Before Jared Leto broke hearts as a teenage dreamboat on “My So-Called Live,” he was a serial college-dropout who travelled the country and dreamed of being a painter.
Now, the Academy Award-winning actor takes on the iconic role of the Joker in next summer’s highly-anticipated “Suicide Squad.”
In honour of Leto’s success, we’re taking a look back at how he became a cultural icon.
They didn't have much. 'My mother crawled out of the muddy banks of the Mississippi with my brother and I in one hand and a fistful of food stamps in the other,' Leto jokes.
His mother's vagabond spirit was a product of the '70s, he says. She surrounded her boys with artistic influences -- 'people who made things to make them,' Leto says.
There were always instruments strewn about the house, including guitars, pianos, and bongo drums. As kids, the brothers made music with pots and pans.
At age 16, Leto came to a crossroads. 'I thought I might be an artist or a painter. Or maybe a drug dealer,' Leto says. 'But I didn't know which path I would take. It's just fortunate that I chose one over the other.'
Leto dropped out of high school, returned to get his degree, and left three different art schools, where he studied painting and film, before pursuing a new career interest.
A 21-year-old Leto arrived in Los Angeles with just a backpack and a couple hundred bucks in his pocket. He searched for acting jobs, figuring that was the gateway to directing.
After nabbing a handful of roles in made-for-TV movies and short-lived family sitcoms, Leto landed his big break as the mopey and effortlessly cool Jordan Catalano in 'My So-Called Life.'
Catalano was the love interest of Claire Dane's leading character, Angela. To this day, Leto allegedly asks reporters that they not ask him questions about the show.
When the show was cancelled, Leto's film career ramped up. He wanted to leave behind the teen heartthrob archetype, so he went after small roles in serious projects, like his first movie, 1995's 'How to Make an American Quilt.'
He's beaten into an oblivion as Angel Face, a handsome and favoured club regular. 'Fight Club' brought him major blockbuster credibility.
It also marked the beginning of a critical-acclaim streak for the actor, now approaching his 30s. He plays a selfish ex-boyfriend in 1999's 'Girl, Interrupted.'
He gets maimed, again, as the arrogant associate Brad in 'American Psycho.' While Leto was passed up for the lead, he rattled critics in the supporting role.
His streak culminated in the leading role in Darren Aronofsky's 'Requiem for a Dream,' which brought Leto the best reviews of his career.
He auditioned for the role of a disillusioned, heroin-addicted Brooklynite 'about 6,000 times,' Leto jokes. 'Requiem for a Dream was an incredibly important film for me.'
'I think I had an opportunity to challenge myself and work with a talented group of people,' Leto says. 'We all felt like there was a possibility that we were doing something really special, and that's the best feeling in the world.'
Meanwhile, Leto's brother Shannon moved to California. Reunited on the west coast, they began to play music together again.
In 1998, the pair formed the post-grunge rock band Boiled Hard, later adding a lead guitarist, Tomo Miličević.
The band changed its name to Thirty Seconds to Mars because 'it's a metaphor for the future,' Leto says, 'the fact that we're so close to something that's not a tangible thing-idea.'
The sophomore album, 'A Beautiful Lie,' rocketed them to stardom. After recording on four different continents to accommodate Leto, the band reached platinum status in America.
As Thirty Seconds to Mars hit its stride, Leto backburnered his acting career. Cyber-thriller 'Mr. Nobody' began a four-year hiatus from Hollywood.
In those years, the band released their most successful album to date, 'This Is War,' and set a Guinness World Record for 'Longest Concert Tour By A Rock Band.'
They also fought a bitter battle with their record label, which sued them for $30 million for trying to bail on their contract.
Leto even made a documentary, which he directed under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins, about the lawsuit.
At last, he came across a script that gripped him by the throat. 'I'd heard about ('Dallas Buyers Club') before -- and I'd even ignored a few emails about it,' Leto says. 'Eventually, I took a look at it, and I just fell in love with the opportunity and the role.'
Leto plays a transgender woman and AIDS patient who teams up with Matthew McConaughey's character to smuggle medication into the US and supply it to fellow patients.
Leto traded in his long locks to become the fourth actor to portray The Joker on the big screen in next August's 'Suicide Squad.'
'Suicide Squad' is based on a comic book starring the most infamous supervillains in the DC Comics universe, including Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Cara Delevingne as Enchantress.
When director David Ayer finally revealed Leto's Joker look online, fans went berserk. His tattoos, grill, and over-the-top insanity didn't look like any incarnation of the Joker we've seen before.
Once again, Leto committed to method acting. 'We worked together for six months and we've never exchanged a word (off-camera) outside of 'Action!' and 'Cut!'' Will Smith told Vanity Fair. 'He was all in on the Joker.'
He even sent a rat to costar Margot Robbie and bullets to Will Smith, to get into character as the Crown Prince of Crime.
... and promoting VyRT, a web-streaming service he launched in 2013 to provide the 'best online concert experience' for viewers.
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