|Actor, Producer, Camera, Film & Tape, Music|
|December 26, 1971|
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Jared Leto was born on Dec. 26, 1971, in Bossier City, LA. His mother was a travel-loving photographer who raised Leto and his older brother, Shannon, on the road in Alaska, Virginia, Haiti and Brazil, among other locales. After graduating from High School in Massachusetts, Leto attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and studied painting before transferring to the filmmaking program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He wrote and starred in his first film while at SVA, a short called "Crying Joy." In keeping with his transient nature, Leto picked up and headed for Los Angeles in 1992, this time with his sights firmly set on acting. He made his TV debut on the cult teen hit "My So-Called Life" as Angela's (Claire Danes) crush, whom she was unable to refer to using anything less than his entire name - Jordan Catalano. The show was cancelled after only one season, but public outcry by its rabid fan base led MTV to air endless re-runs. Leto (as Catalano) had all the ingredients necessary to become a heartthrob for the MTV teen rebel set, including a vacant stare, disaffected manner, grungy hairstyle, and a rock band.
When the show was cancelled, Leto was able to shed the teen slacker image pretty quickly by taking on challenging roles in distinctive films. His first screen roles of note were in "How to Make an American Quilt" (1995) and as a virginal Irish teenager in the British film "The Last of the High Kings" (1996), but it was "Prefontaine" - a 1997 biopic about Olympic athlete Steve Prefontaine - that put him on the critics' radar. For this challenging role, the actor immersed himself in the athlete's life, meeting with members of the family and training for six weeks with one of the runner's college roommates. With his blond hair and sculpted physique, he bore a striking resemblance to the real Prefontaine, but Leto went beyond just the surface, adopting Prefontaine's voice and unique, upright running style. The transformation was so complete, that when the runner's sister, Linda, first saw him in character, she broke down and cried. Despite the attention and praise, the film failed to attract a large audience and disappeared quickly from multiplexes. Leto next delivered another strong turn as a hitchhiking college student suspected of being a serial killer in the uneven "SwitchBack" (1997) before landing the lead role of an aristocratic Brit in the period drama, "Basil" (1998). In 1998, he started playing with the big boys, appearing in Terrence Malick's controversial, star-packed WWII flick, "The Thin Red Line," alongside Nick Nolte, George Clooney, and Sean Penn.
Due to his raised profile, in 1996 and 1997 Leto appeared on People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" list, so whether in spite of that or because of that fact, he went on to take a series of roles that required drastic changes in physical appearance or significant strain on his body. In the highly-praised "Fight Club" (1999), a bleached blond "Angel Face" Leto was beaten almost beyond recognition. In "American Psycho" (2000), he was killed with an axe. In "Panic Room" (2002) he was badly burned. For his arguably finest role as a despairing young drug addict in Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for Dream" (2000), he lost nearly 30 pounds. And for his role in the almost universally panned "Chapter 27" (2007), he gained nearly 60 pounds to play the man who killed John Lennon, Mark David Chapman.
Leto had started his career as a young talent admirably determined to avoid the blockbusters, go where the challenges were, and stretch himself and his craft. But somewhere along the way, he became increasingly prone to extolling his own virtues and making public outbursts. Coinciding with this shift, was the rising fame of the band he and his brother, Shannon, had begun in 1998 - 30 Seconds to Mars. Their first album had done moderately well but it was their sophomore effort A Beautiful Lie that spawned a successful video for "The Kill," a world tour, and achieved certified sales of over one million copies. Leto's look had gone from '90s suburban kid to retro-gothic, and he was photographed pouting under jet-black hair and wearing dark eyeliner. In 2006, he allegedly attacked fellow actor Elijah Wood at an awards show for Wood's comment during an interview that he didn't like Leto's band.
On the romance front, Leto made headlines as well, dating actress Cameron Diaz for several years, which resulted in an engagement that was later broken off. Also reportedly involved with Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Olson, Leto's most famous post-Diaz dalliance was with his "Chapter 27" co-star, fellow wild child, Lindsay Lohan. A few months after the Wood run-in, Leto was in the headlines for lashing out at a photographer at the Sundance Film Festival, after he had reportedly ended the relationship with the unstable actress, stating that he was uncomfortable with being the object of paparazzi.