Jared Leto's first claim on our hearts was, if you trust the fictional Angela Chase, the way he leaned. I've long maintained that Jordan Catalano would not be an easy part to play - it's all suggestion and no delivery required in order to satisfy every projection. The ability to embody the most beautiful blank slate that ever walked a high school hallway is a gift, but such gifts come with expiration dates. Leto's transition from dreamy heartthrob, a part he never seemed to cherish, to daring film star, a part to which he is obviously more aesthetically inclined, was long and haphazard. Many films went nowhere. The most successful of them, a pair of thrillers from David Fincher, even seemed like a direct revolt against his own beauty (consider the cornrows in Panic Room and the entire thrust of his Fight Club role -- "I felt like destroying something beautiful").
Instead Jared leaned into his second career as a rock star. After a long sabbatical from acting, he's returned to screens as Rayon, a transexual drug addict in the 80s set AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club. He's finally found the role to bridge that earlier divide and replace Jordan Catalano in the public imagination. To hear Leto tell it, as I did when we spoke over the phone just before he was (figuratively) buried in an avalanche of awards, we might never had had his Rayon without that time in the wilderness.
"I'm a big believer that we learn from everything we do." he explains. "I hadn't made a film in 5 or 6 years and in that time I was doing a lot of directing and editing and a lot of creative things, touring all over the world and on stage in front of millions of people from Lebanon to China to Africa and beyond. I think the five or six years I took and explored life made me a better actor. I don't think I would have been able to bring Rayon to life had I not lived a life."
Not that Rayon is without precedent in his filmography... [more]