Jared Leto on joining Marvel and turning into a vampire in 'Morbius'

The Marvel film is currently playing in the UAE

By Reuters, AFP

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Thu 31 Mar 2022, 10:53 AM

Jared Leto has been a star for decades, but it’s only now at 50 that he is fronting his first major blockbuster — transforming into a vampire for new Marvel flick Morbius.

Leto made his name in more independent and cult projects, such as his Oscar-winning turn in AIDS drama Dallas Buyer’s Club or as a junkie in Requiem for a Dream.

But he has no qualms about joining the superhero juggernaut with Morbius, playing now in the UAE.

“You want Marvel to help pay the bills, then you can sneak in some other movies here and there,” he said during a visit to Paris.

“I’m excited. I’ve done a lot of smaller roles in bigger movies and made a career out of that, so it’s interesting to star in a movie that’s something new and different — I like a big, fun popcorn movie.”

Leto is not a total stranger to superhero flicks, of course, having taken a turn as the Joker in Suicide Squad.

But now he is creating a character not yet seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Dr Michael Morbius is an altruistic and infirm biochemist suffering from an incurable disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire while trying to find a cure, and then can’t stop killing people for their blood.

Watch the trailer for Morbius below:

“In the beginning... he’s very sick and frail and fragile and really at the end of his life, and he’s searching for a cure to this brutal disease. And then he gets strong and powerful and then ultimately monstrous,” Leto said.

“The challenge for me was digging into these three unique... versions of the same character... there’s this super challenging transformation and I enjoyed that. It was rewarding.”

“He’s not exactly a hero, not a villain. He’s somewhere in between — there’s a classic Jekyll and Hyde thing happening here,” said Leto. “I liked that there were three characters built into one. There was a significant transformation between them.”

Embracing CGI

For once, Leto was spared the extensive make-up, unlike his almost unrecognisable turn in last year’s The House of Gucci, or the fake nose and teeth he used for his creepy serial killer in The Little Things.

“Originally they wanted to use prosthetics with the monster and I pushed them to embrace technology and CGI. I’m glad we did because it gave us a lot more freedom,” he said, referring to computer generated imagery.

“I worked with people that have rare diseases. There was a certain way of walking that’s actually common with stroke survivors. I didn’t want to just get a cane and have a little limp or something — I wanted to make it specific.”

Leto first became a star in the 1990s as the heart-throb in teen drama My So-Called Life and has popped up in lots of cult favourites, including Fight Club, American Psycho and Blade Runner 2049.

Not that he has seen any of these — Leto hasn’t watched himself on screen since the premiere of Requiem for a Dream at Cannes in 2000.

“I never watch them. The whole goal as an actor is to be unselfconscious. So I do everything I can not to be thinking about myself from the outside,” he said.

“That way, I never repeat myself. Maybe that’s why my characters are so different.”

First big screen adaptation

Leto takes on Marvel’s Morbius in the first big screen adaptation of the vampire-like character. “It was an incredible opportunity,” Leto said.

“There are so many of these iconic Marvel characters that have already been interpreted that it’s very rare you get asked to step into the shoes nowadays of a character that’s never been realised before.”

British actor Matt Smith, known for Doctor Who and The Crown, plays Morbius’ lifelong friend Lucien, renamed Milo by Morbius when they were children.

Matt Smith in a scene from Morbius (Sony Pictures)
Matt Smith in a scene from Morbius (Sony Pictures)

“They share the same very debilitating disease and became very close as a result of it over the years,” Smith said. “They’re different in personality - one’s English, one’s American and their souls are quite different. But their ambition to find a cure is... the great kind of similarity and the great bond that keeps them together over the years.”

Director Daniel Espinosa said it is Morbius’ duality that has earned him a following in the comic book world. Asked whether films about super- or anti-heroes like Morbius trying to heal the world felt relevant in the current climate surrounding the Ukraine crisis, Espinosa said: “To give people respite is not to give people a shot of diving away from the responsibility.”

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