During the 43 minutes I have with Jared Leto in the front room of his estate I am not sure he can see me. He makes enough direct eye contact. His blue eyes glint beneath an oversized neon pink beanie hat and a full forest beard, engulfing a face that is unnervingly youthful for a 45-year-old. Sometimes, however, he glances to the side for long pauses. When he does so, his irises are glazed, like he has cataracts. His character in his latest film Blade Runner: 2049 is blind. Leto wore sight-limiting lenses for the shoot. Maybe he's wearing them today to stay in character as promotion. It wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility.
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Here are some words by EVE BARLOW, it's not the entire interview - this can found in Man About Town magazine. BUY YOUR COPY ONLINE
Hollywood folklore says that Leto is a next-level method actor. Rumour has it that when he was making Requiem For A Dream he lived among addicts and would shoot up water instead of heroin to prepare. During Suicide Squad he supposedly sent his co-stars dead rats and used condoms to get into the psychotic head of The Joker. In his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club as a transgender AIDS victim, he was so immersed in his character that even the director allegedly never met Leto until the Toronto International Film Festival. Today he sits cross-legged and barefoot on the floor “looking" up at me on a couch. The question on my mind is: does anyone meet the real Jared Leto?
There are so many versions of Leto you wonder if he has a gauge on his authentic self. His most coveted, long-standing role is that of the rock showman. He formed the three-piece stadium band Thirty Seconds To Mars (TSTM) in 1998 with his brother, Shannon. To date they've sold over 15 million albums and have a Guinness World Record for most live shows during an album cycle. Outside of TSTM, Leto adopts aliases for his other roles. As a video director he credits himself as “Bartholomew Cubbins”. And as a director of short films he goes by “Angakok Panipaq”. “Jared will be with you shortly,” says one of two stylized female staff in the front house of his headquarters.
Before anyone meets Leto, they meet his compound and its workers. The residence is called Wonderland. It's buried away in the corner of Laurel Canyon. At 100,000 square feet, it's a former Air Force site. Today it's been transformed into a habitable home. It has a swimming pool, a theatre, a soundstage, a control tower, and – apparently – a guillotine. It's supposedly the place where the government shot the B-roll footage for the moon landing. As its corrugated iron gate pulls away to reveal Leto's Dr Evil style lair, you're met with a sign that says “WONDERLAND AIRFORCE”, a disused telephone box and a parking lot filled with unremarkable cars. The road-worn Priuses and Hondas must surely belong to his employees.
In a reception area not dissimilar to a hospital waiting room, there's a well-thumbed book of Rilke poetry and a copy of How To Photograph An Atomic Bomb on a side table. Leto mythology says that he only touches elbows, but as soon as the man glides in like a shaman and offers a handshake, that particular legend is laid to rest. “What's happening? What's going on here?” He asks, like an inquisitive android.
So far only one song from TSTM's as-yet-untitled fifth album has been revealed. The full-chorused, Bastille-like “Walk On Water” is filled with religious connotations. It's a song, he says, that took three years to write. In all the artwork Leto is at his most Jesus looking yet. The photos feature him carrying an American flag like Christ carried the cross. It seems he's siring himself as a new leader. Given the recent threats to the sanctity of the music audience after events in Manchester and Las Vegas, it could be interpreted as his call-to-arms for a church-like relationship worth fighting for.
“It's a common theme in my music,” says Leto. “I've put a lot of my own self-doubt and fear into my work. A song can be a prayer, a song can be a bullet, a song can be a friend. It's been that way for thousands of years. Songs have been our history, our culture, a place where we can capture a moment, a person, a spirit of something or someone, and share it ad infinitum. It's a place where we tell stories. 'Walk On Water' is a song that speaks to the times we're living in.”
This morning Leto's been in “full music world” taking meetings, doing promo. “I was just on Facebook live about 15 seconds ago,” he says, which is slightly inaccurate. “Walk On Water” aside, I am allowed to listen to three other songs from the album, all of which must remain without titles at the time of going to press. Leto is determined not to talk about any of them, throwing me off guard.
Let's chat about these times we're living in, I say. A lot has happened between Love, Lust, Faith And Dreams (released in 2013) and this album. Leto looks at his iPhone. “I'm going to turn this off,” he says, troubled by the vibrating. He raises his ear to the sky. “Do you hear that noise?” I think he's referring to the distant sound of a neighbouring hedge being trimmed. “Is that annoying for you?” He picks up the phone again, as though he could make the gardener disappear should it be an issue. It's not. I re-ask the question.
What were some of the things you wanted to come back to music to discuss, thematically speaking?
Jared: “I'm staying on the floor by the way because I've been struggling with a back injury for a while and it bugs me if I sit on a couch or a chair.”
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How did you injure your back?
Jared: “Rock climbing.”
You're a big fan of that, right?
Jared: “Yeah. And it's annoying because I am such a big fan of it.”
Do you have to find something else to do in the interim?
Jared: “Yeah, so I can get onstage. I'm barely getting onstage. I am healing. It's just taking a long time. Sorry, what was your question? [I re-ask again]. The creative process is never polite or practical. It's a battle. A battle with time.”
Sure, but lyrically speaking, the world's changed since the last. What did you want to say?
Jared: “This song speaks about standing up and fighting for what you believe in. It's a time of great uncertainty for many.”
You seem to be a fearless guy. Are you afraid of our world right now?
Jared: “Absolutely. Fear is a great teacher and fear is what gets you up the mountain. Fear can speed you up or slow you down. Fear is a really great thing! It's a shame we're not taught that.”
Right. Fear's a good motivator.
Jared: “It pushes us to do things we wouldn't. Fear and failure are important things to examine. If you try a lot of things you're gonna fail a lot. I have failed more than anyone I know. I try to remember how there are small moments that are as important as the bigger ones: the breakthrough in a song, a lyric, or a melody, a small acoustic show that felt special, a conversation with a friend, rock climbing in Joshua Tree. But I fail all the time. I fail so much. And I win once in a while.”
When was the last time you felt as though you had a moment of affirmation?
Jared: “Mostly around concerts. We just played [BBC] Radio 1. We invited everyone from their offices to come into the studio and all sing together like a giant kumbaya.”
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Photography BARTEK SZMIGULSKI styling KAMRAN RAJPUT words RYAN CAHILL