On the surface, it seems like Jared Leto has it all. Striking good looks, piercing blue eyes, a dedication to his craft, and a pretty impressive filmography. But behind the scenes, he’s definitely not your typical Hollywood A-lister. There’s his wild dating history and his bizarre and intense behavior on and off set—but when it comes to Jared Leto, that’s just one part of his jaw-dropping story.
1. He Was Born Into A Desperate Situation
Jared Joseph Leto came into the world on December 26, 1971, when his mom was barely a teenager. They were dirt poor, and his mother was desperate to give Leto and his older brother a better life. She packed up the family and began to live a nomadic existence—and turned Leto’s life upside down. But that one choice led Leto down a path that would change everything.
2. His Mom Was A Hippie
Leto’s mother was a diehard hippie. This ensured that as he grew up, little Jared was always surrounded by artists and musicians. At one point, they even lived on a full-fledged commune. It was an inspiring environment—but it also had a brutal side. They were so poor that they often had to survive on food stamps. And money wasn’t the only problem.
3. He Lost His Father
Leto’s father was not exactly the constant source of support one would expect. He walked out on the family when Jared was still a child—but the tragedy didn’t stop there. When Leto was eight, his father took his own life. The family moved in with his maternal grandparents, and soon after, his mother remarried. The rocky road of his early existence led to Leto developing something of a wild side by the time he was a teenager.
It was this wild side that drove him to take a massive leap of faith.
4. He Took A Huge Risk
After briefly dropping out of high school, Leto discovered his love for visual art and acting. This caused him to straighten up and fly right—at least, for a little while. When he was 20, he took a chance and moved to Los Angeles with only a few hundred dollars to his name and a dream of becoming a director and actor. Success didn’t come easily, but he refused to give up.
After some smaller acting roles, he finally had an incredible change of luck.
5. He Landed His First Big Roles
Becoming an actor is nearly impossible, but after a grueling few years, Leto got his first big break in the TV series My So-Called Life, and became an instant heartthrob! While he didn’t exactly explode into stardom, he did get the lead in the biopic Prefontaine. He trained for weeks, and even met his character’s friends and family to prepare!
This was just the start of Leto’s habit of throwing himself into his characters—a habit which, as we’ll see, he sometimes took too far.
6. He Started A Band
After his struggles, Leto’s acting career finally started to gain momentum—but then he took a sharp turn. In 1998, Leto started a band with his brother called Thirty Seconds to Mars. However, at the same time, he was stretching himself thin. Offers for acting roles were starting to pile up. Though Leto was grateful, many roles seemed to have something strange in common.
7. He Became Hollywood’s Pretty Boy
By 1999, Jared Leto was working with big actors like Robert Downey Jr and Angelina Jolie. He even managed to get into Fight Club! But many of his roles seemed oddly similar. Movies like The Thin Red Line, American Psycho, and Fight Club exploited Leto’s delicate good looks as a portrayal of purity or sacrifice. After a character in Fight Club beats up Leto’s character, they even say: “I wanted to destroy something beautiful”.
Well, Leto’s good looks were starting to catch the eye of Hollywood women too.
8. He Dated Someone Famous
Leto’s hard work was truly starting to pay off; he was a rising star in Hollywood! He was getting more roles with A-list co-stars, and actresses were starting to notice him too. In 1999, he and Cameron Diaz became a hot item and there were even engagement rumors! But even Leto’s blossoming romance couldn’t stop his extreme acting tactics.
9. He Lived On The Streets
By this time, Leto was already dedicated to doing insane things to get into character—but when he got the lead role in Requiem for a Dream, he took it to a disturbing level. To prepare, Leto actually lived on the streets of New York City with real addicts for weeks. He even lost 28 pounds with a dangerous and extreme diet to truly look like an addict!
Clearly, Leto never did things halfway. But Leto still had acting on his mind and jumped back into it—and he dove head first into a new role.
10. He Got A Painful Hairdo
After Requiem, Leto dedicated his time to music—but he soon realized his acting journey wasn’t complete. He returned to acting in 2002 to play a burglar in Panic Room. However, he thought his character would look way cooler if he had cornrows in his hair. What Leto wasn’t expecting was that they hurt so much he couldn’t even sleep the first night he had them!
Unfortunately, Leto’s hairdo wasn’t the only painful problem in his life.
11. His Relationship Fizzled
Leto’s acting and music careers may have been going along swimmingly—but his love life was a disaster. In 2003, he and Cameron Diaz decided to quietly end their four-year relationship. Their relationship was so private, but losing someone you love after four years has to be devastating. There are a few ways to get over a bad breakup—and while few people recommend it, Leto chose the “quick rebound” route.
12. He Dated Another Popular Celebrity
Not long after Leto and Diaz broke off their romance, Leto became infatuated with the beautiful Scarlett Johansson in 2004. Sadly, their flame burned fast a bright—and quickly burnt out. Or did it? Photographers caught them looking adorably cozy with each other years later at a convention. But there might be a reason they still looked so comfortable together after all those years.
13. He Couldn’t Get Over His Last Love
Leto and Johansson dated for less than a year, but it left a lasting impression on him. He liked to be in control, but Johansson flipped everything and had Leto feeling like a love-sick puppy waiting for her calls. She was much younger than him, but she obviously knew how to handle herself! Apparently, even 10 years later, he never really got over her.
While Johansson may have broken his heart, his next movie role was at risk of breaking his bones.
14. He Landed A Dangerous Movie
Leto’s relationship may have fallen apart, but his acting career was flourishing. The year after his break-up, he was in two big movies including Alexander. But behind the scenes, he was terrified. The set was almost as dangerous as actual fights in ancient Greece. There were so many hazardous stunts that even the stunt actors were getting terrible injuries, like broken legs.
Leto feared someone might actually die on set—but in the end, he made it out alive. After barely surviving Alexander, Leto had to find a way to squeeze in time for acting and his other life passion—or risk losing both.
15. He Tried To Balance His Passions
Starring in all of these movies, Leto struggled to find time to help the band on their next album. Leto had to drag the whole band across four continents, just to make sure that he didn’t miss his acting jobs. It took way longer than they hoped, but they did it! Thirty Seconds to Mars’ second album came out in 2005 and sold over 4 million copies.
Leto was thrilled to have success in both acting and music—and sometimes, he let that excitement go a little too far.
16. His Fans Once Broke His Nose
In 2007, Leto was playing a show with Thirty Seconds to Mars. He got caught up in the moment, and ran straight up to the crowd during a song—but there were brutal consequences. The fans got so excited they crashed right through security and charged Leto! He ended up with a broken nose, smashed foot, and tons of cuts and bruises. But Leto was no quitter.
He finished the show and even said that it was one of his best shows. However, Leto’s antics soon put his health in jeopardy—again.
17. He Went Too Far Preparing For A Role
In 2007, Leto got a role in Chapter 27, a movie about the crazed fan who assassinated John Lennon. Leto, naturally went a little insane himself. He gained 67 pounds to look like his character. But he gained it so fast that the effects were absolutely devastating. He ended up with gout and was even stuck in a wheelchair because of the strain on his body.
And somehow, that wasn’t the only outrageous thing that happened during the filming of Chapter 27.
18. He Completely Ignored Her
If you can believe it, one of Leto’s Chapter 27 co-stars was Lindsay Lohan. Yet Leto never spoke to her once while filming. It’s hard to imagine ignoring someone you’re working with for weeks—it seems so awkward! But it wasn’t because he had a problem with her. It was all part of his method acting. When Jared Leto got into character, he wasn’t messing around.
Apparently, that meant ignoring the cast and crew—even Lindsay Lohan! But it seems the two made up for it after the film ended.
19. Rumors Swirled About Him
Leto avoided Lindsay Lohan—and everyone else—on the set of Chapter 27. But once the movie wrapped, it was another story. They both denied it, but there were definite rumors of them dating on and off for months afterward. Friends of Lohan said Leto helped her eat healthier and they even said she had her heart set on marrying Leto, despite his reputation as a playboy.
Sadly, it was not meant to be. And in another part of his career, a storm was brewing between Leto and some very important people.
20. His Third Album Got Messy
Leto’s music career was going pretty smoothly. But in 2008, as Thirty Seconds to Mars was recording their third album, they wanted to sign with a different label. Their current label, EMI, was having none of it and filed a $30 million lawsuit. Leto and the band refused to back down and fought for almost a year before finally settling the lawsuit.
They signed a new contract with EMI and finally got to release their third album! With that settled, Leto got the chance to do something he’d been waiting years for.
21. He Fulfilled A Lifelong Dream
In 2012, Leto got the chance to direct his first documentary, Artifact, based on the music business and the recent clash between Thirty Seconds to Mars and their label EMI. Critics loved the film’s authentic look at the music industry and the relationship between artists and labels. It even won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.
But during a screening of the film, something terrifying happened.
22. He Almost Had An Explosive Experience
Although Leto and the band may have settled their lawsuit, they were about to face something much more dangerous. At a screening of Leto’s documentary, Artifact, a man that seemed a bit unstable interrupted the screening. But things got serious fast when the man mentioned explosives and a mysterious package.
Law enforcement authorities had to block the streets and ended up detaining the man. With that harrowing experience behind them, Leto and the band broke a record.
23. He Broke A Guinness World Record
Leto and the band were carving out a place for themselves in the music world with every new album. But their hard work went far beyond those things. In December 2011, Thirty Seconds to Mars broke into the Guinness World Records for the most live shows for a single album—300 shows! While it’s a major accomplishment, it also took a serious toll on Leto and his bandmates.
On top of that, other choices Leto made created controversy rather than praise.
24. He Stirred Up Controversy
Leto still loved directing—but his projects were getting more and more controversial. In 2010, he worked on a short film about internal demons and fantasies. However, the brutality it depicted created very mixed audience reactions. It was even censored when it first came out. His next project, a music video for his band, cast homeless people alongside celebs.
Leto was gaining a reputation for pushing boundaries—not just with the things he directed, but also with his own body.
25. He Got In Touch With His Feminine Side
Leto had been on a break from acting for about five years, concentrating on his music. But he always felt the pull to return to acting. In 2013, Leto got a role in Dallas Buyers Club alongside Matthew McConaughey. But this was not your typical role. Leto truly tested his skills playing a transgender woman struggling with a drug problem and AIDS diagnosis.
However, his telltale method acting took over as he straddled the line between commitment and crazy.
26. His Method Acting Was Ridiculous
After Chapter 27, Leto had struggled desperately for a year to get back to his old self—but for Dallas Buyers Club, he was willing to put it all on the line again. He lost 30 pounds to look like his character. He even shaved his eyebrows and waxed his whole body. To immerse himself in the project, Leto refused to break character on set, even between scenes.
This was pretty weird for the rest of the cast and crew, but obviously, it paid off! He received three different awards for his performance—but one went on a strange journey.
27. He Lost Something Special
For his incredible performance in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Most people cherish their Oscars for the rest of their lives and display them proudly—but not Leto. Leto somehow managed to lose his Oscar while moving. He never found it again. Luckily, Leto is in the business for the journey and challenge, not for the awards.
And when Leto did finally settle down and buy a home, it was no ordinary house—even for a celebrity!
28. He Bought A Very Weird House
Leto lives by his own rules, so it’s fitting that when he bought a house, it was something eccentric. In 2015, he bought a 100,000-square-foot former secret Air Force base in Los Angeles. It has a huge control tower, a pool, screening rooms, a soundstage, and even a real guillotine. But Leto says the guillotine is only “for people who misbehave”. And don’t forget all top secret vaults!
Leto’s unique home may have fit his personality perfectly, but he left his comfort zone far behind when he got to play a well-known and disturbing character.
29. He Played an Iconic Villain
Leto managed to snag the iconic role of the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad. He agonized over the decision, worried about taking over the role Heath Ledger played so perfectly. Ultimately he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. He didn’t have many scenes as the Joker, but at least a few critics seemed impressed with Leto’s presentation of the character.
Even though the movie reviews were pretty bad, Leto was hooked. He was keen to play the Joker in future films—but his chilling on-set behavior put it all in jeopardy.
30. He Sent His Castmates Terrifying Gifts
When it comes to method acting, some actors cross the line from committed to demented, and Jared Leto is one of them. Leto loved the challenge of playing the Joker and made it his mission to creep out his castmates. Instead of coming to the first table reading, Leto had someone dump a deceased pig on the table for him. And that was just the beginning!
31. He Took It Too Far
While making Suicide Squad in 2016, Leto wouldn’t respond to his name and even freaked out the cast with “gifts” like bullets and other weird items. Normally, he would probably get fired, but apparently, when you’re in character anything goes! Even the director admitted Leto’s Joker energy on set was terrifying. But it was nothing compared to what he did to the actor playing his on-screen love interest.
32. He Creeped Her Out
Leto had gone through a lot to get into character for some of his most famous films, but for Suicide Squad, he was the one putting others through it. His main victim was Margot Robbie, who played Harley Quinn. Early on during filming, a man walked onto set and gave her a box which he said was from “Mr J”. When Robbie opened it, she was terrified and disgusted. The box contained a live rat.
It’s no wonder that no one really wanted to work with him after that…
33. He Was Furious About His Competition
As difficult as the role was—and as much as he’d alienated his co-stars—Leto wanted to play the Joker again. But apparently, that wasn’t in the cards. A few years after he played the Joker, a new Joker movie was in the works. But this around, Jared Leto wouldn’t be playing him. Joaquin Phoenix had taken over the role.
Leto was incredibly hurt and offended, especially since the studios had opted to cancel his own stand-alone Joker movie. At least his next role had an unusual challenge to distract him.
34. He Went Blind
Leto had a small but important role in the 2017 movie Blade Runner 2049, and in typical fashion, completely immersed him in it. His character was blind, so Leto blinded himself to keep it real! Don’t worry, he didn’t blind himself permanently, but he did wear special contact lenses. His performance was so moving that it even brought the director Denis Villeneuve to tears.
However, it seems like Leto’s intensity was rubbing off on his fans—perhaps a bit too much.
35. He Received Disturbing Fan Mail
Between acting roles, Leto and Thirty Seconds to Mars still managed to release a hit album in 2018. But fame and popularity come with some disturbing side effects. Leto has a lot of really weird fans who love sending fan mail. But not just typical fan letters; some fans got a little too creative. Leto got a box of someone’s hair once—and it gets even creepier.
The most gruesome gift was a severed human ear! But maybe they just know Leto, because he had some pretty weird accessories of his own.
36. He Had A Wild Outfit Accessory At A Fancy Gala
By this point, it was safe to say Leto had a reputation for being pretty quirky. So it’s fitting that at the 2019 Met Gala, he wore a puffy, bright red Gucci outfit. Oh, and lots of crystals. And let’s not forget a replica of your own severed head, of course. That’s right. He walked the red carpet with his own head! But that seemed like a normal day compared to what hit the world next.
37. He Was On A Retreat When The Pandemic Exploded
Needing a break from the hustle of life, Leto went on a 12-day silent meditation retreat, not thinking too much of the rumors about a pandemic spreading in China. He was completely isolated on the retreat—no phones, TV, computers, or even talking. As the retreat went on, organizers started to realize that things were spiraling out of control in the rest of the world.
Still, they didn’t tell anyone. When he left, Leto got the shock of his life.
38. He Returned To An Apocalyptic World
By the time Leto left the retreat, he felt like he took a wrong step into some strange apocalyptic world—everything had completely changed! There were cities completely locked down, state of emergency declarations, mandates, lockdowns, and tons of messages from his friends. But not even a terrifying pandemic could stop Leto.
39. He Wasn’t Supposed To Be Paolo Gucci
As crazy as the pandemic was, it didn’t stop Leto. He got the role of the almost unrecognizable Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci. But originally, he wasn’t even supposed to play Paolo. Leto got the script to read for another role but loved Paolo’s character so much that he insisted on playing him. His physical transformation took about six hours to create.
Leto looked so different that he even fooled his onscreen “father” Al Pacino on the first day!
40. He Tricked Al Pacino
When Jared Leto showed up looking like Paolo on the first day of filming and saw Al Pacino, he immediately went up to him and called him “Papa”! Pacino’s reaction was hilarious. He just looked at him like he was insane and walked away. Leto thought maybe Pacino was already in character—or perhaps just cranky. So, he gave it another try—and got rejected again.
Finally, someone told Pacino that it was Leto in character, and Pacino was completely shocked. But Leto also took on a much more sinister role that same year.
41. He Didn’t Want To Be In The Little Things
The same year Jared Leto did House of Gucci, he was also in The Little Things. At first, Leto didn’t want to play another dark character; he wanted something different. But he just couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and the director. Leto was up to his old method acting tricks as well.
He didn’t spend any time with the cast so that they could get to know each other as the characters while filming. But his method acting would soon risk crippling Leto permanently.
42. He Got A Little Twisted Playing Morbius
Even now, Leto’s acting career is going strong and he’s as intense as ever—especially when it came to playing Morbius in the 2022 film of the same name. Morbius has a limp, and Leto was so focused on creating an authentic limp that he went to disturbing lengths. He completely twisted and deformed his body. It was so intense that his co-star thought he would permanently damage his spine!
But Morbius wasn’t Leto’s only project to come out in 2022, and he got sneaky to prepare himself for his next role.
43. He Had A Secret Meeting
In 2022, Leto also starred in WeCrashed, playing Adam Neumann, who built the WeWork company before it, well, crashed. Leto normally played fictional characters or real people who were long gone. But Adam Neumann was very much alive, and Leto just had to meet him. He wanted to understand Adam and what made him tick. But Leto set up this meeting on the sly.
He didn’t tell production and hadn’t planned to. Too bad Adam let it slip in an interview, so Leto’s little secret was out! But that wasn’t the only secret Leto tried to keep quiet.
44. He Keeps His Love Life Quiet
Over the years, Leto has gotten cozy with lots of A-list celebrities. Leto seemed to hop from one person to another like he was walking on hot coals. But it seemed like everything changed when he met the gorgeous Valery Kaufman, a 26-year-old model, in 2015. But this wasn’t one of Leto’s whirlwind romances. This was something completely different.
45. He Met His Love Match
Although there was a huge age gap between the two, Leto and Kaufman slowly became friends. They hung out with groups of friends and got to know each other. But as they got closer, something happened and things changed. Sparks started to fly. Though neither speaks about the relationship, multiple sources have reported that they’ve been together since 2015.
But there’s a darker side to his personal life that few outlets have wanted to touch.
46. It Started With A Photo
When a photographer snapped a pic of Jared Leto hanging with teen pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo at the 2022 Grammys, he didn’t quite get the reaction he expected. Fans and celeb insiders began making disturbing posts on social media. One urged Rodrigo to “run” and others read “keep her away from him”. For some, the vitriol was a surprise. Others had seen it coming all along.
47. It Started A Long Time Ago
Way back in 2005, the New York Post had reported on allegations that Leto used his status to invite underage girls to see his band, and that he’d sent inappropriate text messages to others. Of course, this was long before the #MeToo movement, so the stories ended up getting swept under the rug. But now, years later, they were coming back again—and people had a lot to say about it.
48. He Stood Up To Him
While most of the criticism toward Leto came from fed-up people on the internet, at least one other celebrity called him out in the past. In 2018, Dylan Sprouse, former child star and twin brother to Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse, tweeted: “Yo @JaredLeto now that you’ve slid into the dm’s of every female model aged 18-25, what would you say your success rate is”?
Dylan, whose girlfriend is model Barbara Palvin, might have been his inside source on this one…
49. He Wasn’t The Only One Criticizing Him
James Gunn, MCU director, joined in on the pile-on, replying “He starts at 18 on the Internet”?—fueling those rumors that Leto sends inappropriate messages to minors. He deleted the tweet, but screenshots live forever. And what did Leto have to say for himself? Well, Newsweek reached out to him for comment, but he did not reply.
It’ll be interesting to see if anything happens if Leto ever runs into Sprouse or Gunn, considering his track record.
50. He Has A Sketchy History
If his past behavior is any indication, they might want to watch out, because Leto historically hasn’t reacted well to criticism. In 2006, Leto grabbed Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood by the neck after Wood criticized Thirty Seconds to Mars. Well, I can’t blame Wood for that one.