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Exclusive: Jared Leto on His Return for Gucci Guilty

The prolific Jared Leto returns for Gucci Guilty’s next episode and opens up about the new campaign he fronts with Lana Del Rey, as well as his art of life, work and style.
Reading time 11 minutes

It’s not an easy task to describe Los Angeles. Unlike some cities that enchant at first sight, L.A.’s kind of beauty is strangely paradoxical — where the mainstream and off-kilter co-exist as strange bedfellows to create an irresistible and variegated whole. In a stealthy and seductive way, the place grows on you.

Though it is late fall, the season-defying California weather is all warm, blue skies and luminous sunshine in West Hollywood en route to Chateau Marmont for an interview with Jared Leto, on the eve of the Gucci Guilty party at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. 

After a smouldering turn in the 2016 #GuiltyNotGuilty campaign shot in Venice, co-starring models Vera Van Erp and Julia Hafstrom, the Oscar-winning actor and musician is reprising his role for the fragrance’s new chapter.

Read on for our exclusive interview with Jared Leto:

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“Venice was magical and beautiful to be in the middle of winter…desolate. The campaigns are very different—one is very sensual and provocative, and the new one is more free-spirited with a sense of adventure, playfulness and nostalgia."

Making her Gucci Guilty debut with Leto in the new #ForeverGuilty campaign (you guessed right) set cannily in La-La Land is multiplatinum singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. Los Angeles denizens in real life, the protagonist pair frolic across the city’s lush and saturated landscape in the short video, channelling spontaneity and uninhibition while enjoying a natural connection in their own unconventional and eccentric ways.

The City of Angels

Glen Luchford’s cinematic lens captures the nonconformist couple on a jaunt living their life and love, enlivened by the catchy melody of a rock ‘n’ roll tune.

They meander through iconic Hollywood spots and quintessentially Americana scenarios—from the motel and the convertible to the laundromat, the beauty salon, the supermarket and a diner, replete with a cameo by Courtney Love appearing as a waitress serving the glamorous, ethereal Del Rey and freewheeling Leto.

“I think what we were trying to explore is more of a guilty pleasure—it’s “guilt” in a more playful term,” says Leto. “It’s embracing maybe a less-than-perfect side of life, that’s fun and celebrates things—it’s funny you can have a cupcake once in a while.”

What do the new scent and its campaign bring to mind and heart? “For me, it is very nostalgic because so much of it is in California—Los Angeles, Hollywood, Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It’s a celebration of a city that I’ve lived in for so long and an environment I’m really familiar with.”

A Creative Journey

Flashing back to his teenage years—after having spent some years in art school, Leto eventually dropped out from New York’s School of Visual Arts and headed to L.A. armed with dreams of becoming a filmmaker. 

The journey that began with a vision of pursuing his creative goals and ambitions has long become reality, panning out into a lifelong and diversified career that sees him wearing many hats in disparate fields and even in those outside the entertainment world. 

The non-exhaustive list in his CV reads something like this: actor, musician, director of music videos and documentaries, photographer, activist, humanitarian, entrepreneur and tech investor.

“I like to work and I’m very open to new experiences. I have a ‘yes’ above my head, often. I always love to learn so that leads me down a lot of different paths.”

For those who grew up in MTV’s ‘90s heyday will remember Leto as teen heart-throb Jordan Catalano in his breakout role on the short-lived My So-Called Life.

Since then, the multi-hyphenate’s predilection for challenging projects has established him as a determined and talented method actor, and Hollywood force to be reckoned with.

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His critically acclaimed portrayals and moving character studies are epitomised by the roles of the tragically troubled heroin addict, Harry, in Requiem for a Dream and AIDS-stricken transgender woman with a heart of gold, Rayon, in Dallas Buyers Club. The latter won him the pinnacle of all acting awards—an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2014, on top of 30-odd other industry awards for this role of a lifetime. Those hoping to catch him in a light-hearted romcom will most probably be waiting indefinitely for it.

As to the source of his success, he says, “Probably my mother I would credit the most,” whom he thanked in his inspiring Oscar acceptance speech for encouraging him to be creative, to work hard and to do something special, and for teaching him to dream.

Perhaps more than anyone else in modern-day Tinseltown, Leto rises above the fray as a master of fearlessness and creativity in his inimitable no-holds-barred way. This rings true in his successful transition from Hollywood actor to musician—a feat that has eluded others who tried—as the frontman-songwriter of Los Angeles-based Thirty Seconds to Mars, the rock band he co-founded with elder brother Shannon Leto in 1998. 

“I think if you see me on stage with 30STM, it is probably the closest to myself that I ever am,” he says when asked where among all his creative endeavours lies the real Jared Leto.

Not content to take things easy and rest on their laurels, the band toured incessantly and received a Guinness World Record in 2011 for “Most Shows Played During An Album Cycle”—over 300 shows in 6 continents over a span of two years.

Leto is quick to acknowledge that hard work is the answer to achieving one’s goals. “Talent—I’m not sure how much that matters. I’ve never met a talented person who didn’t work hard, at least part of the time.”

 

In between all the strenuous gigs, acting jobs, and other project and work commitments, Leto does take time out to unwind. “I love nature,” he reveals, giving away why he is such an avid rock climber.

 “I used to read a lot but I don’t as much anymore because we’re always reading on our phones. Podcasts…I find that interesting sometimes. I love to watch films, documentaries. I have made films for so long and you would think I wouldn’t watch them as much, but a great film always just takes my breath away.”

Having travelled the world with 30STM, the making of Gucci Guilty’s latest campaign ironically brought him back to his home turf. 

“I have a lot of memories in Los Angeles—it’s a city I’ve been in for a couple of decades now,” he says. “For me, the shooting was very personal and interesting experience being in all these locations that I had spent so much time in over the years.”

Incidentally, there is a 30STM song written by Leto titled City of Angels, whose lyrics are revelatory of his sentiments regarding the place. “I wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for the city.

"As I got older, I realised that if I wanted to make some of my creative dreams come true, I needed to go west. I put on a backpack, saved up a couple of hundred bucks and came to Los Angeles to make myself,” Leto says in the song’s video clip.

Mastering a Fearless Style

Not only an adventurous risk-taker in his professional choices, Leto is equally dauntless in the style department. Since cementing a Gucci deal, he has upped his own trailblazing game honed over the last two decades to inadvertently garner the attention of the fashion world with his statement-making get-ups, especially for his public appearances and shows—something 30STM fans or famously known as “the echelon” know well.

For the interview today, Leto arrives dressed in a violet printed silk shirt and black pants with white side stripes, with his long, dark brown hair in cornrow braids. Appearing to reference a ‘60s/‘70s artsy boho-glam rock vibe, this is the style he is currently sporting in conjunction with the band’s fifth album entitled America.

Yet another mode turn courtesy of his irreverent, rule-breaking streak, even though he asserts his myriads of hairdo and fashion transformations over the years are mostly “the result of a bad accident or (an acting) job.”

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“I kind of just have fun with it. Maybe if you’re trying to be safe, it’s not a great route for having fun. I don’t put that much thought into it…even for today,” he says. “These are fairly old Gucci clothes I’ve had forever. I’ve worn these pants like a 100 times and I can see they are getting quite worn out here.”

Does he have a favourite Gucci outfit? Who knows if he is humouring me for asking an inane fashion question, but he says with enthusiasm, “Yea… I’ve been wearing these Gucci dresses onstage that are flowy, nice and cool. They’re not too hot, that’s why I like them.

“Whatever is the most comfortable is what I wear. I’m only into comfort. It has to be cosy and comfortable,” he says, laughing softly about his sartorial modus operandi in what he chooses to wear when left to his own devices.

Even after two and a half decades in the business, it is amazing to see how ageless he looks.

He keeps mum about his beauty secret when prodded, and says jokingly, “If I told you my secret, then I couldn’t sell it. Now I gotta figure a way so I can sell it and make a billion dollars,” before quipping, “Maybe a line of Gucci Beauty for men…I will talk to them about it.”

Though his demeanour may faintly echo the sage self-assurance of Niander Wallace, the character he plays in Blade Runner 2049, there are glimpses of his impish, spirited side—a throwback to his early 30STM days as the band’s fresh-faced lead vocalist bursting onto the scene in their audacious debut performance of Capricorn (A Brand New Name) on MTV back in the day.

On Working with Gucci

A fascinating celebrity to watch, Leto certainly is as far as his films, music, style and other projects are concerned. He makes a superb partner in crime for creative director Alessandro Michele and his compelling vision for Gucci with an idiosyncratic twist in the reinvention of what is recognisable and traditional for the House.

“We’re friends first and foremost, and we have a lot in common because we are similar ages; we’re both creative people; we love our work; and we love to work hard—we have some common ground there. You know, the fact that we get to work together is just a bonus and it’s a nice thing to do with someone you have a connection with. Really grateful to work with this awesome group of people.” 

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The next evening at the outdoor screening of the #ForeverGuilty campaign video at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, surrounded by an eclectic cohort of guests, all four of its collaborators— Alessandro Michele, Jared Leto, Lana Del Rey and Courtney Love—sit huddled together on a park bench for the preview of the director’s cut. 

A constellation of four dreamers, artists and stars in their own creative rights who are now banded by a common declaration of self-expression and liberty in the realms of life and art, alongside the new-generation spirit of Gucci Guilty.

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Visit gucci.com to find out more about Gucci Guilty.

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