David Ayer Explains the Origin of Joker’s ‘Damaged’ Tattoo
By all accounts, a lot of stuff got cut out of Suicide Squad. If you believe the recent press reports, there were two totally different versions of the film competing for release: A darker take from director David Ayer, and a jokier movie edited in consultation with the company that made the film’s popular, upbeat trailers.
The version of Squad that’s now out in theaters gives short shrift to several characters, and probably none shorter than Jared Leto’s Joker, who’s second-billed in the film for what basically amounts to an extended cameo. He’s there mostly to provided background motivation for Harley Quinn in flashbacks; his role in the main film’s storyline is totally irrelevant to what the Suicide Squad is doing and what they want to achieve. If they’d cut him out completely it would make no difference.
There was all this talk about Leto and his Joker-esque preparations for the role; how he send his fellow actors disturbing gifts to put them ill at east and get his mind in the right place to play one of the greatest villains of all time. But in the movie, he’s mostly just a nuisance, less a master of anarchy and evil than a gangster dressed like a weird birthday party clown with bad tattoos.
Those tattoos were also a big part of Leto and Ayer’s Joker, but they got even less screen time and focus than the rest of the character. Why is this version of the Joker covered in hideous ink? What is so ‘damaged’ about him that he’d have the word carved into his forehead? In an interview with Empire, Ayer explained more about that specific tattoo, which was actually linked to the Joker’s ongoing war with Batman and the death of Robin, whose uniform we saw hanging in the Batcave during Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Here’s the full quote:
“Joker killed Robin and Batman basically smashes his teeth out and locks him up in Arkham Asylum. It’s in the asylum where Joker would have done the ‘damaged’ tattoo as a message to Batman saying, ‘You’ve damaged me. I was so beautiful before and now you’ve destroyed my face.’ That’s where the grill comes from.”
This is all rich character drama between Batman and Joker. Unfortunately, none of it is in the actual movie. (Batman and Joker appear in just one scene together, and unless I’m misremembering, there isn’t one shot where Leto and Affleck are both on the screen at the same time.) The goofy grill and tattoos going hand-in-hand is kind of clever, as is the way that Joker holds Batman responsible for his “damage” (although how Joker got such a nicely scripted tattoo in a mental asylum is still a question to me). All this stuff works, and it shows why Ayer got the job directing Suicide Squad in the first place. He had good ideas! If this stuff had actually wound up in the movie, it could have been, y’know, not horrible.