys but they’re bad still. You’ll see.
Shawn: I think they’re all bad guys and recruited to go on a suicide mission. That’s why they’re called “Suicide Squad.”
Louise: And they agree to this? Or they don’t know they’re getting suicided?
Shawn: They have to agree to it… I don’t know! I haven’t seen the movie.
Louise: Oh. When’s it coming out, 2018?
Shawn: August, I think.
Louise: Oh. And no one else wanted to play the Joker? Everyone else is dead I guess. Jack Nicholson’s not going to do it. This is a dumb movie. Who else is in it? Pamela Lee Anderson? What’s she going to be? Catgirl?
Shawn: She’s not in it.
Louise: Well, she should be. My point is they’re going to have a bunch of losers in it. Is Johnny Depp in it? Is he going to go in as the guy from Alice in Wonderland [guffaws]? Poor Johnny Depp.
Shawn: Did you know that the Joker has a girlfriend?
Louise: No, he doesn’t.
Shawn: Her name is Harley Quinn and–
Shawn: She’s going to be in it as well.
Louise: She’s the Joker’s girlfriend? I bought her as an action figure by accident. I didn’t want to get her but I accidentally pressed “buy” button [on eBay] and I had to buy her.
Shawn: How much did she cost?
Louise: I don’t remember. But I have her here, hidden somewhere. She’s creepy-looking. So she’s the bad guy I got. Oh.
Shawn: So she’s going to be in Suicide Squad, and the Joker. And then, three or four others.
Louise: Oh. They’ve gotta have a girl. Who’s going to play her, I wonder?
Shawn: Yeah, I don’t remember the actress’s name…
Louise: Maybe it’s going to be Meryl Streep [laughs].
Shawn: [laughs] No, I don’t think so.
Louise: Wow. Lucky I didn’t go to that movie I would’ve been really confused. How the bad guys are all together. I don’t even know who they are. Don’t you know any other bad guys? Just those two?
Shawn: Yeah, I can’t think of the others…
Louise: Maybe the Punisher’s in it. Why does it have to be the Joker. I wonder if they’re going to kill him after the movie like they did to all of the other Jokers.
*In 2002, I interviewed the band in person on Commercial Drive around the time of the release of their debut album, in 2002. Before going into the interview, I was told by the record company rep to not ask Jared Leto any questions about My So-Called Life. As the interview was about to wrap up, naturally I asked him a question about the TV series that had made him famous. His brother Shannon, who drums in their lousy band, grabbed my tape recorder and erased part but not all of the interview before returning the device. I was able to salvage enough for a story that ran in the Vancouver Courier.