January 16, 2014

Jared Leto on His Return to Acting: ‘I Needed to Go Away in Order to Have Something to Say Again’

JANUARY 15, 2014 | 10:00AM PT

'Dallas Buyer's Club' Golden Globe win comes after 6-year break

Jared Leto has a coffin in the living room of his Los Angeles home. Perhaps even stranger, he’s not sure exactly where it came from. “I think it’s from ‘Mr. Nobody,’ ” he says, referring to the recently released film he shot back in 2007. “But I can’t really remember.”

The “coffin table” is stacked with hundreds of books, from classics like Homer’s “The Odyssey” to works by Stephen King.

Leto’s eclectic taste in titles, along with his wide collection of unique art from all over the world — including a sculpture inspired by the Moloko Bar in “A Clockwork Orange” — reflects a man and artist who is not easy to pigeonhole.

His co-star in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” instantly discovered that about Leto when they first came face to face: “I met a performance artist,” Matthew McConaughey says. “He is not someone bound by one certain craft — acting, singing, dance. He is a performer, whether it’s a reality, a slight of hand, a spirit, or a rock ’n’ roll show. He is thoughtful, committed, understands the context, shows up to do it, not discuss it. He performs.”

In 2013, Leto showed up in a big way, after a six-year absence from movie screens. During that time, the 42-year-old hyphenate was busy focusing on his flourishing music career as the frontman for the popular band 30 Seconds to Mars.

Since the premiere of “Dallas Buyers Club” at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, buzz has been building for his performance as Rayon, a transgender woman dying of AIDS. Leto dropped down to 114 pounds for the role, but the performance is more than a physical transformation.

Feminine, flirty and fierce, Rayon is a gentle soul who nonetheless isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with her homophobic business partner, Ron Woodruoof (McConaughey). Leto is so convincing as a woman trapped in a man’s body that in one scene, when Rayon dresses as a man to speak to her father, the image of Leto in a business suit is both uncomfortable and jarring.

The role won Leto the Golden Globe for supporting actor; prior to that, he had racked up a handful of critics’ awards in addition to a SAG nomination.

Yet, one week before the Globes ceremony, Leto wasn’t willing to even contemplate his chances of winning.

“I’m the dark horse, man. They don’t invite me to these things unless they have to!” He laughs, but he’s not entirely joking. “I always feel that way. I always feel like the outsider. Even now.”

Even after his Globe win, Leto remains self-effacing. “Well, obviously I didn’t prepare a speech,” he says backstage.

When Oscar noms are announced Jan. 16, many consider Leto a lock to win the prize. But what’s most important to him is that his movie is reaching an audience. “I’ve made a lot of small films, and they don’t always work,” he admits. “But when they do, it’s wonderful to celebrate it.”

After more than 20 years in the business, Leto knows about having films not quite work. The Louisiana native and his brother Shannon (a bandmate in 30 Seconds to Mars) were raised by his mother, Constance, an artist. From a young age, Leto had aspirations to be a filmmaker, but he left the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1992 to move to L.A. “My flawed thinking was, ‘I bet I can get a job as a director if I get a job as an actor first!’ ” he recalls with a laugh.

Continue reading on Variety.

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