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Jared Leto: Return of the prodigal

The face of Hugo Boss’s new fragrance Hugo Red, actor-singer Jared Leto is bracing for a busy 2013 with a return to the movies after a four-year-hiatus and the release of his band’s next album.

Actor Jared Leto
Image Credit: Reuters
Actor Jared Leto arrives for the 22nd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York.

Jared Leto is really happy to see me.

I don’t think he’s been happier to see anyone today. You see, I’m the last of the 30 press interviews that he has to endure as part of his commitment to Hugo Boss as the face of its new Hugo Red fragrance.

We are in Berlin for the world launch and the man is unusually chatty for someone who has had to deal with identikit questions from the press all morning. I have to be mindful of the five minutes I have here, which basically means cutting Leto off midway through his chatting about how much 30 Seconds to Mars enjoyed their time in Dubai.

The 40-year-old actor, whose filmography includes some eclectic choices, has worked with some of the industry’s finest directors (like Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone and Darren Aronofsky) and has received critical acclaim for performances in films like Requiem for a Dream and Chapter 27.

The actor also fronts 30 Seconds to Mars, the neo-progressive rock band that he formed with brother Shannon in 1998. He also directs some of the band’s videos under the adopted name of Bartholomew Cubbins.

Wearer of many hats, Leto returns to the silver screen this year with a role as a flamboyant transvestite and Aids patient in The Dallas Buyer’s Club alongside Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

Leto reportedly dropped close to 15 kilograms and shaved off his eyebrows to get into character to play the ghoulish Rayon. The internet was abuzz with Leto’s dramatic transformation when shooting for the film began near the end of last year.

The actor is still tight-lipped about his new project, his first in four years, but is more forthcoming about his work with 30 Seconds to Mars. The band are set to release their fifth studio album this year. Here are some excerpts from our chat:

On the constant pressure to be creative: I find inspiration in the reward from great challenges, I find energy in the desire to create something new. They sort of feed each other. There is the pressure to make something truly great, but I think that’s a good thing. It is a good tension. Tension and pressure can be really positive things, they can drive you to create something better. I certainly feel that.

On working with Hugo Boss and the new fragrance: They were looking for somebody unique and different. I think the brand is really classic and I knew that they were going to make sure everything was classy, cool and creative and fun. And it has been that. I am glad I got to work with them. They have such a talented team working on the launch of Hugo Red. I trust their decisions.

I am not an expert when it comes to this, but I certainly like what they have done. It is quite extraordinary.

Actor, director or musician? Being a musician has been the most satisfying because it’s something that 30 seconds to Mars did on our own. Nobody’s written a script for us, movie studios haven’t put anything together. We created these songs. I have written these songs myself, we’ve toured and battled it out. We’ve been a signed act since 1998 and have been touring for a really long time. There’s something about that self-made enterprise and it has been really rewarding to be a part of the band’s success.

On turning down a chance to be directed by Clint Eastwood in Flags of our Fathers: You have to make decisions that are hard. Sometimes you just have to turn down opportunities that are great so that you can focus your energies on what you really want to do. Steve Jobs would have said the same thing. Sometimes you have to focus on your knitting and kill projects that are fun and profitable. You have to kill projects to focus on what’s important.

On the next album’s India connection: I spent the beginning of 2012 in India – Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai, Pushkar and Goa – recording material for the next 30 Seconds to Mars album. We are finishing some of the material now and are using some Indian instruments. There was a guy playing a table, a girl singing… we don’t really know what will end up on the album, but even if it’s not the instruments, the experience, the spirit, the emotions played a part in the creation of the album. It may not sound Indian, but my experiences there played a big part in the creation of the music.

On Bartholomew Cubbins: I just adopted that name to direct the videos for From Yesterday and Hurricane. Who knows, maybe I’ll direct a film some day. I don’t know.
On his biggest inspiration: It is hard to pin down to one person, but my mother has been a big inspiration. She always had this creative ambition and that influenced my brother and me.