July 27, 2016

Jared Leto: The Unlikely Triumphs of a Rock-Star Movie Star




3 hours ago


He was a wild child who became an Oscar winner — and with 'Suicide Squad,' the screen's most iconic, anarchic supervillain

Jared Leto is wearing a preposterous straw hat this morning, a gigantic, not-quite-a-sombrero thing he bought for seven bucks at a corner store. And why not? He's made it this far by committing fully, sometimes crazily, to everything in his life: Method acting, music-making, video directing, tech investing, not to mention the arts of being enigmatic, brainy and really, really good-looking. "I don't dabble," he says. "I dive in, 1,000 percent." So if he needs sun protection for a hike, of course he goes big. In any case, Leto recently turned 44 — "old," he calls it, with the subsequent qualifier "I don't feel old" — and looks maybe 29, so his skin-care habits are probably not to be questioned.

It's 11:15 a.m. on a Thursday in June, and Leto already got in some recording today for the in-progress fifth album from his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, which played arena rock long before they reached actual arenas, with Leto fronting them under the apparent operating principle that Bono's big problem is excessive bashfulness. Leto parks his unassuming vehicle of choice — a GMC Yukon SUV he's owned since 1996 — on a dusty Malibu road, ready for a bouldering trek through one of his favorite paths, in a mountainous, 8,000-acre state park where everything looks familiar. With the panache of a tour guide, Leto points out spots seen in Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H.

Under Leto's unbuttoned chambray shirt is a NEPAL I LOVE YOU tee he owns in multiple colors — that nation's post-earthquake recovery is a pet cause, though he's never had a chance to go there. (He did pay a 2011 humanitarian visit to the similarly afflicted Haiti, where he spent time as a kid.) He's got on slick North Face hiking pants, green hiking shoes with yellow laces, and one of the many pairs of striped socks he and his brother and bandmate, Shannon, exchange for Christmas every year. He's strapped on a blue backpack that holds, among other items, trail mix and a big thermos of water. Over the course of an intense three-and-a-half-hour trek, Leto, a longtime vegan, nibbles a bit of the trail mix. ("I'm actually a cheagan," he clarifies, "a cheating vegan. I don't eat meat ever. But if someone's mom made a cookie and handed it to me, I'd probably take a bite, or if I'm in Alaska and there's wild salmon out of the river, I'd probably eat it.") But he never drinks a drop of the water, which he brought for me — assuming, correctly, that I wouldn't be smart enough to supply my own. "I usually don't bring water," he says. "I'm a bit like a lizard."

He's probably not an actual lizard-person, but there is something alien, almost unnerving, about Leto, and it's not just the freaky gemstone blaze of his greenish-blue eyes, currently obscured by aviator shades. He's warm and engaging, with none of the solipsistic remoteness that often comes with years of fame. But he also seems curiously self-perfected, as if he's gone clear in some one-man Church of Letology, and sleeker than any Homo sapiens should be, moving with serpentine ease. He recently took a genetic test, with revealing results: "I have a lot of Neanderthal in me," he says. "Maybe that's why I'm so good at climbing." There's a telling scene in Artifact, Leto's entertaining 2012 documentary about his band's brave contract-disputing lawsuit against its label, EMI, where he half-jokingly bemoans the musical imperfections of "humans."




"Did you play sports in high school?" asks Leto, who didn't. "I was too busy taking drugs," he says. "Which was kind of a sport." These days, he adds, he's "essentially" straight-edge, and certainly doesn't drink. "There's all kinds of ways to change your state of mind or to get out of yourself," he says. Like, with the occasional psychedelic? "No, only at Burning Man. Only if I'm having an orgy at Burning Man will I take that." (He's probably joking, but then again, he did go to Burning Man last year.)

Above, the occasional eagle flies by; a snake slithers on the trail ahead. The hike starts to get interesting as we scramble along a rock wall just above a creek where college-age kids are swimming. From here on, each movement is tricky, requiring precise hand and footholds, and Leto navigates it with speed and ease, all the while guiding me through dozens of specific movements.

"Stay superclose to me," he says, "and just replace my feet and my hands. And stay super-relaxed. Don't overgrip. Just really trust your feet. There you go! You're alive!" That guidance, delivered over the course of hours, takes extraordinary patience and focus, but he enjoys it, constantly taking new people on this path — there are paparazzi shots, for instance, of him navigating it with a couple of young women. This kind of climbing is nothing for him, anyway — the 3,600-foot-tall El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, is more his speed.


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