For me Jared Leto was always Angel Face in Fight Club - the blonde pretty boy who gets his face smashed in by Edward Norton’s narrator just to ‘destroy something beautiful’. Secondary to that he was the emaciated, heroin addict from Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, a role for which he garnered praise amidst tales of method-acting madness that saw him lose 25 pounds and live homeless for a while. For others he is the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars, a band with such a devoted following that they were able to setup a summer island retreat where everyone dressed in white and Leto floated through them like some sort of oddball Jesus. Now however I’m finding it increasingly difficult to see Leto as anything but a predatory bullish cult leader who uses his substantial power to do whatever the fuck he wants.
Right from the beginning of his career Leto was pushing his acting techniques beyond the normal preparation actors undertake. The weight loss and homeless living is fairly extreme but was it really affecting anyone apart from Jared Leto? Even when he annoyingly calls it ‘immersive work’ rather than method acting, it’s at most him being a smug little pretentious prick rather than actually harming anyone or making them feel uncomfortable (it does make me a little uncomfortable but smug little pretentious pricks tend to do that). The same with the weight gain he committed to when playing John Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman in the critically-panned and generally ignored Chapter 27. The weight gain caused him considerable issues including gout but at least he wasn’t giving everyone else gout.
Since then he seems to have upped the ante to the point where his antics are now having an impact on those with the misfortune of having to work with him. Reports from the set of his latest critical failure Morbius gave insight into the lengths Leto will go to for his ‘art’. The character of living vampire Morbius suffers from chronic pain so rather than getting someone to give him a dig in the ribs at regular intervals he decided to simply use crutches and feign a limp. As Laurence Olivier once said to Dustin Hoffman: “My dear boy, why don't you just try acting?”. The Olivier method would have surely been welcomed by the cast who were eventually forced to push Leto around in a wheelchair as he was taking too long on crutches. If anything this is surely the opposite of chronic pain: some underpaid lackey pushing a millionaire around in a (presumably) gold-plated wheelchair.
Another film labelled ‘a proper bag of shit’ by the worlds most eminent critics saw Jared Leto start to annoy not only the little people but those other big film stars he was knocking about with. Suicide Squad had a long list of renowned actors but clearly Leto thought his Joker character was the one carrying the film as he started to send his co-stars weird things in the post. Margot Robbie got a live rat, Viola Davis a dead pig, and Will Smith apparently got a load of condoms and some anal beads. Just what he was trying to achieve with all of this isn’t totally clear but there is one thing to be said: at least he isn’t only a weird little fuck to those paid a lot less than him.
In one turn of acting that seemed worth all the shittery, Leto’s role in Dallas Buyer’s Club earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Once again he lost a load of weight (and even waxed his eyebrows!) in order to play a transgender woman living with HIV. Why they decided to cast Leto rather than an actual transgender woman is an argument all in itself and probably not one that can be entirely directed at Leto. What can be directed at Leto is his decision to not thank or mention the transgender community in his long acceptance speech. Granted he dedicated the win to those who ‘lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love’. A nice enough sentiment from someone who’s just won the biggest award possible by taking a role from someone within the community and, in the eyes of some, perpetuating stereotypes that reverberate today.
Away from his sometimes-odd-sometimes-shitty behaviour in the acting world comes his equally odd and shitty behaviour as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars. As briefly mentioned in the intro, Thirty Seconds to Mars have such a following that they and Leto refer to them not as fans but as ‘The Echelon’, a name which doesn’t really make much sense but manages to come across creepy enough that it genuinely makes me feel a little bit sick. Now take all these devout followers, have them all dress in white, and get them to pay to join you on an exclusive island retreat and you have what sounds eerily like the beginnings of a cult. Leto weaving through the crowds who have paid upwards of a thousand dollars letting them hear him speak or simply be brushed by his all white robes.
All of this is ultimately an abuse of power and, at worst, highlights the privilege and disconnection from reality that people in Leto’s position display. What is much scarier and ultimately dangerous are the multiple stories of predatory behaviour and the continued successful career Leto has been allowed to have despite the claims against him. Back in 2018 a tweet from Dylan Sprouse accused Leto of having ‘slid into the DMs of every female model aged 18-25’ a damning statement in itself even if it wasn’t followed by a since-deleted response from Suicide Squad 2 director James Gunn that asked “he starts at 18 on the internet?”.
The fact that these accusations come from people within the industry just make it all the more unthinkable that he still manages to bag roles on high-profile award-fodder films like 2021’s House of Gucci. Especially when you look a bit further and start to hear all the accusations from actual victims of this predatory behaviour. In a number of mysteriously-deleted articles (and one long Reddit feed) fans who were as young as 15 at the time have accused Leto of abuse, paedophilia, and predatory behaviour. I won’t go into detail of all of the accusations here (definitely check out that Reddit thread though) but here’s a quote from just one of the (seventeen year old) accusers that gives a pretty good idea of the kind of culture and behaviour he has cultivated for years.
“I can say Jared was my first for many sexual experiences and I wholeheartedly regret it nowadays. He was very pushy into coercing me to do sexual acts with him and he was quite rough and forceful. Once he was unnecessarily rough and when I told him it hurt he didn’t stop – he never did anything slowly or for my pleasure . . . And NO, he never asked me if I was ever ok or comfortable with anything he wanted to do, simply because he is not the person to care."
When you read through the many stories, there’s a pattern that’s reminiscent of the stories of so many high-profile people who use that position for their own gain. The Me Too movement has done much to tackle this but there is still this overwhelming cult of celebrity and power that allows little abusive weirdos like Jared Leto to continue to gain wealth, influence, and awards whilst their victims watch on helplessly.
I was going to make this a short piece about Jared Leto being a fucking oddball prick who’s displayed some questionable behaviours throughout his career but the more you research those behaviours the more you come to realise these aren’t just eccentricities, they’re calculated power plays by someone who is so far removed from reality that he, in the words of his own accuser, is not the person to care. Let’s just hope that soon somebody will.