Matthew McConaughey Inspired Dallas Buyers Club Costar Jared Leto to Act Again After 5-Year Break

Entertainment Sep. 9, 2013 AT 7:00PM
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey Jared Leto says Dallas Buyers Club costar Matthew McConaughey inspired him to act again after taking a five-year break Credit: George Pimentel/WireImage

The opportunity to star in a film opposite Matthew McConaughey was too good for Jared Leto to pass up. After taking a break from the big screen, the 41-year-old musician-turned-actor appears alongside McConaughey in the upcoming film, The Dallas Buyers Club, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theater on Saturday, Sept. 7.

"Well, actually it's been five years, but who's counting? How can you miss me if I never leave, right?" Leto joked at the screening when a guest underestimated the years he had taken off from Hollywood. In the film, Leto, who hasn't been seen on the silver screen since Jaco Van Dormael's Mr. Nobody, plays an HIV-positive transgender opposite McConaughey.

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On stage, after a particularly gut-wrenching screening of the movie -- based on the true story of Ron Woodruff, a tough-jawed Texan who contracted the HIV virus through drug use and promiscuous sex -- the cast was in a noticeably celebratory mood. Oscar buzz started early when the usually fit McConaughey lost over 50 pounds to portray Woodruff at his sickest, a particularly brave move for an actor so usually associated with his looks. Among those in admiration of that effort was Jared himself, who expressed his feelings about it later to McConaughey.

"It was an amazing role, it was an amazing script . . . but I have to say, Matthew McConaughey is doing something spectacular with his life [and] his career. I wanted to be a part of that. He's doing the most incredibly inspiring work and I said, 'If he's willing to walk down this path, I have to get in the ring with him. That's someone I have to dance with, am I right? I mean Christ . . ."

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McConaughey, however, remained humble throughout the discussion, even after receiving a standing ovation as he walked out, taking a few short bows. "Losing the weight was the easy decision. It was really about understanding the rage that he was going through," explained the actor, 43, who has put some of the weight back on. I don't really remember talking to these guys [Jennifer Garner, Leto] as myself. I just remember one day picking up my head, asking what the next scene was and Jean-Marc [the director] told me we were wrapped."

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Jennifer Garner, who holds her own beautifully onscreen as the doctor that tried to help Ron after his diagnosis, shared the challenges of working with such committed performers. "I remember the difficult days, because I was eating!" Garner, 41, joked. Just being there with these two brilliant actors next to me, these gorgeous men, and being terrified because those emotions were just underneath their skin and I wasn't sure what they were going to do. I was in such awe, I was just trying to stand on my mark and not get in their way."

Following the screening, the actors tried to put on a few more pounds during a dinner party at Cibo hosted by Audi and the film's studio Focus Features. There McConaughey, his wife Camila Alves, Leto and Garner along with director Jean-Marc Vallee celebrated late into the night.

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