Jared Leto interview Elle Belgium magazine, september issue 2016
copyright Elle Belgium-interview by Isabelle Vander Heyde
Especially for @mzleto, who I translated this for, so she can read her Belgian Elle now :)
Jared Leto is dying, or at least that’s what he likes me to believe. The man sits on a couch in a dark hotelroom in Milan. His trembling hands are hidden under a wool blanket and his bright blue eyes are staring at me with fear, ready to to receive the fatal blow –or better my first question –. What a comedian.
Let’s not forget that the dying man in question is an internationally praised Oscar winner. An actor who makes a living by portraying in a creepy but credible way a psychopath, drug addict or transgender. An incredible showanimal who plays hourlong shows with his band Thirty seconds to mars without falling down. A joker who’s very active on social media and only hours before our talk, posted a photo on snapchat showing that he was still very much alive then. I think it’s highly unlikely that he will die from a terrible cough, like his personal assistant tells me in a deep voice, not in this full Milanese heat anyway. So why all this comedy? Well, because he’s his crazy self . Jared Leto is a terrible tease, and even though he has a PR-talk planned about his part in the new Gucci perfumecampaign, he has clearly decided that it’s much more fun to make journalist bloody nervous. At the same time he’s proud of his project and there are times when he steps out of character, like when he can’t hide his own enthusiasm when he talks about his best friend and Gucci-designer Alessandro Michele and his newfound best buddy that turns out to be a turtle. A crazy mix of weird, colourful characters, but that ‘s the new Gucci mind you.
The drastic revolution with Gucci hasn’t gone unnoticed, the fashion label, once a strong fortress of Italian luxury, has known one or more turnarounds over the last decade. Under Tom Ford’s reign it was mainly known for it’s porno-chic attitude and was famous for its’ genius, yet controversial, according to critics, merciless anti-women campaigns. Ford’s successful term was successed by the soft hand of Frida Giannini. The Italian designer reduced the shockcontent and introduced a much cooler housestyle. At the same time, the fashion brand engaged in several campaigns for women’s rights, like the Chime for Change-program in cooperation with Beyonce Knowles and Salma Hayek. After 10 years she (Giannini) seemed absolutely done with Gucci (or was it the other way round?) and closed the door behind her on her way out. Following her departure, the noble unknown Alessandro Michele was made to lead the ship in 2015. The man had been a fixed value behind the scenes for years and the change from shadow to spotlight couldn’t have been more grand. He immediately introduced a new vision on things: Gucci, which went from explicitly sexual to woman’s rights, would from now on always stand for emancipation, full stop. No rules, no guidelines, no worries, so Michele started mixing and matching. His passion for dusty furniture and furniture fabrics , for all things crazy and for everything unruly, translates into eclectic collections earning himself raving reviews for over a year now. He puts everything in the mix: men and women, kids and adults, humans and animals, light and shadow, good and evil, everything is placed in a new light.
A new dawn that has put the old Gucci back on the map and where guilty pleasures are there to be experienced. Besides the catwalk, the Gucci Beauty department is now ready for a make over and that’s where crazy Leto comes in. He shares a love with Michele for ridiculous humour and Jesus-hair, but the most important thing they have in common is their aversion for rules which makes him the perfect man for the new Gucci Guilty campaign. The campaign is directed by Michele himself and takes place in Venice, the ultimate place of perdition. We get to see Leto in a golden light of dawn-this is all about a new dawn, remember?- who contemplates about something terribly naughty he’s done the night before, hence the two half naked girls in his bed.
“Venice was the perfect setting for this story”, he starts the interview in our less than sexy, dark hotelroom, “it’s amagical city , one who shouldn’t or couldn’t exist, considering it’s geographical location. The fact that it has been built despite all that, we owe to the stubbornness of the Venicians and their decadence, without decadence there is no life.”
Productive decadence, it makes me want to ask him what the most decadent situation is that he’s been in, “I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about that” he apologizes “I might just end up in jail, I’ve ended up in a lot of decadent situations in my life which are not subject to publication”. He grew up with a hippiemom, who surrounded him and his brother Shannon, with the most diverse artists and who let them found their own way in life. “There weren’t many rules in my childhood, sure there were some basics we needed to respect, but there was no conformism in any way. I’m a firm believer of doing what you can and following your feeling, as long as you don’t hurt anyone with it, rules are meant for breaking”.
It won’t surprise anyone that the actor always searches for roles and characters who despise any form of conformism. Like the role of The Joker, the ubervillain in the highly anticipated ‘Suicide Squad’, a role that made hem lean over to the dark side for a while. Leto is known for his meticulous preparation of his movies and remains in character at all times while making a movie, he sometimes even puts his own health at risk prepairing for a role. No wonder that The Joker took control of him “He’s actually a fantastic bloke with an amazing sense of humour, you might not like me today (because he’s ill, cough cough) but most of the time I’m a funny guy. He has a dark, twisted sense of humour, something that overpowers and takes control of you. I think he’s addictive, he says and does what he wants. Now that the shoot is over I miss him, we had so much fun together”. An example of the fun he had: At the end of a long day of shooting Suicide Squad, Leto sent his co-star Margot Robbie a rat. To his great disappointment the actress didn’t seem at all impressed and she adopted the animal and cared for it. “She took it everywhere on set, which was really strange”. Leto himself has an obseesion with little animals as well, in the days before our interview he turned Milan into a frenzie in the company of a..turtle; “He’s an amazing little man, he doesn’t have a name and I guess he’s about 35 years old. I found him during a shoot a couple of days ago and we’ve been inseperable ever since. Seriously, he follows me everywhere I go and he’s rather fast for his age and for a turtle. He even comes so close that I can smell his breath, but I have to admit that sadly it doesn’t have such a nice odeur, which I find surprising, I’d never expected a turtle to smell”.
Talking of smells, they are mostly related to memories, is there an aroma that will stick with him? “Of course, the smell of campfires, those are the best memories, that and the mix of sweat and marihuana Why? because that’s the scent that rises from the audience during a show, a horrible but also very nice scent, I associate that scent with performing, with the adrenalinkick it gives, the feeling of concurring all.”
Now that the interview has gone back to the olfactory subject, I take my chance to talk about Gucci again. The ‘Guilty’-perfume mixes aromas that are considered both male and female. A conscious choice that fits perfectly in the new housestyle where genderboundaries are being challenged. “Alessandro was looking for someone ‘different’, someone who wouldn’t be afraid of the script. I suppose that he saw me as the perfect man for the dysfunctional picture he was trying to paint”. In the ad, we can see how Dutch model Vera Van Erp, sexkitten par excellence, paints Leto’s gorgeous face with lipstick. That’s typically Jared Leto though: an international sexymbol, but also a man who makes you want to paint his face with lipstick and cover him up in a silk woman’s blouse, something he loves doing as well. For his role as transgender in Dallas Buyers Club he refused to wear men’s clothing throughout the whole shoot, an effort that earned him an Oscar and an eternal love for women’s clothing. “The looks of my character were so cool: with my second hand dresses, tops and pants, the dresses were my absolute favorite, they’re so loose and comfy. It feels like you’re not wearing anything which is so liberating. I hate panty’s though, even more than high heels, I just don’t get how women can worm themselves in those things every day. It was so hard to let ‘her’ go once the movie was done. You get to love the character, so saying goodbye to her was very tough.” Leto didn’t need to mourn the loss of that femine side for too long, though, thanks to Gucci he can do it all over again and he seems to really enjoy it. Clad in a shiny bomber jacket, pointy boots with a floral print, a nice seductive scent AND with a speedy turtle beside him, this man hops through life, at least when he’s not dying. Cough Cough.