When Jared Leto took on the starring role in Apple TV+’s “We Crashed” playing Adam Neumann, he says he didn’t have know a lot about the co-founder of WeWork. Neumann was often portrayed in the media as an eccentric mogul — someone who wanted to build offices on the planet Mars, often went without shoes and claimed to have close connections to political figures that gave him a voice in world events.
“I didn’t really have any preconceived ideas, I just heard that he was a pretty colorful character; that he was a fascinating guy, that he was great in the room, a great salesperson,” Leto says on this week’s edition of Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “And of course, then you see headlines and you know that he the built a company from nothing into a $47 billion empire, and then it all fell apart.”
Leto stars opposite Anne Hathaway (who plays Adam’s wife and business partner Rebekah Neumann) in the eight-episode limited series. Based on the Wondery podcast “WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork,” the story details how the couple’s ambition and hubris helped launched their startup company – but also led to their downfall.
Leto has played real people before – most recently nabbing a SAG Award nomination for his role in the film “House of Gucci” – but “WeCrashed” gave him a unique opportunity to actually meet the person he was portraying. Originally, Leto did not plan on disclosing that he had sat down with the Neumanns, until Adam spoke about it in an interview. “So, you know, the cat’s out of the bag,” says Leto.
Leto said he didn’t tell the production that he was meeting with them. “To be honest, I thought I would regret if I didn’t. I wanted to look in his eyes,” he notes. “Sometimes there’s freedom in not knowing the person, not meeting the person and, and other times, it can be informative to meet them. I think also, regardless of people’s success or failure, it’s my job to find some empathy. That’s my job as an actor, is to try to find some understanding – that doesn’t mean that you agree with everything that a character does, but it’s certainly to find some understanding some motivation of you know, why they made the choices in life that they did.”
The Oscar-winning actor is known for transforming for his roles, such as his recent, unrecognizable turn in “House of Gucci,” and taking on Neumann was no exception. Asked when he last played someone who looked like himself, Leto jokes, “I mean, Morbius would be the closest, but even he turns into a monster.”
In addition the physical changes, Leto says it was interesting to play someone so different in temperament. “I’m actually a pretty even-keeled, pretty mellow person,” Leto says. “And he speaks with a lot of emphasis and authority and he really pushes on the voice and it was it was a really challenging. I felt like I was shooting an action movie. I was exhausted and literally in physical pain at the end of the day.”
But Leto has high praise for everyone involved with the series, particularly his co-star Hathaway. “When I think about a classic actor, a real craftsperson – she is all that and more,” he raves. “I’ve been in awe of her work for a long time.”
Much has been made of Leto and Hathaway’s chemistry in playing a couple in a relationship that might be considered toxic, but viewers never doubt their passion for one another. Again, Leto sings defers to his co-star’s talent, saying: “Look, when you have someone who’s as great at Annie, I think she would probably have chemistry with a doorknob.”
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday and Friday.
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