The actor, 49, who recently scored a Golden Globe nomination for his role opposite Denzel Washington and Rami Malek in the crime thriller The Little Things, sat down for a virtual interview with Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist to discuss the shock of returning to a changed world after being holed up for 12 days in the California desert.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They brought us into the big meditation hall the last day, and said ‘Hey, by the way, this has been happening.’ We didn’t have any access to news,” Leto told Geist.
Out of concern for the pandemic, Leto considered heading home.
“I was the only person who went to the teacher there and said, ‘Hey, do you think we should go home now?’ They were like, ‘Well, that’s your decision if you want to finish or not.’ You don’t want to be the guy that bounces early,” he shared.
When he returned home, Leto’s phone blew up with messages from family and friends. He soon took to social media to share his perspective, as Yahoo Entertainment previously reported.
“We were totally isolated. No phone, no communication etc. We had no idea what was happening outside the facility,” he wrote at the time.
Almost a year later, the Oscar winner has managed to find value in all the time spent at home.
“This has been, all considering, quite a nice change. I don’t think I’ve stayed in one place like this since I was a little kid, and even then we moved around a lot,” he told Geist.
He’s even channeled the extra time into his music, sharing that he’s penned a variety of new songs during the quarantine period.
“I had an opportunity to be really productive with music, and wrote maybe 100 songs,” said Leto, who performs with his brother Shannon in the band Thirty Seconds to Mars. “I hope the world gets back to a place where we can tour again, and give people a little break from the madness.”
Leto also addressed the six-year break he took from the film business to focus on music with the band. At the time, he knew the move raised eyebrows.
“Yeah it’s probably a pretty strange decision. I turned down a Clint Eastwood movie to make $250 a night on tour, and I think that’s when Hollywood knew ‘)h, this guy’s lost his mind,’” he shared.
It was the role of Rayon, a transgender woman with AIDS, in the 2013 acclaimed film Dallas Buyers Club that got Leto back in front of the camera. He ended up winning an Academy Award for the role opposite Matthew McConaughey.
“I never, ever, ever thought I would win an Oscar, or any awards really,” Leto told Geist. “What was really great was to be able to stand on the stage and take that light and shine it back on some other things that have been meaningful, or some things that were on my mind.”
As for that Oscar statue Leto scored back in 2014, it has since disappeared. In an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden last month, he revealed that it had been missing for years before he even noticed.
“You know, I found out that it's been missing for, like three years, and I didn't know that,” Leto said, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported. “I don’t think anyone wanted to tell me. But I had moved houses in L.A. and then when we moved, it somehow just magically kind of disappeared.”
He shared that he assumes someone else knowingly has it in their possession, since “it’s not the sort of thing someone accidentally throws in the trash.”
But to Geist, Leto says he just hopes that whoever has his golden statue realizes its value.
“I just hope whoever has it appreciates it,” Leto told Geist. “And maybe they can shine that light on something that they like.”
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