The Problem With Jared Leto: A Timeline
While Jared Leto is best known for his acting career and for being the lead vocalist of the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, several controversies have followed him over the years. These include allegations of predatory behavior toward underage girls and using “method acting” as an excuse to pull bizarre stunts on Hollywood sets. However, while allegations of misconduct against Leto have been swirling for nearly two decades, nothing much has come of them. The accusations tend to resurface every few years, but Leto continues to wield a large fanbase nonetheless; he allegedly started a cult comprised of his devoted followers.
Leto’s career also shows no signs of slowing down, with Thirty Seconds to Mars preparing to release a new album in September. Additionally, Leto was recently tapped to portray the controversial Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld in an upcoming biopic, and he’s set for the lead role in Tron: Ares. While the allegations against Leto haven’t been proven, some in Hollywood have implied that there may be some substance to them, and have even publicly called out the actor for his creepy behavior toward young women. Here’s what you need to know about Leto’s biggest controversies.
Jared Leto’s alleged sexual misconduct
Allegations of Leto’s predatory behavior date back to 2005, when an anonymous source spoke to the New York Post about it. The source described Leto as a “serial texter” who was “constantly texting these 16- and 17-year-old girls.” At the time, Leto was in New York City for a Thirty Seconds to Mars show and allegedly used the opportunity to approach several teenage models staying in the city. More serious accusations against Leto soon followed this early report of “creepy” behavior.
In 2013, two since-deleted message threads were posted on Voy.com and GossipRocks.com, which several anonymous sources used to accuse Leto of sexual assault. One user alleged that Leto had molested her when she was 17, while another user accused Leto of pedophilia. The latter source also alleged that Leto abused her and coerced her into non-consensual sex acts from the time she was 17 to age 21. Even though the accuser was 17 at the time (the age of consent in New York), she claimed that Leto asked her to verbally tell him she was only 14 or 15. Leto never publicly addressed these allegations or the New York Post‘s report, and no legal action was ever taken against him.
However, back in 2018, two Hollywood figures seemingly touched on Leto’s predatory behavior. In a tweet, Dylan Sprouse called out Leto for hitting on much younger women. Tagging Leto on the platform, Sprouse questioned what Leto’s “success rate” was after he “slid into the [DMs] of every female model aged 18-25.” Filmmaker James Gunn then seemed to imply that Leto also targeted underage girls by replying, “He starts at 18 on the Internet?” Gunn’s reply has since been deleted, and it’s possible that Gunn was joking, as he is known for his dark (and sometimes offensive) sense of humor. It’s also possible that Gunn, who was hired to write and direct The Suicide Squad in October 2018, deleted the tweet to appease Warner Bros.
Even if Sprouse’s post was serious, it doesn’t allege anything illegal. Also, unfortunately, Leto would be far from the only middle-aged actor in Hollywood known for dating significantly younger women.
Leto’s bizarre and extreme “method acting” controversy
Leto has long claimed to be a method actor. Method acting is a technique whereby an actor tries to emotionally and psychologically identify with their character. It’s often misattributed to actors—like Leto and Daniel Day-Lewis—who stay in character throughout production, even off-screen. At the onset of his career, Leto did seem to use the method acting technique appropriately and effectively. For example, to portray long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine in the 1997 biopic Prefontaine, Leto trained as a runner for six weeks, met with Prefontaine’s family, and even pushed himself to run in Prefontaine’s characteristic gait. However, in more recent years, many have become skeptical about whether what he’s doing still counts as method acting.
In 2016, Leto portrayed the iconic Batman villain the Joker in Suicide Squad and tried to get into the unhinged clown’s mind by sending his castmates bizarre gifts. The whole cast reportedly received a dead pig as a “gift” from Leto, which was delivered to them during rehearsals. He also sent his co-star Margot Robbie a rat. Fortunately, the rat was alive, and she ended up keeping it. However, the gifts became even grosser, with Leto reportedly sending several of his castmates anal beads, used condoms, and “sticky Playboy magazines.” Leto listed these gifts in an interview with E! News, with Will Smith, Robbie, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje stating they had all received such gifts. Leto later denied that he sent his castmates such disgusting things and insisted he and the rest of the cast were merely joking during the interview.
When Morbius premiered in 2022, reports arose again of Leto’s outrageous onset behavior. Leto reportedly tried to stay in character as Michael Morbius on set, even between takes. He demanded everyone call him Morbius, used crutches to get around, and contorted his body to mimic Morbius’ blood disease. Director Daniel Espinosa also confirmed that Leto stayed in character for his bathroom breaks. He would reportedly limp to the bathroom on his crutches and spend 45 minutes of precious set time on each of these bathroom breaks. To prevent him from wasting so much time, crew members ended up having to push him in a wheelchair to and from the bathroom.
His actions on Suicide Squad and Morbius can hardly be called method acting. Such behaviors were disruptive and could even qualify as workplace harassment. It’s also difficult to see how such unnecessary actions would possibly help his performance. The fact that both his Morbius and Joker roles were slammed by critics seems to support that his outrageous behaviors did nothing for his performance. Instead, he used his “method acting” to behave rudely, egotistically, and inappropriately towards his castmates and crew members without consequences.
Leto might be running a cult
One of Leto’s weirdest controversies centers around allegations that he has a cult. In 2019, Leto and Thirty Seconds to Mars invited hundreds of fans to Croatia for Mars Island, a three-day music festival. The fans called themselves the Echelon and all dressed in white for the event. The band posted photos of the retreat, which show Leto dressed in white robes, leading his fans across the island and speaking to them as they surround him, listening. In the caption, the group wrote, “Yes, this is a cult.” Nothing too “cultish” seemed to happen at the event besides the band performing concerts. However, it was a little concerning that so many fans were eager to spend at least $995, fly out to Croatia, pitch a tent, don their white linen and sandals, and spend a few days following Leto around a remote island.
This also isn’t the first time Leto has encouraged extreme fan behavior. In 2013, Leto claimed that a fan sent him their severed ear, which he made into a necklace and posted (since-deleted) photos of on Instagram. Some internet users believe it’s merely a prop, but just to be safe, Leto probably shouldn’t be publicly advertising that he’ll make his fans’ severed body parts into jewelry if they send them to him. Fans have also used social media to call themselves the “Church of Mars” and to equate Leto to a prophet or the Messiah, though they may just be poking fun at the allegations of Leto having a cult.
Ultimately, the “cult” seems pretty harmless in that there’s no indication of Leto controlling his fans or establishing a set of religious beliefs to preach to them. However, making such big demonstrations of how much influence he has over his fans and how dedicated they are to him is still concerning, to say the least.
(featured image: Warner Bros.)
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