Jared Leto was born on December 26, 1971, in Bossier City, Louisiana. His parents divorced shortly after he was born and his mother, a traveling artist, raised him. The family struggled financially, but creativity was emphasized and Jared and his older brother, Shannon, both developed a robust appreciation of the arts. Leto enrolled at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to study painting, but switched his focus to acting and transferred to New York’s School of Visual Arts, where he majored in filmmaking.
In 1992, Leto moved to Los Angeles, California. His breakthrough acting role came when he was cast as Claire Danes’s love interest, Jordan Catalano, in “My So-Called Life” (1994-95). Fans of the show were so rabid that Leto received a human ear and a box of pubic hair. Solidifying his heartthrob status, the actor was named on People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” list in both 1996 and 1997.
Leto appeared in his first film role in 1995, in How to Make An American Quilt. He later landed roles in “The Thin Red Line” (1998), directed by Terrence Malick, and “Fight Club” (1999), directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. In 2000, Leto starred in Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” alongside Christian Bale, as well as Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” alongside Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly. The actor showed similar dedication in his role as John Lennon’s assassin in “Chapter 27” (2007), gaining 60 pounds for the part.
Jared and Shannon Leto founded the band 30 Seconds to Mars (also stylized as Thirty Seconds to Mars) in 1998. Jared serves as the group’s lead singer, Shannon plays drums and multi-instrumentalist Tomo Milicevic rounds out the trio. In May 2013, the band released their fourth album, Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams. Later that year, the group won the MTV Video Music Award for best rock video for the song “Up in the Air.”
Leto directs 30 Seconds to Mars’ music videos under the pseudonym “Bartholomew Cubbins,” a Dr. Seuss character. In 2012, the group released a documentary, “Artifact”, about their feud and $30 million lawsuit with record label EMI.
Leto calls 30 Seconds to Mars’ supporters “The Echelon” instead of “fans”. By 2013, the group had sold more than 10 million copies of their four albums. Additionally, they set a Guinness World Record for longest concert tour by a rock band—300—in 2011.
In 2013, Leto was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role as a transgendered woman named Rayon in the film “Dallas Buyers Club”. The actor lost 30 pounds for the role, which marked Leto’s return to acting after a six-year hiatus.