Not sure how many people are just learning about Jared Leto now that he’s scooping up every acting award going for his role as Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club, but he’s been at least semi-famous for a while.
Woman on street of New York: Are you someone famous?
Jared Leto: Sort of.
— Scene from “Artifact”
He first drew my attention back in 1994 (20 years ago!) for his role as Jordan Catalano, object of Angela Chase’s obsession, in the wonderful ABC series My So-Called Life. And who can blame her—or me? Look at this guy:
Jared himself is embarrassed by his work on this series, feeling that while the show was great, he was not. (He therefore did not participate in the DVD release of this series, which is a shame, since most everyone else involved did.)
I think he’s being overly harsh on himself, as I can’t imagine anyone else playing than the part better. From just the script, you’d get a beautiful but shallow dim bulb whose only interest was cars, guitars, and sex. From the acting, you read considerably more going on below the surface: a sensitivity, an intelligence. And you needed that more. Angela Chase intense interest had to be justified by more than just a pretty face.
You’re asking a *man* [to Graham, Brad]—sorry, sorry—to describe someone when I’m sitting here? Here’s what he’s like—fairly—out of it, not unintelligent. Sort of um—stray puppy, you know the type you’re always trying to ease their pain. He may even be a halfway decent person, but let me tell you—*trouble*. *Way* too gorgeous.
— Hallie Lowenthal describes Jordan Catalano to Patty, Angela’s mom
If you’ve never seen the series, you should rectify that, but it was low-rated and lasted only one season.
After that, Jared made movies. And at first, I made some effort to track them down, but the ones he starred in often had limited release, making them hard to get hold of back then (Prefontaine, The Last of the High Kinds, both pretty decent once I did see them), and his parts in movies that were distributed were often tiny (How to Make an American Quilt, Thin Red Line, each featuring him for maybe 5 minutes? His Fight Club role wasn’t huge, either.)
And then there were those movies I was just too wimpy to go see, afraid I’d find them too disturbing: Requiem for a Dream, Chapter 27, American Psycho…
Around 1998, he formed a band with his big brother and some other musicians: 30 Seconds to Mars. With their second album, they achieve significant success, which has only continued. But that’s no thanks to me. I was happy to have someone lend me one of their albums, but I just don’t like it all that much. I don’t think their music is terrible or anything, but it doesn’t really speak to me, either.
So the whole Dallas Buyer’s Club thing has been nice for “reuniting” with this artist. He has a good-size part in it; despite the AIDS theme, the movie is not that depressing or disturbing; it’s been successful and well-distributed; and I really liked it. Yes, he plays a woman in it (a very attractive woman), but he’s very much a man in the extensive publicity he’s done around it and while scooping up all those acting awards. At 42, he looks like this:
That’s some great moisturizer he’s using to stay looking so young and gorgeous. But his Oscar speech also demonstrated great depth, integrity, and warmth. Appears Jordan Catalano really is “not unintelligent” and a “halfway decent person”.
Wouldn’t have guessed Jared Leto for the first MSCL alum to win an Oscar.
— Someone on Twitter
I’ve been following Jared on Twitter, despite that fact that he’s clearly not doing his own tweeting (and whoever is might want to tone down the triple exclamation points and all caps that made him sound like a 16-year-old fangirl). But it contains some useful links on what’s doing, and through that, I’ve learned about his award-winning documentary, Artifact.
It’s currently discounted to a 99-cent rental on iTunes, so I watched it last weekend. Directed by Leto under the name Bartholomew Cubbins, it was originally intended to just cover the making of 30 Seconds to Mars’s new album, but became something else when the band entered into a dispute with their record company. The specifics of the band being sued for $30 million for breach of contract are unusual, but bands fighting for better deals from their labels is not. And this documentary focuses more on that.
So, you don’t need to be a 30 Seconds to Mars fan to enjoy it; in fact, there isn’t that much of their music in the film. But I’d say you do have to be a fan of rock music in general, particularly one who may wonder why bands always seem to be getting ripped off by their record companies. And this documentary suggests: Because that’s their business model. Like, it’s routine that labels charge for “packaging” and “breakage” on sales of digital copies of music! The various reductions on artist’ take means they can earn nothing, or even be indebted, even after selling millions of copies of an album.
And why do artists keep signing with labels? Because of the difficulty of coming up with an alternative model, at least for artists that want more than limited, cult success.
30 Seconds to Mars is still with a record company. How they got there, without paying $30 million, makes for some interesting viewing.