You would be forgiven for thinking that Jared Leto is a little bit...different. He's been famous for his wild child past and present: He's a rock star, heavily tattooed and a man of extremes, and he's notorious for his method approach to acting which often borders on the unsafe.
While getting into the right mindset to play a drug addict in Requiem for a Dream, Leto spent weeks with heroin addicts on the streets of New York - even shooting up (although only with water). When playing a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto stayed in character from the first meeting with the director, presenting as female for the entirety of the film, meetings, shoots, all of it. Most recently, Leto has been making headlines for his antics while playing the Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. He sent co-star Margot Robbie a live rat in a box, bullets to Will Smith, a dead pig to the cast as a whole, and even went so far as to send out anal beads and used condoms.
However, Leto's devotion to his craft doesn't mean that he behaves this way all of the time. This is just the performance-driven side of the star that most see or hear about. But now, he's giving us a chance to see Jared Leto as just... Jared Leto.
In partnership with Budweiser, and just in time for the National Park Foundation's 100th anniversary this summer, Leto is directing (and appearing in) a new documentary series: Great Wide Open.
Each short episode of the series features Leto himself alongside phenomenal adventurers as they explore the nation's stunning parks. The first episode, "The Conquistador," focuses on Tommy Caldwell, a record-breaking climber whose incredible climb up the Dawn Wall at Yosemite went viral. The second, "The Dirtbag," centers on another well-known climber, Renan Ozturk, and on the birthplace of rock-climbing in America.
These are very short films — only around 15 minutes each. With anyone else behind the camera, this could make them very shallow, but Leto does an absolutely incredible job of capturing these adventurers' stories, their passion, and their drive in easily digestible (and very watchable) short bursts. Leto takes part in climbs with these inspiring men, interspersing his own joy in the great outdoors with stunning vistas and interview segments.
While Leto and the adventurers are the focus of the film series, the breathtaking National Park scenery is the heart. It's impossible to look out over some of these scenes and feel anything but inspired to get out there. Leto brings a warmth and relatability to the shorts that is surprising, given his somewhat scandalous reputation. Watching Great Wide Open, we get to see the side of Leto that is vegan, in love with being in nature — not killing it and mailing it to his co-stars!
Worth watching for far more than just the star-power at the helm, Great Wide Open will motivate you to get out there and make the most of this summer (and many summers to come!). Still, it's also a great way to remind yourself that Leto's Joker is just an act — and to avoid nightmares after seeing his jaw-dropping performance.
The first two episodes ("The Conquistador" and "The Dirtbag") are up now on Budweiser's You Tube channel, with more to come over the rest of the summer, but you can also watch them below: