As frontman for rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, the former star of '90s teen drama "My So-Called Life" has toured the world, released four albums (most recently 2013's "Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams"), and settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit with his record label. He also directed "Artifact," a documentary about that lawsuit, and has made a name for himself as a savvy investor in the tech arena.
Set at the dawn of the AIDS era in the early '80s, "Dallas Buyers Club" marks Leto's first movie role since filming the underrated "Mr. Nobody" in 2007. He plays Rayon, a transsexual who goes into business with Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), an AIDS-stricken rodeo cowboy, to import AIDS treatment drugs unapproved by the government into the U.S. The role, which saw Leto drop more than 30 pounds, recently won him a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe, as well as an Oscar nomination in the same category.
Moviefone Canada caught up with Leto at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival, where "Dallas Buyers Club" premiered. He spoke about his return to acting, losing weight for the role, and working with the always-entertaining Matthew McConaughey.
Moviefone: Tell us about the weight loss and how it impacted your performance.
Jared Leto: I got down to about 114 [pounds] and then I stopped counting. I lost about 30 pounds, but it didn't really matter at that point. I had lost weight before for "Requiem [for a Dream]," I gained 60 pounds for a movie called "Chapter 27," so I have a whole 90-pound difference between that one and this one.
But really the weight is interesting because, first off, it provides a certain amount of fragility. But it affects the way you walk, talk, laugh, breathe, your choices in a scene and your energy. So it's a great asset, to tell you the truth. It's also a commitment you can't run away from. So it brings with it an incredible focus.
What do you like about Rayon?
Her sense of humour, her compassion. She's kind of a hot mess.
Did your family get to meet Rayon?
No. One time I came home from Thanksgiving, OK, which is obviously a real fun meal to eat, and I told myself, man, on Thanksgiving I am going to eat. I'm going to cheat one day and I'm going to eat, damn it. And I eat really healthy so I was excited for my tofurkey and my cranberry sauce and stuffing and all that. I love that meal. So I get home, and my mom, my brother and family and I go to eat and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I got too guilty. So I took one bite and put the rest away.
What was the return to acting like, after so many years spent away from it?
I think that the break from acting actually was the best thing that I've ever done for myself, as an actor. It's almost like I started over from the beginning in some ways, but with a greater sense of myself, a greater sense of confidence in my choices. Kind of a clear ear to my instinct. I think I became a much better actor.
How important was committing to 30 Seconds to Mars full-time?
We had more success than we ever dreamed, if I can say that without sounding like a jerk. We toured the world. We played from Africa to Asia to the Arctic, and the biggest shows we could ever imagine. We're still doing it. We played festival shows in Europe this summer, sometimes in front of 100,000 people. So do you say no to that when it's happening? And it's easy for five years to go by when you're doing that.
What's it like working with Matthew McConaughey?
I think he may be the biggest reason I made the film. I thought, 'If he's willing to walk down this path there must be something special. There must be gold in them hills.' And he's obviously making really interesting choices, and by design. There's no mistake. He's reaching for a place that is really challenging and interesting.
But he was a force to be reckoned with. When you're making these films and you're in a scene with another actor, it's incredible what someone else can do for you. I'm not a great tennis player, but I can return a ball if you hit it to me. But if you got out there with Andre [Agassi], if he was feeling gentle or gracious, he could lob that ball to you and probably keep you going for hours, and the greats like Matthew are like that too.
What do you make of the all the Oscar buzz surrounding your performance?
I never thought I'd be in a film and be get the response that I got yesterday and this morning. I didn't plan on making a film. I'm just grateful to be here talking to you about it.
"Dallas Buyers Club" is now playing in theatres.