Movies

Published: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 7:35:17 AM

Grace and humanity

Exploring a new side: Actor Jared Leto gave a standout performance as transsexual Rayon in 'Dallas Buyers Club'. – EPA

Exploring a new side: Actor Jared Leto gave a standout performance as transsexual Rayon in 'Dallas Buyers Club'. – EPA

Taking a break from music, Jared Leto makes a leap back to acting with a career-defining role as a transsexual in Dallas Buyers Club.

JARED Leto disappears completely as a transgender in Dallas Buyers Club. In a performance that makes him a strong Best Supporting Actor contender in the upcoming Oscars, Leto is Rayon, a transsexual who forms an unlikely alliance with a fellow AIDS patient, Ron Woodroof (an equally compelling Matthew McConaughey), a real-life character whose story about learning alternative treatments in Mexico and smuggling them into the United States inspired this film directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.

It’s a career-defining role that got Leto to act again after being busy with his band, Thirty Seconds To Mars, where he’s the lead singer.

And what a return to the big screen it is.

“When I first read the script, I thought there was a great opportunity here to portray and bring to life a real person,” he explained. “We see these characters and usually they are cliches. They are stereotypes – the drag queen dancing on the table, who always has the punchline and is running out of the room at the end of every scene. I didn’t want to do that. That has been covered and sometimes really fun and well – from Tootsie to whatever. There have been incredible performances out there.

“But I wanted to bring to life a real person – this young woman who was finding herself. The things that I admired about the character were exactly what I was brought up on. She was incredibly compassionate, open, gentle, kind and emotive. I am not like that all the time. I can be guarded and I liked that side of the character. I hope that I am able to keep some of those characteristics that I really admired.”

Asked what helped him give a stunning performance, Leto answered, “I think it was a combination of things – script, role, fellow cast members, and there was some magic there. But you know what the most important thing was? Good old-fashioned, hard f***ing work. That’s what does it. It’s elbow grease, digging in, working, working and working some more. That’s how you get that. I am a big believer in the reality and a dream is just work. I am a worker. That’s what I do.”

Complimented that he makes one pretty woman, Leto broke into a wide grin and remarked, “Well, thank you very much! I am a very beautiful woman, unlike Dustin Hoffman. He had nice calves but I think my ankles put him to shame.”

On whether he agreed with Mel Gibson who said that he had no trouble pulling on the pantyhose for a scene in What Women Want, Leto was emphatic in his reply: “I am going to disagree with Mel Gibson. I found pantyhose to be the worst thing to wear. It’s worse than heels. Your circulation is cut off. I had to wear two pairs of tights sometimes. They were so tight. Oh my God, that was not fun. That was not the most comfortable. I didn’t feel free.”

A bit flirty, Leto conceded that there were “really nice” aspects about being a woman on the set. “People treated me very well. It was always interesting on the set. It was always the biggest, toughest, strongest teamster who was a little bit flirty. He wanted to hold my hand when I got out of the van and said, ‘Right this way, ma’am.’ People really forgot it was me because I was in character the whole time. It was incredible.”

Standing up and then walking like a woman, he shared, “A couple of times, I would walk down and see a teamster walk by, checking me out.” Leto demonstrated a teamster turning around and looking at him. “It was great.”

But he admitted that he didn’t always get amorous reactions.

“When I was shooting this film, one day I went to Whole Foods. It was impossible not to be noticed. I thought I made a pretty good woman but not everybody thought so. People stared. Being that thin, I got a look of curiosity and another look of judgment.”

The role is a big comeback for Leto who was getting major roles but decided to concentrate on his musical career in the last few years. Leto remembered the first time he moved to LA to try his luck as an actor and how that helped him portray Rayon.

“When I first moved to LA, I rented a room in a little apartment that a woman owned, and she also lived there. It was a three-bedroom unit. I had a bed jammed into a closet. That was after I had slept on the beach for a while. But that’s a different story.

“There was a man who rented one of the rooms. He was in his 40s and dying of AIDS. I had never seen anything like it. I watched him wither away week after week. We would sometimes walk, get lunch together or go to the grocery store. He was always busy making shakes from vegetables – something I had never seen before. This was way before Jamba Juice. He was an amazing human being. He had an incredible sense of humour, grace and humanity and taught me a lot. I was able to learn some of those lessons, and have greater understanding and empathy.”

On sleeping on the beach and other places while he was trying to make it in LA, Leto revealed: “There were a couple of times in my life when I was homeless. One of those times wasn’t so bad. It was when I came to LA for the first time with a backpack and a couple hundred dollars in my pocket. I ended up sleeping on Venice Beach. I was young and healthy and I knew it was just for a short period of time. I was intent on making a new life for myself.

“I ended up staying in a crack motel for a few nights and then in a youth hostel. Eventually, I got that apartment that I talked about. That was my beginning in Los Angeles, not too dissimilar from probably a lot of other people.”

These days, Leto is making sure to appreciate the raves he’s been earning and not thinking of his next career move.

“I haven’t made any plans to make another film. It would have to be very special, especially after this. This was a life-changing experience and it continues to be.”

He has no regrets. “I am really proud of the choices that I’ve made. I followed my gut, heart and dreams. And I had this opportunity.” – Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network


Related story:
The power of opposites

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, movie, Matthew McConaughey, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Oscars 2014

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