Jared Leto praises the late Heath Ledger for his 'perfect' Joker performance

Jared Leto has hailed Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker as one of the best cinematic performances ever.

The 44-year-old is playing Batman's arch-villain in forthcoming movie Suicide Squad, based on the DC comics team of the same name.

During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, in which a topless and muscled Leto is seen posing on the August cover, the US star talked about his initial reluctance to take on the Joker role.

He said: "Heath did an impeccable, perfect performance as the Joker. It's one of the best performances ever in cinema. I had met Heath before. I didn't know him well, but he was a beautiful person."

The Australian died in 2008, but his lauded turn as the psychotic Joker posthumously won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Bafta, among other awards, for best supporting actor.

Jared said the other incarnations of Joker, including the comic books and Jack Nicholson's version in the 1989 Batman film, made it "OK" to sign on for Suicide Squad.

The film, which also boasts Will Smith, Cara Delevingne and Margot Robbie, is about a group of super villains who are recruited by a secret government agency to carry out dangerous missions.

Suicide Squad, due for release in the UK on August 5, is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Fans are eager to see Jared's incarnation of the Joker, with many wondering if he can top Heath.

The actor-musician made his breakthrough as teenage rebel Jordan Catalano in 1990s US television series My So-Called Life, which starred Homeland's Claire Danes.

Suicide Squad is directed by David Awer and stars Will Smith and Jared Leto (Warner Bros)
Suicide Squad is directed by David Awer and stars Will Smith and Jared Leto (Warner Bros)

In the interview, Jared talked about his own years of teenage rebellion.

"I was too busy taking drugs," he said when the subject turned to playing sports in school. He added: "Some drugs are incredible, but the risk versus reward is out of line. I just saw too many examples of what not to do."

Jared is currently enjoying acclaim for his acting and singing. He is the lead vocalist and main songwriter for Thirty Seconds To Mars, a rock band he formed in 1998 with his older brother Shannon Leto.

In 2014, he took home an Oscar for his supporting role as transgender drug addict Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. In the same movie, Matthew McConaughey won the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof, a real-life Aids patient.

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