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The 2022 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 20 - 30, in Park City, Utah

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Interview With Jared Leto of CHAPTER 27

Wednesday, January 24-----Jared Leto is the thinking man's Orlando Bloom. Possessed of a handsome face, a lithe body, piercingly deep eyes and an infectious smile, Leto is one of the few in Young Hollywood who shows no vanity in his screen performances. This is more than evidenced in his starring role as the chubby and erratic Mark David Chapman, the young man who, on a cold December night in 1980 in New York City, pointed his gun at music legend John Lennon and robbed the world of a man known as much for his moral conscience as his musical gifts.

Leto gives an astonishing performance (a transformation, really) as the lead in CHAPTER 27, a dramatized version of the final 72 hours before Lennon's death, as lived inside the deeply troubled mind of this obsessed and disturbed young man. To transform his matinee idol good looks, Leto gained 70 pounds and allowed his previously toned physique to sag in a most uncomplimentary way for the cameras. His unrecognizable puffed-up face and high pitched speaking voice allowed the actor to go beyond impersonation, to a level of reincarnation that is both impressive and startling in its precision and accuracy.

Leto is no stranger to on-screen realism and departure from vanity. His role as a young drug addict in Darren Aronofsky's astounding REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) required the young actor to go into the depths of physical and psychological disfigurement, in a way that few Hollywood pretty boys would ever dare to do.

Sundance Online Dailies Editor Sandy Mandelberger sat down with the newly-slim Jared Leto for a frank interview about the role that has so haunted him, he has not ever seen the finished version of the film. CHAPTER 27 will debut tomorrow evening at the Sundance Film Festival, which moves into its final weekend.

Sandy Mandelberger (SM): How did you prepare to enter into the mind and body of this troubled man who perpetrated such a ghastly and unnecessary crime?

Jared Leto (JM): This was the most intense experience of my entire life. It requires a total immersion that was almost religious. I gained 70 pounds for the part, used make up to make my face all puffy and really lived in that guy's skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I couldn't just leave him behind at the end of the day....he stayed with me and even invaded my dreams.

SM: I'm sure that many will just notice your weight gain, but I was impressed by the actual voice that you found for the character. That Southern accent seemed to indicate a young man who was genteel and polite, but also held back his emotions.
JL: I'm so glad you noticed the voice (then proceeds to imitate the high pitched drawl which can alternately purr or whine). I really worked hard on that. I viewed television interviews and tried to get it right. But more than just imitation, I wanted the voice to show that this young man was, in many ways, very polite, educated and gentle. It made the contrast with his inner demons all the more dramatic.

SM: You could have simply worn a "fat suit" to give the character his chunky feeling. Why did you decide to go whole hog (so to speak) and actually gain the weight and flab?
JL: I really wanted to inhabit this guy's skin, and that effected the way I stood, walked and moved. I wanted to make it clear that this was someone who felt very isolated from people, who shyed away from human contact. Also, being overweight, I felt the rejection and mockery of people who didn't know that I was just playing a part. Their response to me as an overweight and unattractive guy, just made me realize how isolated he felt, how unloved and how untouched by human beings. I kind of turned into a sculpture.

SM: The film follows the last 72 hours of Chapman's time in New York before he shot John Lennon. How did it feel to shoot in all the places where Chapman actually lived and to film in front of the Dakota, the building where the killing actually took place?
JL: It felt strange. It made it so real for me. I only hope that our shooting in front of the very building where this tragedy took place did not upset anyone, especially Yoko Ono or her son Sean Lennon. That would make me very uncomfortable if our presence made their pain even more difficult to bear.

SM: How did you eventually move on from this character after filming was done?
JL: Once the film finished shooting, I immediately starting fasting to get back to my original weight (which I have successfully done). As I started shedding the pounds and the body weight, I felt the weight of the character also fall away from me. It took me several weeks, and now I can bearly recognize myself when I see a photo from the film shoot. But I haven't had the courage to see the actual film, and don't think I will.

SM: The real Mark David Chapman is still in prison and has been recommended for release due to his prison record. What is your opinion about whether he should ever be released, or whether his crime was so great and the loss to the world so enormous, that he should never be allowed to be on the streets again?
JL: Well, I am not on the parole board so this is just my private opinion. I think that Mark David Chapman is seriously disturbed and he is also an excellent liar. He needed to be in order to get people to trust him. So, for the sake of Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon, I don't think that he should ever be released. It would just be too uncertain for them that his obsession would harm them further. I think that as free citizens we have the right to feel safe on our streets....and I think the world is a lot safer with Mark David Chapman behind bars.


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