DUBAI: There’s never been a Marvel character like Dr. Michael Morbius before. Nor has there been an actor like Jared Leto in the lead role of a Marvel movie before. The Oscar winner chooses his roles very carefully – appearing in only eight films over the past 10 years. When he chooses a role, however, he arguably engages more fully than any actor alive today. Leto is a famous practitioner of the “methodical” approach, disappearing completely into character from the start of filming until it’s all over.
“He’s a pretty immersive actor, Jared. He has his own process. In fact, I only met him the first day we toured together, and even though we had been together for months, I still never really met him as Jared, only as Michael,” his co-star Matt Smith, star of “Doctor Who” and “The Crown”, tell Arab News.
For “Morbius,” Leto’s process took him from a sickly doctor on the brink of death, searching for a cure, to a vampiric creature fighting his darkest urges to become an unlikely hero.
“I’m drawn to roles where there’s an opportunity for transformation — physical transformation, but also mental, emotional…everything and everyone,” says Leto. “I played Dr. Michael Morbius from his frailest, to his most powerful, to his most monstrous. There’s a lot of range in there, so it was really fun to get into. Not only does the film have action, stunts and fights, but the role itself was grueling. Each time he fights the affliction, he is caught at a crossroads between different parts of the character. It’s like a weaning process, a whole body experience.
Leto’s commitment has also forced his co-stars to up their game, they say.
“You have to match his energy. It forces you to. You also stay in character. You have no other way to communicate. You can’t say, ‘Hey, what are you going to do tonight?’ I would call him Dr. Morbius. He would call me Martine. And the conversations we kept having were mostly about the material,” says Adria Arjona, the film’s female lead.
“There’s no chatter, which was good. We just dove straight into the work with insane focus, which I found fun and enjoyable,” echoes Smith, who plays the film’s villain, Milo.
The process made Arjona bolder than she had ever been before.
“Because I was in character, I also had the confidence to play with him. Because Martine does, although I would never do that like me to Jared. Then the more we talked, the more little things were starting to crop up,” continues Arjona.
Even the film’s director, Daniel Espinosa, had to alter his directing style to accommodate Leto’s process – unable to talk to him like a filmmaker usually does to his star.
“It turns you into a bit of a weirdo. As a manager, you want to follow each person’s process. For that, I had to become a bit like his subconscious whispering in his ear. I was quietly saying things behind him like, ‘Maybe you should get up a little earlier in the scene.’ It put me in a strange position, but I felt it was my duty to follow his process, because it’s their creativity that’s on display, not mine,” says Espinosa.
For the director, who describes himself as “Sweden’s second-biggest comic book fan”, the chance to helm a Marvel movie was a dream he never thought he could achieve, as most films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe exist. in a style so different from the one he forged in such films as the 2017 sci-fi horror “Life” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, or the 2012 thriller “Safe House” starring Denzel Washington.
“I never knew how I would make that leap, because I don’t fit into the sort of quasi-comedy that most Marvel pictures ultimately are. The idea of doing something that had a sub-element of horror has ignited the twin passions I’ve had for comics and horror since I was a kid,” says Espinosa.
The chance to play a Marvel superhero marks a step in a lighter direction for Leto, who has gravitated almost exclusively to dark material for most of his career. As Morbius heads to a more promising location at the end of the film, so does Leto himself.
“I don’t feel the same attraction to darker materials as when I was younger,” says Leto. “I probably wouldn’t want to spend that kind of time anymore – and I don’t want roles that could hurt my psyche. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to explore.
Maybe the rumors of a team-up with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will turn out to be true then.