Jared Leto prepared to play a blind character in the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 by spending his entire time on and off set during the shoot trying to navigate the world without sight.
The actor, 45, told The WSJ. Magazine he “stayed really focused” throughout the shoot.
That’s putting it mildly. The magazine reports that the Oscar winner wore customized contact lenses that made his eyes totally opaque. He was then guided around set the entire time and never saw his costars — not even before or after takes.
“We all heard stories about Jared, how he transforms into the characters. But even this didn’t prepare me for what was to come,” director Denis Villeneuve said. “That, for me, was insane. But he really created something. Every time Jared came on set, it was a boost of energy, tension and excitement.”
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Villeneuve detailed that Leto’s dedication was there from the beginning, even during the actor’s camera test.
“He entered the room, and he could not see at all,” Villeneuve said. “He was walking with an assistant, very slowly. It was like seeing Jesus walking into a temple. Everybody became super silent, and there was a kind of sacred moment. Everyone was in awe. It was so beautiful and powerful — I was moved to tears. And that was just a camera test!”
Leto, for his part, played down his decision. “I didn’t dive as deep down the rabbit hole as maybe I’ve done before,” he said, adding that he wasn’t deluded to think he was actually blind. “I’m crazy, but I’m not insane.”
Of course, compared to what Leto has done before, this might actually be tame.
The star waxed his body and shed more than 30 pounds to portray a transgender AIDS patient in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club — a role that won him Oscar gold. For 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, in which he played a heroin addict, he hung out with homeless junkies in Manhattan’s East Village.
But it was the filming of 2016’s Suicide Squad that was perhaps Leto’s most dedicated performance. He reportedly lived his entire time on set as the Joker — isolating himself from his costars. He even famously sent them a menacing video of himself in full charter, as well as individual gifts for certain actors: a live rat for Margot Robbie, bullets for Will Smith, used condoms for costar Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, etc.
“Jared really set it off because he was sort of sequestered away from the rest of us,” Smith told PEOPLE during the film’s promotional tour. “He was off in another world in his preparation. … We were like, ‘Wow, Jared is taking this [expletive] really seriously. We really need to get it together.’ Jared really set the tone for everybody to step up to.”
In Blade Runner 2049, Leto plays Niander Wallace, a replicate android creator in the dystopian society. The character, Villeneuve said, was based off the late David Bowie — making Leto, who is also the lead singer of his band Thirty Seconds to Mars, the perfect casting choice.
“I needed a very charismatic, magnetic presence, someone with the aura of a rock star,” Villeneuve said. “But I also needed a great actor, because the lines he had to say were quite Shakespearean.”
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And while Leto’s experience and talents make him great for the role in Blade Runner 2049, he’s hoping to stretch himself in the future into uncharted territory: comedy.
“I might not be at the top of the list for, like, a funny dude. But if someone is dying or suffering greatly, I’ll get a call,” the My So-Called Life actor said, laughing. “I got calls about [playing] Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, David Koresh and Jim Jones, all within two weeks. I’m not doing them, but I thought for a second, ‘Oh, my God, I should do them all.’ Just put them together like a Criterion Collection box set. And then retire.”