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Who is Jared Leto?

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"Artifact" Premiere - 2012 Toronto International Film FestivalWho is Jared Leto and why is everybody saying all those things about him?

In this year alone Leto appears in three films, each one as different and unique as his range while performing. Leto’s appearances in 2013 include a brilliant supporting turn in Dallas Buyers Club, the documentary Artifact about Leto’s band Thirty Seconds From Mars, and a Belgium film from 2009 getting a belated release domestically called Mr. Nobody.

Shot in English with an international cast, Mr. Nobody stars Leto as the aptly named Nemo Nobody. The film was released in Europe over three years ago and garnered deserved praise. Leto plays a 118 year-old man in the year 2092. Mr. Nobody is the last mortal on Earth since the rest of humankind has achieved a kind of immortality. Director Jaco Van Dormael has also helmed acclaimed European films like The Eighth Day and Toto the Hero, neither of which made a splash in America.jared-leto-skinny-terry-richardson__oPt

Mr. Nobody is a time tripping science fiction drama centered on the conceit of parallel universes and the lives we lead in same. An opening parable shows the audience a pigeon in a lab experiment. The bird is fed at regular intervals but the purpose of the study determines that the pigeon has no sense of time and will perform the same motion that it thinks triggers the food regardless of when it’s fed. Likewise Mr. Nobody stands on a railroad platform as a child with his estranged parents and his life flashes in sequences before him. In one stream he shares an intimate relation with his stepsister, and in another timeline he’s married to a woman in the throes of madness, and in yet another he’s married to a different woman and has a completely separate career.

The centenarian Mr. Nobody recalls his life to a researcher in a setting that has genre similarities to one of the segments of Cloud Atlas. In fact any fans of the latter film will rapidly embrace Mr. Nobody with its multiple paths and narrative twists. Van Dormael’s juxtaposition of imagery bridges the various timelines, at times with startling analogous connections. Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Rhys Ifans, Linh Dan Pham, and Juno Temple are among the cast. Mr. Nobody was briefly released in a few big cities at the beginning of November and as quickly dropped from view.

Leto also heads the rock outfit Thirty Seconds From Mars. As the director of a documentary about the band Leto lays out the case of how record labels pile debt onto a band’s contractual obligations and make it nearly impossible to actually profit. Artifact mainly deals with a legal battle between Thirty Seconds From Mars and their parent EMI. When the band attempts to break their contract the label sues them for $30-million.

Thirty Seconds From Mars takes the viewer behind the wall for scenes of the band at play, on stage and in litigation. Even at the end when everything seems settled these spiders from Mars are left holding the bag for a few million. Artifact opens via VOD across various platforms “including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Xbox Video, Sony Playstation, Cinemanow and Vudu,” on December 3.

It what will no doubt be considered his best role to date Leto appears in the remarkable drama Dallas Buyers Club, opposite Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner, as a person dying of AIDS. Set in the mid-1980s at the onset of the disease, Dallas Buyers Club charts one man with the ailment given a month to live. He beats the odds by going off the grid and obtaining supplements and medicine in Mexico and other countries, effectively bypassing the FDA and their stringent requirements for drugs.

Both McConaughey and Leto dropped weight and mass for their respective roles. They don’t just look like a couple of guys with AIDS, there are scenes where they look like emaciated prisoners in a concentration camp. Their relationship starts out contentious enough as they occupy berths on the opposite ends of the personal philosophy spectrum. Like any good buddy movie they bad cop good cop each other until they become allied in their efforts. Dallas Buyers Club is currently in area theaters and reaping good reviews based mainly on its amazing performances. Dallas Buyers Club is currently playing area theaters including the River Oaks Three.

A glance at Leto’s filmography shows that he’s basically done little filmwise other than the mentioned three films since his portrayal of Mark David Chapman in the 2007 movie Chapter 27. Some of Leto’s previous notable roles include Fight Club, Requiem For A Dream and Panic Room. Leto may not have the busiest career currently in film. That would be somebody like the everpresent James Franco. But Leto has certainly left his mark this year in films that matter.

- Michael Bergeron

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