A triumphing marvel: Jared Leto on clawing his way into the anti-hero club with ‘Morbius’

As important and memorable as the romantic and charming heroes are in films, it's striking when a villainous anti-hero character is written and performed so well that it stays with the viewers and often becomes the identity of the actor. Jared Leto, an American actor and musician, made his place into the Anti-hero club in the entertainment world after he played the Joker, a villain loved by many, not once but twice— in the 2016 film Suicide Squad and in Zack Synder’s Justice League. However, Leto’s turn to dramatise the omnipresent villain, Joker, came after a long legacy of the Oscar-winning performance by the late actor Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. After Leto’s interpretation of the character, the Joaquin Phoenix starrer film Joker, solely based on the villain, came out as well. Leto looks back fondly on the opportunity to ride in the villain universe but believes that Morbius, a superhero tentpole in Sony Pictures’ Universe of Marvel characters, gave him the real chance to carve an anti-hero identity for himself. Since nobody had ever played Morbius in a production before him, he got a clean slate to really sink his teeth into the bad guy portrayal and improvise on how he wanted the world to perceive Spider-Man’s eventual foe, a living vampire. In an interview with Variety, Leto expanded on his transition to Morbius and the various levels of getting into character. “I loved that it was the very first time this character was going to be on screen,” Leto says. “I’ve always been interested in transformation, and this was a way to explore that territory in a big Marvel film. It was impossible to say no.” Morbius is slated to hit the theatres on April 1 after a series of pandemic-related delays. Executives and makers of the show are hoping that the superhero film will retain the box office hot streak of comic book adaptations, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Spider-Man: No Way Home and the latest Robert Pattinson-starrer The Batman. Reacting to the high expectations, Leto jokingly said, “If it doesn’t work out, we have a good excuse. We waited too long.” Morbius will mark a monumental achievement in Leto’s 30 year career in Hollywood. While he has gained remarkable appreciation for his work in several movies as the villain or the side character, this will mark his first solo starring role in a big-budget movie. And the 50 year old actor is ready for it! “It’s time,” Leto exclaimed. “I feel ready for the challenges that come along with this sort of thing. I have perspective and balance now that I don’t think I had when I was younger. I’ll never regret taking a swing.” Leto started his career young in his early 20s with a debut as the high school heartthrob Jordan Catalano on the ABC series My So-Called Life and that was just the beginning of his awe-inspiring filmography. From a drug addict in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream to a transgender woman dying of AIDS in Jean-Marc Vallée’s melodrama Dallas Buyers Club (which won him the Oscar for supporting actor in 2014) and not to forget, his latest character as the black sheep of the Gucci family, in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, and it doesn’t end here. Being a musician has also added great experience to how Leto transforms himself into the characters he dreams of. Unlike most actors, his life experiences go beyond movie sets and picturesque locations. His music has given him a nuanced perspective. “You learn about audiences while you’re onstage or while you’re in town passing through. And you hear those voices, and it’s a powerful, beautiful thing.” Upon how the musician avatar reconciles with the villainous role he’s about to play in a comic book adaptation, the actor shared that he’s “a bit of a snob when it comes to film.” However, he believes that Marvel is the only force upholding the entertainment industry. “If it wasn’t for Marvel films, I don’t even know if theatres would exist,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like there’s room for everyone, and that starts to become a little heartbreaking.” Leto shares that he did extensive research before digging his teeth into Morbius. Once he had the psyche down, he delved into the physicality of capturing a tortured monster. “He’s not the quintessential hero and I take this as an opportunity to learn.” Speaking to the same publication, Co-star Adria Arjona, who plays the love interest of Morbius, recalled being concerned by Leto’s commitment to using crutches and contorting his body even when cameras weren’t rolling. Morbius uses a cane to walk. “I remember fearing for this guy’s spine. There should have been a physical therapist on call,” she said. As an actor who invests so heavily in each role, Leto explains that shedding a character after only a short period of production feels like a painful breakup. “For me, they’re like living, breathing people,” he concluded. “I know they’re not, of course, but I get attached. It’s a shame to never do it again.”

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