Exclusive: Conversation with Jared Leto

Last fall, just as Dallas Buyers Club was being released, I spoke with Jared Leto about the character he played, transgender AIDS patient Rayon, and what the role meant to him. Now that he has won an Oscar, it seems appropriate to revisit it. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Dallas Voice: Before you took on the movie, what did you know about AIDS buyers clubs? Jared Leto: I wasn’t aware of them at all, and I think that’s one of the fascinating things taking a look at a quintessential American story. I think it is a classic American story: A group of people, fighting for what they believe in. There’s a lot to learn there. AIDS has affected so many of us, and it’s time to take a look at this story at a time when healthcare and getting proper access to it [is so important]. I did my research about the buyers clubs, but I wanted to know Matthew’s Ron, too. That made the most sense to me — to know the Ron Matthew created and live in that reality.

How did you prepare for the role?  I started at the very beginning, and the beginning for me was listening. I met with transgender people, and they shared their stories with me — stories about transitioning and stories about telling their parents who they were and are. I learned so much about the physical, the emotional, the ability to overcome great challenges. About having a sense of humor. Some levity is essential.

Dallas2Your best scene, I think, is where you put on men’s clothes to visit your father … I was in character the entire time [we were filming], so when I finally wasn’t wearing women’s clothing — the only day on the entire shoot — that’s when  I felt like I was in drag. I felt very vulnerable. I didn’t have the armor: the heels, the makeup, the wigs. It was a very intense scene. Very emotional, where I am saying goodbye to my father.

Have you ever done anything similar to this?  It was the type of role where you dive in 1,000 percent. This is the first time I played anything remotely close to this kind of character. It was a fascinating journey. [Rayon] was fun and funny, sweet and kind — a huge heart and quick to love and be loved.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscar recap: Winners and losers onstage and the red carpet

McConaughey rocked a white dinner jacket.Gravity apparently lacked gravitas last night, for while the special effects extravaganza won the most Oscars — seven in all, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron — best picture went to the slavery biopic 12 Years a Slave, giving Brad Pitt his first Oscar … as a producer. Director-coproducer Steve McQueen also made history as the first black man to win a best picture Oscar. It was a close one — 12 Years and Gravity were my No. 1 and No. 2 film, respectively, of 2013.

This was a weird repeat of last year, when best picture winner Argo took three awards, but not the most awards, with Life of Pi taking, interesting, four of the same Gravity won (director, special effects, score and cinematography). So far, no Oscar for best picture has ever gone to a film released in 3-D or IMAX format.

The other big winner of the night was Dallas Buyers Club, which won three of its six nominations, including best actor to native Texan Matthew McConaughey and best supporting actor to Jared Leto. Cate Blanchett, as predicted, won best actress for the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine. Overall, it was a fairly predictable lineup of winners. (Strangely, five of the best picture nominees, including three nominated for best director, walked away entirely empty-handed.)

But it wasn’t just on the stage but on the red carpet that we saw the winners and losers. Our fashion guy J. Denton Bricker weighs in below with his best- and worst-dressed awards:

Denton’s best dressed:

CATE BLANCHETT

Blanchett, who won the entire awards season on the red carpet

Cate Blanchett — The best actress winner won again for her fashion choices, as she did throughout award season. Her fabulous nude dress adorned with ice/diamonds/crystals looked like something out of Frozen via Giorgio Armani. It was heavy but it looked so light and the chandelier earrings were a perfect balance. The girl worked those snowballs hard.

Lupita Nyong’o — The supporting actress winner wore an amazing yet simple duck-egg-blue dress, with a silver headband to make it looks all the more like a fierce Roman lady. Her acceptance speech was adorable and inspiring.

Charlize Theron — The prior Oscar winner looked divine and polished in a black gown by Dior that accentuates her curves in all the right way. The light straps give the illusion of strapless which give it a needed lightness on top.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE

Jennifer Lawrence, the lady in red.

Jennifer Lawrence — Last year’s best actress is becoming a fall expert as she fell over an orange cone getting out of the car; what a way to make an entrance and of course Ellen teased her about it. She looked gorgeous in bold, strapless red Christian Dior with blown back hair and simple accessories. She also wore a necklace that drapes in the back — she is working that trend.

Kate Hudson — She has laid the foundation for a comeback with this startling beautiful and fabulous, shimmering silver frock. K-Hud is open for business.

Amy Adams — She donned a striking, deep blue ’50s-inspired Gucci Couture gown with tangerine earrings that popped.

Honorable mentions:

Kerry Washington — She glowed in a lavender gown by Jason Woo but her dark lipstick was a bit severe.

Angelina Jolie — She looked voluptuous in a metallic sheer combination form fitting dress that showed the perfect amount of skin.

Anne Hathaway — She dazzled in a sleek in black Gucci with a glittering jeweled top.

Meryl Streep — The Oscar legend wore a forgettable white/black ensemble with a glittering belt but let’s be real, she can wear whatever the hell she wants. She could wear a burlap sack and no one would blink. Meryl is winning.

PENELOPE CRUZ

Cruz-in’ for a bruisin’ in the fashion blogs.

Denton’s worst dressed:

Naomi Watts — She looked crisp and clean in a white dress by Calvin Klein though somehow I can’t help but picture white lint balls all over it.

Julia Roberts — The pretty woman wore an edgy black lace gown that was pretty but just wasn’t memorable.

Sally Hawkins — A nominee this year, she  looked like Diane Keaton from Father of the Bride, which was fine in 1990 but in 2014 looks ridiculous and way too big.

Penelope Cruz — She wore a wrinkled pale pink sheet cinched at the waist by a black bow and she struggled with it on the red carpet.

Lady Gaga — Three words: Gay Chrysler Building.

Jennifer Garner — This just didn’t work. I want to like it because I like her but I just don’t know if four different rows of silver fringe really belong at the Oscars. 

Leto, dressed as a man, was defiantly dapper.The Men:

Jared Leto — He kept it fresh with a white jacket with a wine colored bow tie. I love the ombre of his hair.

Matthew McConaughey — He handsomely coordinated with Leto, also wearing a white jacket but was “dirty but in a good way,” as Ellen quipped.

Joseph Gordon Levitt — He was really dapper in a black form fitting tux complete with bow tie.

Chris Hemsworth — Last but not least, Thor rocked a hot maroon jacket.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

My Oscar picks!

Dallas-buyers-clubMy picks for the Oscar winners — first the likely winner, then the possible spoiler (an * indicates what I would vote for, if someone gave me a ballot).

Watch the Oscars Sunday at 6 p.m. on ABC, with host Ellen DeGeneres.

Picture: *12 Years a Slave; Gravity.

Director: *Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave.

Actor: *Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Bruce Dern, Nebraska.

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; *Judi Dench, Philomena.

Supporting Actor: *Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club; Barkhad Abdi, Capt. Phillips.

Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (*June Squibb, Nebraska).

Original Screenplay: *Her; American Hustle.

Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave; Capt. Phillips (*Philomena).

Cinematography: *Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis.

Film Editing: *Gravity; Capt Phillips.

Production Design: *The Great Gatsby; Her.

Costume Design: *The Great Gatsby; 12 Years a Slave.

Original Score: *Gravity; Philomena.

Original Song: *“Let It Go,” Frozen; “Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Sound Mixing: Gravity; *Inside Llewyn Davis.

Sound Editing: *Gravity; Capt. Phillips.

Visual Effects: *Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Makeup/Hairstyling: *Dallas Buyers Club.

Foreign Language Film: The Great BeautyThe Hunt (*Omar).

Animated Feature Film: Frozen; *The Wind Rises.

Documentary Feature Film: The Act of Killing; *The Square.

Live Action Short Film: *Helium; That Wasn’t Me.

Animated Short Film: *Room on the Broom; Get a Horse!

Documentary Short Film: The Lady in No. 6; Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Pvt. Jack Hall

(*Facing Fear — about a gay bashing).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEWS: ‘Omar,’ ‘The Wind Rises’

The Oscars are this Sunday, and you have a chance to see two of the nominees beforehand at the Angelika: The Wind Rises (nominated for best animated feature) and Omar (nominated for best foreign language film). Both are worth your time.

THE WIND RISESThe Wind Rises is the latest from Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese anime expert of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. To be honest, I’ve always found Miyazaki’s style a bit strained and abstract, not always in good ways. But The Wind Rises may be the culmination of his union of fantasy and realism. Set during the 1930s and ’40s, it tells the true story of Jiro Horikoshi (dubbed in English-language versions by Joseph Gordon-Levitt; it’s also shown with subtitles), an aeronautics engineer who designed Japan’s Zero fighter, the revolutionary long-range aircraft responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor. That’s a fact never mentioned in the film, and probably for good reason: Romanticizing the architect of the nastiest assault on America until 9/11 might not play in the heartland, but like Das Boot (the film that showed a sympathetic side to German U-boat inductees), it paints a human portrait of an artist.

Yes, artist, because in Miyazaki’s world, anyone committed to perfection the way Jiro was deserves respect for putting his soul into his work. Jiro, physically incapable of flying himself, lives in the air vicariously through his planes. It makes for a touching portrait of a man who, like Robert Oppenheimer and the folks with the Manhattan Project, did something with passion without regard for what it would ultimately be used for.

The style of the artwork, in traditional anime, is detailed and mostly hand-drawn — a throwback to the pre-Pixar days. After what we know CGI can do, it takes a few minutes to become accustomed to the rich simplicity of the style, but that’s part of the joy in discovering a movie like this.

37Omar (Adam Bakri) is handsome young Palestinian, radicalized by the oppressive occupation by Israelis. When Omar and his friend Tarek plan an attack that kills an Israeli soldier, Omar gets captured and — through the kind of offensive legal trickery that should anger most Westerners (where “I won’t confess” is legally the same as a confession) — he’s conscripted into spying on his friends.

Omar is a political thriller, a cat-and-mouse drama and a love story that balances all of its components masterfully. The scenes of torture are amazingly brutal and even more unjust, the tender moments palpably loving and the twists and turns complex but exciting. Director Hany Abu-Assad, whose 2005 film Paradise Now was also nominated for an Oscar, knows how to stage foot chases like he’s auditioning for a Bourne sequel, but it’s the humanity of the film, and Bakri’s focused, passionate performances, that makes it more than just a genre picture.

Both now playing at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

See me Friday on ‘Good Day’ giving my Oscar predictions

ELLEN DEGENERESAs any good gay knows, Sunday night the Oscars are on ABC, and this year is about as gay as it gets: Ellen DeGeneres hosting, and Dallas Buyers Club a shoo-in for a category or two. So who will win?

Well, you don’t have to wait until Sunday to find you — just tune into Good Day on Ch. 4, KDFW Friday morning between 8:15 and 8:45 a.m. That’s when I’ll be making my triumphant return to the studio (I was the film critic for Good Day for a few years in the 1990s) to make my Oscar predictions.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ scores big with Oscar noms, ‘Gravity,’ ‘Hustle’ lead pack

Dallas6Dallas Buyers Club — which was a cover story for us, because it deals with a momentous time in the history of AIDS in Dallas and the U.S. — scored big at the Oscar nominations announcement this morning, taking six nominations including best picture, best actor Matthew McConaughey and best supporting actor Jared Leto. It is the apparent frontrunner in the acting categories, has an uphill battle for best picture, as Gravity and American Hustle won 10 nominations apiece, and 12 Years a Slave has nine.

McConaughey has momentum, but he’s hardly a lock, with best actor among the most competitive categories in recent years. The four other nominees — Hustle‘s Christian Bale, Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern and The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Leonardo DiCaprio — all turning in career-best performances. That left no room for Robert Redford, Idris Elba, Tom Hanks and many other excellent actors in 2013.

The best actress list was more predictable, with the four sure-things — Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Judi Dench in Philomena and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County — being joined by wild card Amy Adams of American Hustle. This is Adams’ first leading actress nomination but her fifth over all; she has never won and is up against four previous winners.

The five best director nominees all led best picture nominees (Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave, David O. Russell, Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street; Alexander Payne, Nebraska), which leaves four best picture nominees (Dallas Buyers Club, Capt. Phillips, Her and Philomena) pretty much in the lurch — it’s rare that a film without a director nomination wins best pic. However, the last time it happened was just last year, with Argo, so there’s hope.

There were some notable snubs other than in the best actor category. The documentary God Loves Uganda by gay filmmaker Roger Ross Williams was overlooked, as was the Cannes favorite, the lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Color.

All the nominees are after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Oscar scorecard: Your cheat sheet

ARGO

‘Argo’ is the unlikely frontrunner for best picture.

For years, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has tried to add some drama to the Oscarcast — hard, since by the time Oscar night rolls around, so many other groups have presented their awards, few surprises remain.

Well, this year, they finally may have achieved their goal — if for the wrong reasons.

With nine films nominated for best picture, but only five nominated for best director, there were bound to be some shut-outs, but the snubs of directors Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Top Hooper (Les Miserables) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) — all prior Oscar winners — in favor or two newcomers sent predictions into a tailspin. Add to that the continuing success of Argo in best picture competitions (Golden Globes and BAFTAs; the Screen Actors Guild’s equivalent, best ensemble) and Affleck’s own victory as director, not only is Argo the unlikely frontrunner for best picture, there is no frontrunner for best director.

So what’s gonna happen?

That’s what the Academy hoped you’d ask.

When the world goes upside down like this, almost anything is possible — especially in the best actress category, which is wide open, and best supporting actor, which looks like a two-man race but which could allow a spoiler. Here are your best bets to win the office Oscar pool (the Oscars will be presented Sunday night, broadcast on ABC):

NOTE: If you wanna challenge yourself with Oscar trivia from me, I’ll be hosting a show Sat., Feb. 23 on Facebook’s Hollywood Babylon fan site starting at 1 p.m. Central!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Holding gold — an Oscar in Dallas

RobertEmery

Attendee Robert Emery thanks all the little people.

Yesterday afternoon, I got to pretend I was a big Hollywood actor.

No, I didn’t go back into the closet and marry my female agent and adopt kids. I got to meet Oscar, the foot-tall statuette that everyone will be coveting on Sunday night. It was part of #OscarRoadTrip, a three-week cross-country tour where two very attractive folks take Oscar No. 3111 (they are all numbered) around the U.S., letting folks hold it for a few seconds and get their picture taken with a naked man who they didn’t meet on a cruise.

It was pretty fun.

The event, hosted by the USA Film Festival and the Angelika Film Center, was well-attended if a bit crowded and hectic, but it takes just a second to take the statue from the muscle-bound security guard, get your pic snapped and hand it off. No one dashed. One guy showed up in a tuxedo (I suspect he’ll use it on his Match.com profile to deceive prospective dates), but most of us didn’t look like Oscar winners — we looked like movie fans. And we were.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Oscar noms: Tons of surprises

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has been trying desperately to shake up their Oscar nominations, and they finally succeeded. In what was generally considered one of the strongest movie years in a decade, the nominations this morning had tons of surprises — many exactly of the kind they wanted, including a powerhouse appearance by indie hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Still, many of the predicted frontrunners did expectedly well, with Lincoln scoring the most nominations (12, including three for acting — tied for the most ever acting noms from a Steven Spielberg-directed film), followed closely by my favorite film of the year, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which, with 11 nods, has the most ever for a film that didn’t receive a single acting nomination. Also, the dreadful Silver Linings Playbook did well, largely via the push by Harvey Weinstein, despite being the worst movie of 2012Bernie and Cloud Atlas were completely snubbed, as was Matthew McConaughey, who did four films with some buzz last year.

The biggest upsets were in the direction category, with four of the frontrunners — former Oscar winners Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck — all being passed over for inferior work from David O. Russell for SLP, and Beasts‘ Ben Zeitlin in his film debut.

Some good surprises include gay filmmaker David France’s AIDS movie How to Survive a Plague nominated for best documentary feature and The Simpsons‘ cartoon The Longest Daycare snagging a nom for animated short.

All the nominations after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Handicapping the Oscar nominations

The Oscar noms come early this year, and once again as many as 10 films may be up for best picture. But which ones? And how many?

Here I have a handicapping, in descending order, of the most likely nominees in all the categories. After the nominations come out Thursday morning, check to see how well we (and you) did. My picks are below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones