Silver Screen Spotlight: Jared Leto

A highly-skilled method actor in disguise as an equally-talented rock-n-roll star, Jared Leto has taken the stage of both music and cinema in a number of unique and daring faces. From a lengthy career as the lead singer of the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars to a gracious roster of characters on the silver screen, Leto has made a name for himself outside of just simply acting and singing. Manifesting into a born-performer with his own set of unhinged rules to follow, you never truly know where the singer-turned-actor is going to end up next. Taking on one of his toughest -- and most influential -- cinematic roles in last month's Suicide Squad, Leto aims to bring his own strange persona into the even-stranger persona of the Clown Prince of Crime himself. So in honor of the actor's massive leap into the comic-book realm, I'm running through some of the most memorable roles I've seen from him -- as well as a few I've yet to see.

While I may not have initially gotten on the Jared Leto train at the start of his career, the actor jumping from the cult 1994 television series My So-Called Life to a string of Hollywood and independent projects, my first exposure to just the kind of performer Leto really was had to be in what's now considered his breakthrough role, 1997's sports biopic Prefontaine. A runner myself, this fantastic portrayal of the life and legacy of Olympic track runner Steve Prefontaine ever flourished both my love for the sport, as well as my interest in Leto as an actor. Bringing a laid-back swagger to his starring role, which tested both his emotional state and his physical boundaries -- an element of his acting that would later earn him an Oscar -- Leto's take on the famous athlete remains one of my favorite roles from him. Effective not only as a great underdog story, but also a brilliant display of how an actor can dive into a role just by building up a runner's stature, Prefontaine is my go-to film when it comes to Leto.

While the actor may have collected his fair share of memorable roles since playing Pre, from 1998's war flick The Thin Red Line to his role as Angel Face in Fight Club the following year, I next saw Leto deliver a short-lived yet highly-entertaining role in the 2000 film American Psycho. Starring alongside the enigmatic Christian Bale, who pulled together a radiant performance as the bizarre and materialistic serial killer Patrick Bateman, Leto -- while not as prominent as Bale in the film -- did offer a similar semi-psychotic and all-together superficial role as Bateman's unfortunate co-worker.

Next seeing Leto in the science fiction drama Mr. Nobody, where the film's surreal and philosophical nature fostered another emotional and transformative role for the actor, I was met with another favorable role from one of Leto's most under-the-radar films. Becoming a cult favorite among fans of the sci-fi genre for its unique cinematography and non-linear structure, Mr. Nobody remains one of my most memorable roles from Leto, for simply how much dedication became apparent from him throughout the film. Playing a plethora of different versions of his character, Nemo Nobody, as he explores the trio of elaborate paths in which his life could have gone depending on his actions, Leto's trademark method of transforming himself for a role was one of the reasons why this film remains so memorable.

Before he donned the chalk-white skin and red lips as the Joker in Suicide Squad, one of Leto's most recent transformative roles occurred when he played the flamboyant trans-gender woman Rayon in 2013's Dallas Buyers Club. Garnering a handful of awards for his performance, acting alongside Matthew McConaughey who played real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, Leto offered up one of his best roles in this fantastic biographical drama. While the story behind the film might have turned some moviegoers away, there's no doubt that Leto's turn as the trans-gender Rayon was an exceptional addition to the film, his sassy yet determined character aided McConaughey in his fight to survive.

Returning to the acting scene this year, Leto's newest role has not only polarized critics once again, but has also offered up a gracious sense of hope for what, in my opinion, seems to be a casting just waiting to be revolutionized. Brining his eccentric method acting to a role that continually begs to be deconstructed and reconstructed constantly, Jared Leto's turn as the Joker in last month's super-villain team-up flick Suicide Squad ultimately concluded to something of a missed opportunity. While it was clearly evident that Leto dived deeper than anyone expected to create a whole new version of the super-villain, the ultimate lack of development and overall purpose for the character in the film felt without a doubt quite flawed. Nevertheless, while his effort put forth for the film may not have gotten the clear vision in the final product that it deserved, I strongly believe Jared Leto's Joker could eventually manifest into something truly spectacular. Offering just a slight taste of what's to come from the methodical actor's performance in future films, while Suicide Squad was misguided in a number of places, Leto's enjoyable jump into the comic-book realm was something greatly appreciated and something that still begs for further development.

In whatever shape or form we see Jared Leto next, whether it be in the director's chair for another music video for his band or in a mysterious role in the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, there's no doubt in my mind that Leto remains one of the best up-and-coming method actors of our time. Diving into every unique film he puts out, I'm fascinated about what's to come next for the actor/director/singer, at the ripe age of 44. While I might not be completely in tuned with his musical stylings just yet, I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the next transformative role this guy brings to the silver screen.        

What's your favorite Jared Leto role? Are you a fan of a more toned-down Leto role, or an all-out psychotic and methodical role from the actor? Give me some recommendations for what to watch from the actor next in the comments below, I'd love to hear 'em! 


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