The Five Best Jared Leto Performances
When Jared Leto is cast in a film, you know you are in for something unique. Leto is an extreme method actor, going to incredible lengths for his craft. He famously gained 67 pounds to play Mark David Chapman in 2007’s Chapter 27. While portraying the Joker, he sent his cast mates Joker-esque gifts (He sent Margot Robbie a dead rat). However, that kind of dedication has produced some very memorable roles throughout his career. The man has quietly been cast in some of the industry’s most important projects. You really never know what you are going to get when it comes to Jared Leto. Here are five of his most. memorable performances.
Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013)
What Jared Leto does in Dallas Buyer’s Club is nothing short of extraordinary. Both he and co-star Matthew McConaughey lost massive amounts of weight to play their AIDS-afflicted characters. Leto took is a step further and was tasked with portraying his character of Rayon as transgender. A role for which he won an Oscar but that was not without controversy as transgender activists fight to have their stories portrayed by trans actors. The story of McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof’s efforts to bring affordable, not yet FDA approved AIDS drugs to HIV patients is an incredible one. But it is the Odd Couple relationship and camaraderie with Leto’s Rayon that makes Dallas Buyer’s Club a modern classic. Rayon is so gentle, so non-threatening, and so scared of his disease. It is the perfect balance to Woodroof’s bombastic, take-no-prisoners attitude.
Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream (2002)
Jared Leto went full method — as he always does — in Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece, Requiem for a Dream. His approach to preparing for his role as Harry Goldfarb had a three-prong. First, he abstained from sex for two months. This was seemingly an attempt to suffer a kind of psychological withdrawal to go along with his character’s physical heroin withdrawals. Second, he dropped 25 pounds in order to appear emaciated. Third, he actually attempted to live as a homeless man in Brooklyn, in order to get inside the mind of an addict. All these extremes pay off. In a film full of career-best performances by Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto is equally phenomenal. You always feel his jonesing, his desperation, and his eventual, pitiful bottoming out. His injection site gets increasingly more infected throughout the film and that visual of his amputated arm and how even that doesn’t stop his heroin addiction is one of the most haunting images Darren Aronofsky has ever given us.
Nemo in Mr. Nobody (2009)
Mr. Nobody is more of an experience and a meditation than a movie. There are many, many layers to the story, with Leto portraying the titular aged man spouting a story about his youth in the distant future. Those stories materialize as parallel, alternate, past, present, and all other vague narratives. The tagline to the movie goes If you never make a choice, anything is possible. Mr. Nobody shows how a choice such as staying with one’s father or mother during divorce could cause many different things to happen over one’s life. The audience is treated to all these possibilities, never being sure if anything is real.
Steve Prefontaine in Prefontaine (1997)
The story about famous runner Steve Prefontaine is a unique one in the genre of sports epics. Prefontaine was an underdog who made winning races his top priority in his life. Everyone told him he was too short, not a good enough athlete, and his mismatched leg-lengths were a huge hurdle to get over. He proved them all wrong. But was kind of a jerk about it. Most sports films glorify or even deify their subjects for the athletic greatness they achieve. Prefontaine gives us an athlete who is as good as he boasts, and it makes him a bit coarse and unlikable. It is a VERY hard balance to obtain in a sports film, but Jared Leto pulls it off.
The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016)
To play a cinematic Joker for the third time was a thankless job for Jared Leto. However, in Suicide Squad, he certainly puts his stamp on the character. In 1989’s Batman, Jack Nicholson played the Joker brilliantly as a homicidal cartoon character. In 2006’s The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger masterfully portrayed the Joker as a dark, chaotic, psychopath. When it became Leto’s turn in 2016, his Joker came across as an insane gangster. It was certainly a colorful choice, and Leto had to pull off the crazy since Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn was firing on all cylinders. Leto’s Joker does not have an incredible amount of screen time, but he certainly makes a mark. This Joker is not funny. He is dangerous and unpredictable. Just look at that face.
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