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Is Jared Leto Regarded More Highly as an Actor or Musician?

04/28/2014 04:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2014
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This question originally appeared on Quora: It's March 2014. Is Jared Leto regarded more highly as an actor or musician?
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Answer by Aaron Ellis, Former Music Critic with Artist Farm

In 1998, Jared Leto's band, Thirty Seconds to Mars had just formed. Musically, he was an unknown. Meanwhile, Jared was well known for his role as teen heartthrob Jordan Catalano in My So Called Life, and he had just given a great performance playing legendary American distance runner Steve Prefontaine in the underseen movie Prefontaine.

If you had asked me this question in 1998, the answer would have been ACTOR.

Jared Leto in Prefontaine.

Fast forward five years.

In 2003, Thirty Seconds to Mars had recently released their first album on Immortal Records, titled Thirty Seconds to Mars. The album drew little recognition. Meanwhile, Jared's acting career took off following an excellent lead role in Requiem for a Dream and memorable supporting roles in American Psycho, Fight Club and Panic Room.

If you had asked me this question in 2003, the answer would have been ACTOR.

Leto in Fight Club.

Fast forward five years.

By 2008, Thirty Seconds to Mars had released a second album, The Beautiful Lie, a few years prior, and it was a surprise success. "The Kill" was one of the top rock songs of 2005-06. The video - directed by Leto himself - is a tribute to The Shining, and it also became a hit, Meanwhile, Leto's acting career faltered. Alexander was critically panned and bombed. Lonely Hearts was a commercial failure. Leto's performance in Chapter 27 was great, but the movie drowned theatrically, only earning a limited release. Leto's only success since 2003 was Lord of War, a moderate success.

If you had asked me this question in 2008, the answer would be MUSICIAN.

Leto and Leto in the music video for "The Kill"

Fast forward five years.

By 2013, and Thirty Seconds to Mars had released two more albums, This Is War (2009) and Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams (2013). Both albums were critically and commercially successful. The band churned out several big hits, including "This Is War" and "Kings and Queens". They also toured like madmen. Between their two most recent albums, they toured so much that Thirty Seconds to Mars set a Guinness World Record for most live shows in a single album cycle.

Meanwhile, the constant touring with his band halted Leto's acting career. He only starred in two feature films in the last five years. One of them was Mr. Nobody, a 2009 film that wasn't released in the U.S. until 2013. However, the other movie (which prompted the U.S. release of Mr. Nobody) was a supporting role as Rayon in Dallas Buyer's Club, and it was arguably the most celebrated performance of 2013. He virtually swept the trophies during awards season, including Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG wins. And mind you, this was in a year loaded with great male supporting performances.

If you asked me this question in 2013, it would be a close call, but the answer would have been MUSICIAN.

Why? Because one great acting performance doesn't quite overshadow the multiple accomplishments of his band (I mean, they DID set a touring world record!).

Leto in the music video for "This is War."

By my estimates, Jared Leto has been a balanced good actor / good musician. If I had to tip the scales to one side, I would choose ACTOR. Even in his movies that underperformed or bombed, Leto has always been great and earned critical acclaim. He is a talented musician, but thus far he hasn't had as many career highlights in music as he has in movies.

Which way will Mr. Leto lean in the future? Hard to say. Music seems to be the priority right now, but he has a deep passion for independent films with strong characters. He might be willing to do more acting if he comes across more juicy roles like Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

Maybe ask me in another five years.

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