Jared Leto: WeAct

March 18, 2022
The actor adopts another accent for his role as WeWork founder Adam Neumann in AppleTV+ series WeCrashed, the latest in a series of unrelated dramatisations of Trumpian America gone wrong.

WeWork grew from a single co-working space into a global brand worth US$47 billion in under a decade. Then, in less than a year, its value plummeted as the world’s spotlight turned on the couple – Jared Leto’s Adam Neumann and Anne Hathaway’s Rebekah Neumann – behind the rise and fall of an empire.

A Method actor, known for his intense preparation, Leto, 50, earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

FilmInk catches up with the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman who next stars in Sony/Marvel’s latest Spider-man universe entry, Morbius.

What first attracted you to this story about the man behind WeWork?

“Well, I like the idea of a character who built a company from nothing into a $47 billion empire. He had tons of success and made his dreams his reality – but he also had tons of failure. There’s something classic about the story. There’s a bit of the flight of Icarus in there and a really colourful character.”

Adam Neumann’s passion for community living was inspired by his early life on an Israeli kibbutz. I think we all know how deeply you prepare for your roles, so I’m wondering if you visited a kibbutz in preparation?

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go live on a kibbutz. I actually tried to, but I wasn’t allowed to go to Israel because they were locked down [during the pandemic]. So, I got shut down there, but that would have been really special.

“It was a wild journey, and an absolutely remarkable story with a compelling character so I dove deep and did the best I could. The nice thing is it’s such a recent story and so relevant that there’s a ton of material, so I was just buried in research and I loved it.”

Did your personal experience with your band 30 Seconds to Mars help in portraying Adam Neumann’s similar kind of rock-star swagger?

“I think all the years touring with 30 Seconds to Mars has taught me a lot. I’ve stood on a lot of stages all over the world, and it’s been a beautiful thing. It’s taught me a lot about communicating with people and standing on that stage and sharing a vision. Adam had a bit of a rock star in him, I think it was probably really a great thing to pull on.”

How would you characterise the relationship between Adam and his wife Rebekah (portrayed by Anne Hathaway)?

“I’d describe Adam and Rebekah’s relationship as one of partnership and love. They really are fiercely loyal to one another. They’ve got, I think, six kids together now and remained committed through this wild ride. And I think Adam would credit Rebekah with helping to make the WeWork company what it became and helping him achieve some of his wildest dreams. This is a story of two people who achieved the impossible and then also dealt with a massive amount of failure as well. It’s a pretty fascinating story to take a look at.”

We’ve seen you in social media, talking about not only your projects, but also about Ukraine and COVID. Do you think that, as an artist and influencer, you have a responsibility to talk with your fans and maybe give some kind of message?

“It’s a good question, but no, I don’t really feel any responsibility to do anything other than show up and do my job, whether it’s standing on a stage with 30 Seconds to Mars or being on a set acting. I don’t think I have any real responsibility outside of being an artist but, when you have an opportunity, it can be a powerful thing to take advantage of it. I’m not really a big fan of people standing on a soapbox and mouthing off their opinions on everything that happens under the sun, but everyone has a right to speak their mind and participate in a democracy. And that’s the beautiful thing about it, right?”

How did you work on your accent as Adam Neumann? When the camera’s not rolling, do you stay in character and continue to speak in the accent?

“The answer is, yes. I find it to be an exciting way to work when you remain committed in that way, and you learn a lot and get a chance to really do quite a bit of examination. For me, it just seems to be a more compelling way to bring a character to life. I like immersive work. I like challenging work. I like physical work and this role was all of those things. And so – for the accent – I surrounded myself with Israelis and educated myself and practiced and stayed committed to doing the best job I could to represent that dialect.”

What did you enjoy most about playing Adam Neumann?

“I enjoyed his verbosity and how physical he was. For me, it was almost like an action movie every day, so I was exhausted because he’s a guy who speaks so passionately and so powerfully. Whereas I probably talk pretty quietly compared to him, so it was just exhausting – but I loved it as well.”

I think audiences will enjoy the unicorn references in the series. Do you have any personal experience of chasing after your own impossible unicorn?

“Well, I have with 30 Seconds to Mars. It was an entrepreneurial pursuit and a creative one, and it was nearly impossible when my brother and I started that band. Everyone told us no; everyone told us it was impossible, and we couldn’t get a record deal for years. And we managed to keep on working and working, and went on tour to all of these beautiful countries and we just made a life for ourselves and manifested that reality with hard work and determination. So, yeah, I can certainly really relate there.”

We see how Adam Neumann is inspired by Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar’. Do you have your own inspirational song?

“Anything by Nirvana would probably be great. But, I have to say, a lot of the songs that I write, are to power myself up. The music is a fun part of this story and really takes us back to a specific time in our lives in a way that only music can.”

How did you and Anne Hathaway prepare together to play husband and wife?

“We both recognised an opportunity here, that we could make something special. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s a tremendous actor, and was a perfect partner in crime for this journey. I really have a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to work with her.”

Can you share a moment from your personal life when you felt like everything’s lost – in the same way the Neumanns did?

“Yeah, when we put out our second 30 Seconds to Mars album – and it bombed. Nobody wanted it. Nobody liked it. The radio stations wouldn’t play the single. And the record company dropped us and then we figured out a way to put one more song out called ‘The Kill’. And that song and the video changed our lives – and the rest is history. But there were many moments before then when we thought we were finished.”

There have been documentaries, podcasts, books, etc about the WeWork scandal. How is the WeCrashed series different?

“I think you’ll see things that are highly interpretive and subjective but also creative and it’s an interesting thing. It’s a painting, not a photograph. Although you may have seen lots of photographs and representations, this interpretation is unique and I think the story is worth examining.”

How long did it take each day to get into the prosthetics and contact lenses etc in order to physically inhabit Adam Neumann?

“It certainly wasn’t as long as for Gucci. But in some ways, it was more difficult because, subtlety is very hard when you’re working on a younger version of the character. It took a lot of trial and error. And fortunately, we shot the third episode first. So then we could – while we were still refining the look and feel – go back and redo the first and second, so we were in a better place. It took some time, like an hour or two every day and then time to take it off at night and touch it up. But, for me, it’s worth it. I enjoy the transformation and the immersive nature of these kinds of roles.”

How knowledgeable are you about this world of start-ups and tech companies?

“It interests me and I have a lot of friends in this space, and I’ve also had a lot of experience in this space. I know people that knew Neumann and had met him and talked about what a compelling person he was; a unique and colourful person. And so, I knew about him, but it was only once I started digging in, that I discovered there was so much to learn.”

How do you think you have changed during these last two years as an actor and as a person, as we all adapt to the new world of COVID?

“I think the whole world has changed so much, and we probably won’t have an idea of how impactful this was and how we changed until maybe even decades later when we can really properly take a good look back in hindsight, with some good mindful examination. For me, I took advantage of the time that I had in one location because we weren’t touring and I wasn’t traveling around and we just worked on new music. So, we have new 30 Seconds to Mars music probably after Morbius comes out, and I’m excited about that.”

What is the takeaway you hope audiences will have after watching WeCrashed?

“I hope people look at these characters and are able to examine their lives and the circumstances and see their humanity and their success and failures. We can all examine the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

WeCrashed premieres on Friday, March 18, 2022 exclusively on Apple TV+

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