A thriving career as a rock star is a pretty valid reason to stop making movies, so Jared Leto understands why people stopped sending him screenplays. “Yeah, they got the point after a while,” he says. “But what a weird thing to do. I’m not so sure many people do that by choice — not work for that long.”
What finally brought him back was “Dallas Buyers Club” — more specifically Rayon, the character he could play in it: a slinky and sarcastic transgendered HIV patient in 1980s Texas who teams with Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) to access better AIDS-fighting drugs not yet available in the U.S.
“I got seduced by Rayon, you know? I thought, what a steep climb that would be,” Leto says. “It’s a composite, it’s not based on a real person — but I think that she ended up being a real person. I think that character has been represented in film so many times in a way that’s stereotypical, and I was intent on not putting a cliche up on screen. I think that’s one of the opportunities that I saw when I read the script. I said, ‘Oh, I could do this in a way that has some dignity and grace, and there’s a real person there.’”
While McConaughey’s staggering weight loss for the role has been well-documented, Leto was no slouch either. “I lost over 30 pounds and then I stopped counting, because it didn’t matter,” he says. “Really the weight for me is about how it affects me on the inside. It changes everything about you. It changes how you walk, how you talk, how you laugh, how you breathe, your choices in a scene. You may lean up against somebody as you’re talking because you’ve got no energy. It’s a transformative thing.”
With plenty of awards season speculation around his performance, Leto’s return to film is turning out to be a fairly time-consuming one. But will audiences have to wait another six years for another? “I don’t know,” he offers with a shy smile. “I haven’t really thought about it.”