One of Hollywood’s great mysteries, Jared Leto has spent his career defying its received wisdom that you can only fit one niche. Below the radar of gossip columnists, he flits from Oscar-winning performances and eye-catching red carpet appearances – green Gucci frock coat with candyfloss pink cropped trousers recently – to rock climbing and headlining with his rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. He fits the role of doe-eyed sweetheart, psychopathic killer and fashion frontrunner all in one.
Raised by his mother, Leto spent his childhood moving from city to city around America, learning to love the nomadic life. He studied cinema, moved to LA and was cast as the sensitive teenage love interest in the cult TV series, My So-Called Life. But Leto was more than a pretty face. A committed method actor, he has lived with homeless heroin junkies for the role of Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream and dramatically lost and gained weight playing the overweight killer of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, in Chapter 27 and the transgender drug-addict, Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Winning an academy award for his work, Leto never breaks from his character on set. After years of art house, Leto recently went for blockbuster as the Joker in Suicide Squad, taking on the role left by the late Heath Ledger. All this while he has been fronting his rock band alongside his brother, with record sales in the millions. Now he has taken another turn on his alternative Hollywood path, working with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele as the new face of Gucci Guilty. He spoke to Caroline Davies about commitment, guilt and never quite letting go of the joker.
LUX: What scents do you associate with your childhood?
Jared Leto: The smell of a campfire is always pretty powerful. It brings back certain times and adventures.
LUX: What was the first scent you wore?
JL: I think one of my grandfathers got me and my brother Old Spice and Brut soap-on-a-rope.
LUX: Acting, directing, music. Are they different parts of your personality? How do they inform one
JL: It’s been challenging to make them all work. They take a lot of time, which has always been the
biggest challenge for me. How do you find the time to make room for several lovers, I suppose?
LUX: You spent much of your childhood moving around America. Has it given you a wanderlust?
JL: I would say that I like new experiences so that’s sometimes the part than can keep you travelling.
LUX: Where is your favourite place in the world? What would you do there?
JL: There are so many places around the world that I really love. The national parks in America have to be some of my favourites.
LUX: You’re known for your commitment to roles. What has been the most difficult part to play? Why?
Jared Leto: The Joker was probably one of the most difficult, that and Dallas Buyers Club. It’s just very dark and emotional. There was a physical component – I had to lose a lot of weight, so it was really challenging.
LUX: Have you ever scared yourself with a character? When?
JL: I was more concerned with the work that I needed to do in order to try and do my best.
LUX: Which character was the hardest to let go of?
JL: The Joker still visits from time to time. So be careful.
LUX: Why Gucci? Why now?
JL: Alessandro drew me to the collaboration and we had met and become friends. And so when he asked me to do it, I was so excited. I thought it would be really fun to join him in this great adventure.
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LUX: Tell me about creating the footage for the Guilty campaign. You filmed in Venice in December; what was the atmosphere like?
JL: It was improvisational. It was very creative. It was a unique story of this guy and two women on an adventure, and it’s magical but it’s good. It was a lot of fun to make, and a great group of people to work with.
LUX: What do you think of when you think about guilt?
JL: Guilty is a frightful way to mean taking some chances and not always playing things safe.
LUX: How would you describe your choice of clothes?
JL: I don’t really put very much time and variation into fashion to tell you the truth. Maybe that’s a good explanation for a lot of things. I have fun with it and I’m not worried about being too safe with it because at the end of the day, it’s really not big a deal. So I just have a bit of fun with it.
LUX: Do you think that fashion can feel limiting for men?
JL: I think most men’s fashion is pretty boring, utilitarian, safe, and there is something to the
unpredictability of what Alessandro does that’s really compelling.
LUX: How do you view Hollywood?
JL: Well, I’m glad that I am where I am now. I think you sometimes have to throw a bit of caution to the wind. I have taken long breaks from acting. And that’s okay.
LUX: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard about life and acting?
JL: Commitment, to commit