Interview with Jared Leto from the Action Thriller, "Lord of War"

Jared Leto Tackles Yet Another Edgy Character in "Lord of War"

Jared Leto stars in "Lord of War". © Lions Gate Films
“Lord of War” - The Story: Set in the world of international arms dealing, “Lord of War” follows the exploits of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) as he transforms from being a small-time arms dealer into a major player on the international market. Jared Leto co-stars as Yuri’s younger brother, Vitaly, a sensitive soul who suffers the consequences of being a part of his brother’s illegal trade.

Based in fact, “Lord of War” closely examines the intricacies of a world that’s thus far been all but ignored in films.

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (“S1m0ne”), “Lord of War” is an action/thriller that exposes just how all those weapons end up in the hands of guerilla fighters and terrorists.

Jared Leto on the Topic of “Lord of War:” “I was definitely familiar with it but Andrew [Niccol] still managed to educate me a great deal through his script. He has a very specific process when he does something, so he really elaborated on a subject that I knew a little bit about, but certainly was a world that I was completely unfamiliar with.”

On Researching His Character: “I did my own research as well. One of the things that I did was I started to learn Russian. We were both – Yuri, Nicolas Cage’s character and I were both Russian immigrants, brothers in the film, so while we don’t have accents, we definitely speak Russian fluently. So I started to learn Russian and I was one of those probably way too eager, annoying young actor kids who was trying to change all my lines to Russian, much to the dismay of the director and Nic Cage.

They told me to relax and we couldn’t have a movie filled with subtitles so it got cut back a bit. But it was very challenging to learn Russian.”

Jared Leto on the Appeal of “Lord of War” to Audiences: “It’s a challenging film. It’s not for every single person. It’s only for people who want to experience something different.

The movie takes you on a ride and it is an escape, and it’s very funny at times. It gives us a look into a world that’s very much like ‘Traffic’ was for drugs, this movie is for gun running. Dark at times, but I think Nic Cage is an incredible person to watch and very entertaining. He was a good choice to bring us to such a dark world.”

On Playing Nicolas Cage’s Brother: “We really bonded very early. He has a great sense of humor and was very kind to me. I learned so much from watching such an incredible actor. He really is a master at what he does. It was a real honor to be able to work with someone like that that I’ve been watching since I was a kid. …I mean, to play his brother left some people scratching their heads but something about it really worked.”

Jared Leto Defines His “Lord of War” Character: “Andrew has talked about my character being the conscience of the film, the heart of the film. And there’s a moral ambiguity I think to Yuri – Nic Cage’s character – but Vitaly, the character I play in the film, he’s a dreamer. He’s an innocent in a lot of ways. He’s a very simple person who really doesn’t have the resources or the strength, ultimately, to handle the situation. I think he’s very emotionally and intimately affected by the circumstances and situations that he experiences through his travels with Yuri.

And Yuri is kind of able to laugh off – not laugh off – but just kind of justify through his skewed sense of the world. I think that Vitaly has a hard time and ultimately isn’t able to live on life’s terms.”

On Leaving ‘Vitaly’ Behind at the End of the Day: Leto said he was able to leave Vitaly behind him on the set a lot more than he could with other characters he’s played. “It still affected me greatly. But I mean there is a relationship for sure, I felt some kind of parallel with my character Harry Goldfarb in ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and this character. They seem like they could be distant cousins. They lived in the same neighborhood, probably five, ten blocks from one another. There was definitely a parallel there.”

On Playing Another Drug Addict: “I think I remember from the offset I said, ‘I’ve visited this territory.

This isn’t for me.’ And then I read the script and I said, ‘You know, this is completely something different. This is a whole new life.’ And there’s a similarity there but I thought it was an interesting parallel to play, as far as doing work on the character.”

Jared Leto on Working with Writer/Director Andrew Niccol: Leto acknowledged that he likes to work with writer/directors, particularly because it’s easy to turn to them and ask for something that isn’t working to be rewritten. And according to Leto, Niccol is easy to approach and readily accepts input from his actors. “It’s very funny because you’ll find this often with a writer/director. They’re actually less precious about their words sometimes than directors who haven’t written the script. He’s very open to saying things differently if it needed to be. But he wrote a really good script and we stuck to it most of the time,” said Leto.

Page 2: Jared Leto on Choosing Roles and Making Music

Page 2

Jared Leto Doesn’t Watch His Own Movies: “Well, the experience for me making a film is the most profound one. I really don’t have any business watching the movie so much. Maybe I could watch it for entertainment purposes, but you have so little input and control of the final product once you’re done that I feel like I just would rather leave it alone. It kind of leaves me in a place where every film I do, I’m kind of having to reinvent and figure out how to start again fresh, and hopefully not repeat myself.”

Leto has watched a couple of his movies, but so far hasn’t taken in a screening of “Lord of War.” Leto said, “I watched ‘Requiem for a Dream.’ It had been a year and a half since I made the movie and I had really let go of the part, and it was premiering at Cannes in front of 2000 people in France. We did the whole red carpet walk and I decided that I would be brave and be part of the experience that night, and I’m glad I did.”

Jared Leto on Tackling Tough Projects: “I think that there are opportunities, with every film that comes out, that are there for someone to grab onto. For me, I want to challenge myself. I want to be rewarded in some way during the process and walk away with something. So the great thing about making movies that I love is that I learned so much. I’ve seen so many beautiful places in the world, whether it’s Morocco or Thailand or England or certainly in the United States, and Southern Africa as well.

Those are the things that I really look forward to.”

Jared Leto on Choosing Roles: Leto hasn’t exactly traveled down the beaten path with his acting career. Most of Leto’s work has been in darker, edger films rather than in mainstream studio fare. Leto says that’s definitely been a conscious decision on his part.

“I think so. Actually I could probably say I know so. I like to work with talented people. I try to work with really good directors. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of my favorite directors of all time, whether it’s Terrence Malick in a very small way or David Fincher, [Darren] Aronofsky, Oliver Stone. I look for a really strong director and a great script and a really good part.

I think a lot of those films for me have been probably more on the independent side. Maybe a bit darker than a typical mainstream film, that’s for sure. Not to say that I wouldn’t…. I sometimes question my sanity because a lot of these films explore such areas that it does affect your life in some ways, when you’re surrounded by that all the time. There’s a movie that I just finished that literally almost killed me called ‘Lonely Hearts.’ I did it with John Travolta, James Gandolfini, and Salma Hayek.”

On Going to a Dark Place in “Lonely Hearts:” “Yeah, it was brutal. It was a brutal experience. Everything about it was great – the set, the director, the actors were fine. It was just emotionally a very, very dark place. It’s either going to be the best thing that I’ve done or it may very well ruin me.

Either one.”

Asked why he continues to go there when he knows how it will affect him, Leto said, “I suppose it’s the cliché of when someone says, ‘Why climb Mt. Everest? Because it’s there, you know? I mean, there is no great reward without great risk. I think why I’m doing it is that I have this incredible opportunity that I’m so grateful for, to live my dreams. And I really want to make films and do work that I’m proud of, to tell you the truth.”

There’s a popular genre of film missing from Leto’s body of work. Leto joked he’s going to have to look for a romantic comedy to take him away from the darker characters who get into his head. “A romantic comedy would work… Something cuddly and soft and warm. We’ll switch it up,” laughed Leto.

Jared Leto on His Band, 30 Seconds to Mars: “The band is great.

Everything is going incredibly well. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been so great that people have supported us so well. We were on tour for a while and now we’re about to go out with a band called Audioslave. We’ve already been touring for four or five months. We’ve got a couple more months of touring left in us this year and it’s just going incredibly well.

People are really supportive. And the fact that people are kind of looking through the stereotypical experience of there being someone who may have been kind of known as an actor in a band, the fact that people are looking through this and pointing us out and saying, ‘Hey, you guys are actually legitimate and doing a good job,’ is really rewarding to get that response.”

On Balancing Acting and Music: “It’s difficult because you have to sacrifice. Clint Eastwood actually wanted me to be in his movie and I had to say no to one of my heroes. I had to support the release of the record. But those are sacrifices that you make and just the name of the game.”

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Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with Jared Leto from the Action Thriller, "Lord of War"." ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2016, thoughtco.com/jared-leto-discusses-lord-of-war-2426190. Murray, Rebecca. (2016, February 17). Interview with Jared Leto from the Action Thriller, "Lord of War". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jared-leto-discusses-lord-of-war-2426190 Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with Jared Leto from the Action Thriller, "Lord of War"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/jared-leto-discusses-lord-of-war-2426190 (accessed November 22, 2017).