Actor, rock star, Prince of Darkness. Those are only a few words to describe Jared Leto. For many he’ll always be remembered for his role in the TV series My So-Called Life as Jordan Catalano, starring opposite of Claire Danes as Angela Chase. Luckily, I’ve never seen the show (not that I’ve avoided it but simply because it was never aired in Italy), so the possibility that I’ll end up calling Jared, Jordan, will never happen (for his great pleasure, since I’m certain that twelve years later since the show has ended he’s still plagued by that character).
Leto has appeared in many films, and if you haven’t noticed it’s simply because in every single film he’s ever been in the director has dramatically changed his look. He got axed in American Psycho, he was bleached with a bruised face in Fight Club, he had cornrows and a horrible burn in Panic Room, and sported daft extensions in Alexander. Despite those small roles, Leto has demonstrated that he can handle starring roles without a problem. His superb interpretation as the drug addict Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream convinces audiences of his ability to bring a raw reality that sometimes is too bleak to conceive. Soon, he will hit the screens with his first lead role in Mr. Nobody.
But where many other artists have failed, Leto has succeeded. When he ventured off in 1998 to start the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, many blew it off as another actor trying to extend their popularity in the music industry as well. This wasn’t the case with Leto, who had always had a love for music, but his interest for acting is what launched his film career. Now, with their sophomore album the band can demonstrate to a larger audience that Thirty Seconds to Mars is a band that provides astounding songs and live shows that are jam-packed with emotions and energy. With amazing songs like “The Kill,” “From Yesterday,” “Attack” and my personal favourite, “Saviour,” the band has proved that their music is potent enough to reach thousands of fans worldwide despite the lack of airplay they receive compared to bands like Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance.
I was told that interviewing Leto wasn’t an easy feat because he rarely sits through an entire interview without getting up or turning the recorder off if you’re unlucky enough to ask one of the so many “taboo questions” (meaning no questions about his private life or gossip in general).
There’s a part of me that feels somewhat ghetto gangsta when he presents himself with a closed fist and expects a closed fist back in return. Being used to dwarfs like Mr. Molko (sorry!), the first thing that I notice is his height. A prime characteristic of any Capricorn (as myself) is the unrestrainedly desire to control and dictate. Leto has the same characteristic when he orders Evian water for the both of us (not to be a snob, but I despise flat water and only drink Italian water) and have to inform him that I can make my own decision. Slight awkwardness ensues, and then the interview begins.
Why did you choose a Latin motto for your band, Provehito in altum. (Aim for the top)?
“Because like an institution, a university, we have a credo.”
So much has been said about your nose-breaking incident, what really happened?
“It’s incredible how the press writes stuff that isn’t true and always in a negative manner. It was said that the fans were the ones who broke my nose, but it wasn’t true. I was holding a flag and was trying to get onstage. When I walked out the fans were excited and wanted to hug me, touch me, so I remained blocked in between the crowd and hit the flag on my nose.”
Apparently, he finished up the gig with a broken nose, and didn’t go to a hospital till after the show, how very hardcore rock of him.
Many of your songs begin slow, but always end with you screaming in rage at the end. Why is that?
“A Beautiful Lie is about protesting against injustices. The album focuses on internal conflicts and revolts. I may look seemingly calm but have a lot of anger inside.”
You’ve won several music awards for A Beautiful Lie, does that make you feel more validated as a rock band?
“It was never about the awards. Of course, we’re happy that our band is receiving recognition and for the right reasons.”
You directed both of the videos for your singles, “The Kill” and “From Yesterday” under the alias of Bartholomew Cubbins. Why do you feel the need to hide yourself behind a pseudonym?
“For the same reason that when the first album came out I didn’t want the press to know that I was behind it, because I wanted the audience to appreciate the music for what it was, not for who was behind it. I don’t want people to like the videos I directed knowing that I did them, or not like them knowing that I did them. I want their opinion to be as unbiased as possible.”
How was it like for a musician like you to portray the role of Mark David Chapman, the man who killed one of music’s greatest genius, John Lennon?
“It put a lot of things under a different perspective. I have a good bond with my fans, they’re like an extended family, and knowing that John Lennon’s assassin was a fan kind of makes any artist feel a little uneasy.”
One of the album’s major focus seems to be the motif of lies. Why is that?
“Our lives are filled with lies. Lies other people tell us and the ones we tell ourselves. Sometimes we create lies to allow us to get through a tough time, but the truth always haunts you. You can’t hide from the truth.”
The interview comes to an end and I can put on my resume that I’m one of the few journalists that didn’t make Leto flee. Off the record he informs me that he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, or do drugs (a rarity in the rock star species). He admits that he was scared to be interviewed by me (Ville Valo must still be going around stating how cruel I was to him in 1999, when I accused him of selling his music through the use of sexy album covers like Razorblade Romance). When he asks me if he can hug me, the ruthless cynic in me responds, “Sorry, I don’t hug emo boys.” Not discouraged by my answer he replies, “Now you do,” and hugs me anyway. My little black heart melted.