Academy Award winner Jared Leto, now a major Emmy contender for his work on Apple TV+‘s WeCrashed, joins Awards Daily‘s Shadan Larki to discuss his immersive approach to acting, taking risks, and the challenging and rewarding work of portraying infamous WeWork founder Adam Neumann.
Jared Leto is looking for a challenge.
Whether as the lead vocalist of Thirty Seconds to Mars, a fashion muse, an iconic Batman villain, or a charismatic and doomed entrepreneur, each iteration of Mr. Leto presents us with something different, a yet unseen dimension to the chameleonic performer. And while his immersion into each character has led to internet chatter and made headlines, in its essence, Leto’s approach is quite simple— show up to the set prepared, focused, and ready to collaborate. The difficulty lies in the hours of work the Oscar-winner undertakes to allow for that level of dedication.
For the AppleTV+ limited series, WeCrashed, that meant makeup, hair, and prosthetic charges; working with a team of coaches to tackle Neumann’s Israeli accent, and memorizing a mountain of dialogue and back-achingly performing Neumann’s passionate speeches as he builds an empire on a house of cards.
The months-long shooting schedule made WeCrashed one of the most daunting projects Leto has undertaken, but living with Neumann for so long allowed Leto the opportunity to explore every facet of his character. And say goodbye with new life lessons and a deep sense of gratitude.
Read our complete interview with Jared Leto below:
Awards Daily Much has been written and said about your immersive acting method, and I think a lot of times, it can become clickbait-y or cliched. So I wanted to ask you about your relationship to your method. How would you describe it? And particularly for this role, how did your approach change?
Jared Leto: Well, I hope that I bring something new every time. I mean, I think it’s important to keep evolving both in the way that you work and the work you do. I’ve always loved transformation, I love to see other actors transform, and I’ve always been excited by the magic of transformation. I love immersive and challenging work. I take my job seriously, and I think it’s really important to show up prepared, both for myself and the other actors, the directors and the writers and the grips, and everyone. So I always stay as focused as possible and try to do the best work possible.
It’s also really important to show up and be collaborative and of service to my other actors, directors, and everyone involved. That’s a very important thing to me. Probably the most important. I think some of the things that come with being called a method actor are titillating. It is, like you said, clickbait-y, and it’s also just silly. I see things, and it’s just kind of corny to me because I know the truth. If I was working in a way that wasn’t, you know, pleasurable for other people and rewarding both for myself and for the directors and other people that I’m working with, it would be clear by now.
I have had the fortune of having wonderful relationships with my co-stars, fellow actors, and directors. I have been fortunate enough to have enormous support and praise from them throughout the process and after the films. So, for me, I reject the term ‘method acting’ because it comes with a lot of baggage, and I feel like it’s a bit of an antiquated term. You know, it’s not my term. It’s honestly from another generation. When people use that term, they don’t know what they’re talking about, it has to do with a certain school of acting in New York City at a particular time and history. But I know that it’s a wild world out there.
AD: Well, that’s why I think it’s important that you have space to speak your truth and describe your process the way you want to describe it, rather than what it might be associated with. It’s important that it’s your interpretation our readers know about.
JL: I appreciate that. You know, it’s a funny thing, because we can talk about it 100 times, but people want to believe what they want to believe. That’s the world we live in, you know, you can tell people the Earth is round 1000 times… I get it, and I understand if you’ve read these wild stories about Daniel Day-Lewis or Sean Penn or this one or the other one. You know, working in an incredibly committed way causes a conversation sometimes.
AD: You worked on House of Gucci right before WeCrashed. How did you make that transition? How do you begin to immerse yourself in someone new?
JL: That’s a good question. It was something that I was concerned about because I was filming in Rome with an Italian accent. Then just a few weeks later, I was shooting WeCrashed with a completely different character. I mean, it couldn’t be more different. I don’t know what kind of magic transpired, but it wasn’t as big an issue as I thought. I thought I would bounce back into Paolo on the set all the time because he was such a fun character, and he was so over the top and compelling, but it didn’t really happen.
I think that there was so much material, and I dove in so deep with the work to bring the character of Adam Neumann to life that it took my full attention and focus. I was excited by the opportunity. I found the story fascinating. I found the characters compelling and had a lot of gratitude for being there. I have to say, it was really one of the best experiences I ever had in my life with acting. I’d never done that much acting for that long, you know, it was nearly six months, and it was like making five or six movies in a row.
AD: You’ve talked about that aspect of WeCrashed and described it as ‘excruciating.’ Was it the sheer amount of work that difficult, or was it the emotional stakes at play?
JL: Well, [Adam] spoke a lot. He was really verbose. There were a lot of speeches, and of course, in a film, you have to give the speech multiple times; it’s not like he gave the speech once, and your day is done. You have to give the speech from different camera angles and for different reasons. He spoke with a lot of passion. I’m a pretty mellow person most of the time, but he was very excited and passionate. You know, it’d be the end of the day, and my back was killing me, my body was a wreck, and I just shut everything else out for that period. There was the work, and then there was sleep. That was it.
AD: The world of offices is so different from the world you come from. You’re in sound stages and on stage performing. This was an entirely new environment for you. How much did you know about start-up culture and the dynamics at play here?
JL: Well, I didn’t know that much. But I learned a lot. And I dug in really deep. We were shooting in this really wild time when New York still felt like a ghost town coming out of that [COVID] wave in the springtime, which was a beautiful thing to see. People were starting to get vaccinated, and it was an interesting time to be in New York City. I think all of us really felt a lot of gratitude to be working at that time, to be honest. It was a beautiful set. I mean, people worked so hard. It was such a terrific crew, and we just dug in and hunkered down and tried to do something that we were proud of and hoped that people would enjoy.
AD: There were many little details that allowed you to embody this character. In terms of finding Adam’s physicality and accent, what was that like for you to prepare and then to be on set as this character? What elements did you lean into, and was there one specific thing you felt was imperative to your transformation?
JL: I think the voice was probably one of the most important elements to wrap my head around. It took an enormous amount of research and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of practice. I had an incredible group of Israelis around me that were essential to getting it right.
AD: And the relationship between yourself and Anne Hathaway is central to the series and to helping us to understand who these people were. Tell me about working with her. How did you two form that palpable bond?
JL: The great thing about working with someone like Annie Hathaway is that she’s so good. You really don’t need to do very much at all in terms of plotting and planning. I said before she would probably have chemistry with a doorknob. So I don’t have to work on that part, you know, she has enough chemistry for both of us. I always knew that she would be there for me, and I think she felt the same. She knew that I wouldn’t let her down and always be prepared and supportive, and I felt that from her. We had a really great connection. I’ve always had a lot of respect for her abilities and skills. She’s just; she’s a talent. She’s one of the actors who can laugh and cry simultaneously at a moment’s notice. She’s a “how many tears do you want” kind of actor, and she’s just such a pro.
AD: Jared, you get so many opportunities; how do you choose? What do you look for in a script? In terms of WeCrashed, was there some x-factor that made you say, ‘This is where I want to go next?’
JL: Character is a big one for me. It really doesn’t matter how much I love the script if I can’t do something with a character. So I look for something really challenging. If you look at my work, I look for something I hadn’t done before. I’m not big on repeating myself, and maybe I’ll get to that stage where I’ll start repeating myself or find one character that I like so much that I just want to keep doing it. But, you know, I look for new, fresh, fertile ground.
AD: As you told me earlier, you’ve learned so many lessons from WeCrashed, but what has stayed with you the longest? Especially as you come out of this role and have this opportunity to reflect, what is it that you keep coming back to?
JL: To always be prepared and take great risks. Those are the things that I think about a lot, especially with this project. I reminded myself of that. You know, to be bold and to be brave, and to be open to failure. Sometimes it’s good to try and break things with the intent to go into a scene and see if we can push it to the point where it’s not working. Then, to recover from that, you find an incredible amount of truth and beauty. I don’t mean physically breaking things like, you know, a porcelain vase or something. I mean, you know, philosophically.
AD: In having immersed yourself in Adam for so long, was it hard for you to say goodbye and let him go?
JL: No, at that point, it wasn’t so difficult. The good thing with doing a project like this is we shot for so long, so I spent a long time with the character, and I got to experience a lot of different areas. Whereas something like Blade Runner 2049, Niander Wallace was a very small part, I never felt finished with that. I could have continued, and I would love to play that character again. When you don’t have that much time, you do the same amount of work to prepare a character, whether you’re working on a small part in a film or a big one. It’s not like you get to cut class and spend less time. [With WeCrashed], there was just an enormous amount of dialogue, but I have to say, even towards the end, there was never a day that I wished I was somewhere else or that I wasn’t on that set. I was always excited by the work and grateful for it.
AD: I’m going to let you go, but I was curious, as you’ve been doing all of these interviews, is there something you’d like to mention or discuss further?
JL: I’ve been thinking a lot about how great the supporting cast was on this project. We just had an amazing team of these New York actors. Some were reoccurring roles, some would come in for one day and have one line, and we would try to turn it into five or ten lines. We just had an incredible amount of talent and crew. We worked for so long, you know, you really appreciate, and get to know the people around you and see their work differently because it’s such a long time. From the grips to the PAs, we just had an amazing group of people. That doesn’t get talked about enough; it’s the people doing so much of the heavy lifting day in, day out, your hair and makeup team, and the people you spend so much time with. We just had a phenomenal crew. I think about that quite a bit, and I have a lot of gratitude for them.
AD: Well, I so appreciate not only your time, but your honesty and thoughtfulness in discussing your work. Thank you!
JL: Thank you. We’ll see you soon.
WeCrashed is currently streaming on Apple TV+.