Jared Leto on the making of ‘House of Gucci’: ‘I really enjoy diving deep like that’

“I came to set every day with a Bible of dialogue and things to try out and experiment,” revealed “House of Gucci” scene stealer Jared Leto during a recent Deadline Zoom chat. For the 50-year-old Oscar-winner (“The Dallas Buyers Club”), this is part of his process. “I’ve learned, as an actor, don’t wait for permission. You really have to be impolite with your creative impulses. I don’t mean rude. Of course, you’re always kind and generous as humanly possible and a great partner, but you should never be too shy to try and fail. I certainly was aiming to fail every single day on the set.”

Leto has become a man of many faces over the years. The lead singer of the chart-topping rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars has gone to extreme lengths to bring his characters to life. He lost 30 pounds to play the drug addicted, HIV positive transgender Rayon in “The Dallas Buyers Club.” He gained 62 pounds to portray Mark David Chapman in 2007’s “Chapter 27.” And he endured six hours of makeup to play Paolo Gucci in “House of Gucci.” He has reaped Critics Choice and SAG Awards nominations for his efforts and is a strong contender at the Oscars.

Leto is so unrecognizable with his balding hair, distinctive nose and mustache that Al Pacino, who plays his father in the film, brushed him off when he showed up the first time on the set. “He thought I was just some creep trying to come up and talk to him, bother him or something,” Leto recalled. “Eventually someone whispered, ‘Jared’s under there.’ He just couldn’t believe it.  He said, ‘My son.’  It was a beautiful moment for him not to know who I was and believe I was just an Italian guy that he didn’t know. It gave me a really big boost of confidence.” No one saw Leto as himself until the filming was over. “We always showed up every day fully dressed and in character,” the actor explained.

As soon as he read the script, Leto fell in love with Paolo and “all the possibilities” within him. “I found him to be incredibly lovable and full of humor.  He had a giant heart. I had no idea what he looked like. So, for me, that wasn’t really a part of the decision making process. After he agreed to do the piece, he started to investigate Paolo, who died in 1995 at the age of 64.

“I read everything that I could. I talked to whoever would talk to me. I began this journey to discover who Paolo Gucci was.  I feel like when you bring to life a real person and you put [their] life on the screen, you have a responsibility to do the diligence to bring an impression of that person to life with as much dignity and grace as possible. That’s what we attempted to do here. It was an experience of a lifetime.  I have to tell you, I really have much gratitude to be able to have worked with this caliber of creative people and step into those Gucci loafers.”

Though Paolo comes across in the movie as the court jester of the Gucci clan without a whit of taste as a designer, he was, as Leto described, “an unsung hero in the story. For him, it was really frustrating because he was unheard and unseen by people closest to him, his family. But he did contribute to the company. In this story, he’s a bit of a clown prince, but he was a creative whirlwind, a force to be reckoned with. And his work, there’s a lot of it that’s still intact and celebrated in a part of the Gucci story. He’s firmly entrenched in the success story that is Gucci.”

Leto had just three weeks to prepare before he joined the production. During that time, he found the prosthetic designers Goran Lundstrom and AnnaCarin Lock. The three hunkered down in a hotel room in Rome and started to experiment on the makeup. “Nobody slept for few weeks,” he said. “That nuanced approach to hair and makeup. They just did a terrific job. Fantastic.”

The actor finds it exciting to do such transformative work. “I like to see other actors doing it. I really enjoy diving deep like that.” Still, Leto added, “all of that is meaningless if you don’t have the heart and the soul of the spirit of the character. That’s the crux. It’s crucial”

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