Jared Leto has become the poster boy for immersive method acting, an all-in devotion to character that often results in eye-popping on-screen transformations and headline-grabbing on-set provocations. And yet, as the 45-year-old actor told SYFY WIRE in New York last week, he rarely ever watches his movies to see the end result of his full-tilt preparation and performance, even the ones that grab the biggest headlines.
"As soon as you watch it, that's when it becomes subjective," Leto, who stars in this week's Blade Runner 2049, explained. Last year he drew widespread and breathless coverage for his plunge into the madness of The Joker during the production of Suicide Squad. And despite living as the maniacal supervillain for all that time, gifting rodents (and maybe used condoms?) to castmates and answering only to The Joker, Leto declined to watch the actual movie. It follows in the path of his admission that he had never seen Dallas Buyers Club, despite turning in an Oscar-winning performance.
"No, I never did," he revealed. "I just think with watching your own films, it can be too self-conscious of a process. You either like what you did and you're prone to repeat it, or you didn't like it, and it can make you self-conscious. I'm not sure how much win there is for me. But I read the scripts, so I know what's going to happen."
The actor has made a few exceptions to his personal blackout rule. Back in 2000, he watched Requiem for a Dream after spending weeks living on the street and losing 25 pounds for the role. And he plans on "at some point" seeing Blade Runner 2049, which in context qualifies as a rave endorsement of the project. Especially because he's somewhat selective when it comes to even acting in a film, a judiciousness forced both by his commitments to his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, and by the time he spends in the bones of each character he plays.
Leto was compelled enough to join Blade Runner 2049 by the part of Niander Wallace, a genius whose vision for the future creates a core conflict at the center of director Denis Villeneuve’s film. His physical transformation was less complete in this movie — Niander has a beard that Leto still wears, and white eyes that indicate blindness — but his internal drive, and the questions it raises, lured the actor.
"The dialogue was incredible, and I thought he was a fascinating person," Leto said. "Someone who saves civilization from starvation and then goes on to acquire the technology to the Tyrell Corporation, and introduce a next-gen iteration of replicants. And he clearly has an opinion, an idea of what needs to be done in order to save humanity. He's not afraid to take the steps that are necessary in order to make his vision come to life."
When Leto spoke to SYFY WIRE, he was clearly tired from travel. He sat on a pillow up against the glass window of a hotel room, trying to correct a back problem, a malady borne of his band's grueling tour schedule. He was just in Brazil before flying to New York to do press for Blade Runner, and spoke almost dreamily of recharging to replenish the energy that pushes him to such extremes for his work.
"It's something I always struggle with, because creativity, like anything, is a limited resource. You only have so much to say, and then you have to go have experience, to live life, read books, consume art, make art, whatever inspires you," he said. "Spend time in nature, have a conversation, get dumped. Whatever it is in your life, you have to live, or your creative decision-making power will fade. Your battery will drain."
Luckily, becoming his characters seems to involve a whole lot of living.
Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters on Friday, October 6.