"Jared doesn’t want to shake hands.”
This unsettling nugget is flung mere moments before you step into the room-within-a-room-within-a-room to meet Jared Leto. Many hours have led to this point. You’re told to fly 26 hours to spend 10 minutes with Jared Leto. Yes, it will be no more than 10 minutes, though that may turn out to be eight. But there will be time.
Leto’s time? It’s never been more valuable. This interview isn’t about Suicide Squad, or winning awards. It’s not about his multiplatinum-selling band, 30 Seconds to Mars. Nor will it cover his efforts to preserve America’s national parks through a series of white-knuckled micro-documentaries. No, this is about Gucci. To be more precise, it’s about two people: Leto and Alessandro Michele.
The latter, Gucci’s creative director, has reinvigorated luxury’s old guard with a much-welcomed punch of irreverence and romanticism. And so, via Dubai, you land in London greatly debilitated. It’s December. The weather has turned. You, visiting for only 48 hours, are terribly underpacked. Your fellow journalists, happily, are not. They’re from far-flung corners of the Jared Leto writing world – from Mexico and Venezuela, from Greece and Malaysia. There are many of you, all headed to the same destination: 10 minutes, “maybe”, with Jared Leto.
Gucci, the chic underwriter of this journey, has done its best to perfect each touchpoint, as though it were bound for a runway. You’re greeted warmly in the hotel lobby. You’re informed discreetly that, yes, the minibar is gratis. Your brows raise a little at this last point – realising this goes against every single instinct regarding self-preservation, much like the first drag of a cigarette.
It’s 12 hours later that you’re told that Leto doesn’t want to touch your hand, thanks. You’re in another hotel in Mayfair, surrounded by layers of standers-by, those wondrous people who blur the lines between PR, marketer, manager and pro groupie. In a turn of events that would thrill Gucci’s diamond-patterned mothership in Milano, there are pretty, ethnically-ambiguous women scattered around the room, each wearing a leg-lengthening tartan skirt and thick-rimmed frames. There's a lanky man of impossible proportions, wearing an immaculate double-breasted suit.
Sitting by a roaring fireplace, sipping very British Tea, are other writers – others temporarily caught in the Jared Leto vacuum. They’re dressed in their Sunday Best’s Sunday Best. Groups from Germany and Latin America are huddled over their hot leaf water, whispering feverishly about the questions they’ll attempt to squeeze in.
On the other side of the room, the lanky man presses his ear to a large wooden door that guards the inner sanctum. He’s listening to the interview before yours, waiting for the moment to strike. He does, and you enter. Jared Leto, a vampire-like 45-years-old, is sat by a fireplace on the opposite side of the room. He’s wearing a buttery leather jacket and cropped, black-dyed hair – like a grown out 2017 Caesar cut.
The whole scene feels a little Burt Reynolds-by-the-fire, albeit with more sophisticated, Queen Mother-worthy décor. Astonishingly, not one stander-by is present. You sit. And, of course, you do not offer your hand. “This is around the time I tend to get a little… sleepy,” says Leto, jetlagged from a jaunt in Japan. You nod in weak agreement. Marvelling at his youthful face as you mentally re-read his Wikipedia entry, you enquire about the actor’s grooming routine.
“This is going to be easy. I take a shower. I shampoo. And that’s it.”
Wow. No face wash? No moisturiser?
“Absolutely nothing. I honestly don’t use anything. It’s pretty boring.”
This, of course, is an expected part of the Jared Leto conundrum – this is the guy who, somehow, is equally at home in a midnight-blue Gucci tuxedo as on a Yosemite cliff face. The man who can sit at a charity banquet one night, then mail his Suicide Squad co-stars dead rats and used condoms (method acting – it’s a thing).
You press again, because handsomeness, while uncomplicated, must be more complicated than shampoo and nothing else?
“I credit, number one, sleep. For a solid 10 years, I’ve been mindful of it,” offers Leto. “As a singer, you can’t skip on sleep, because of your voice. If you go out, the next day you wake up and your voice is like down here and deeper. You can’t sing, at all. I’ve always been mindful of getting sleep while on tour. You don’t want to cancel a show – it’s not a fun thing to do. That taught me to sleep.”
“I’ve always had a good diet. I’m healthy. Sleep and food – those are two big ones.”
One thing that happens when you’re Jared Leto is saying ‘no’. This is a crucial point in understanding the Leto-michele-gucci trifecta of luxe.
“In 20 years in this business, I’ve only said yes three times,” he states. “I got to know Alessandro first. We became friends. It was really natural to work together. We have a lot in common: we’re both creative people. He’s a bit crazy, like me. We have a similar sense of humour. We’re similar ages. He looks very intense and mysterious – a bit Rasputin, you know? A bit messianic. I, of course, had my long hair and a beard, too. He’s very warm and very sweet, and fun and funny – he’s easy to like. We became friends. That’s been nice. The nicest part of all of this is the friendship that we’ve developed. That’s really cool, when that happens.”
The true raison d’etre for this tête-à-tête is Gucci’s new male fragrance. Named ‘Guilty Absolute’, it’s remarkably Leto-like – creating an instant impression that evolves to have remarkable staying power.
“I do a spray on the neck,” says Leto of his personal application of such. “It’s a spray on the wrist and a rub together. I really don’t use very much. Maybe I should, I’m not sure?”
When you’re Jared Leto, you don’t need to be sure. You aren’t paid to be sure. You’re just paid to be here, jetlagged and handsomely vampiric, sitting fireside in London with a rotating cast of slack-jawed shmucks.
Another thing that happens when you’re Jared Leto is saying ‘yes’. In a sense. You, clutching an actual camera, ask for a portrait. He misunderstands you, in his way.
“Sure, I mean, I’m exhausted. But we can do one together if you like?”
With ballet-like choreographed grace, he fetches your phone off the table, stands you up, and invites you to stick a tongue out at the front-facing phone camera. Click. It’s more than a worthy memento of the occasion – unexpected, brash, and at least half handsome.
The lanky man behind the door knocks. You wish Leto well. He returns the favour. You extend your hand. And, of course, Jared Leto shakes it.