After a six-year hiatus from acting, Jared Leto's return to the screen as the HIV-positive transgender woman Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club earned him a Critics' Choice Award, a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination.
But not everyone is impressed with the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman's turn. Some criticized Leto for taking a role they believe should have gone to a transgender actor. And plenty of people raised their eyebrows when the actor-rocker spoke of summoning his "inner tranny" for the role in a Daily Beast interview. (FYI: It's only fair to point out that Leto didn't introduce the slur into the conversation—he was repeating the phrase back to a reporter.)
Tuesday night in Santa Barbara, Leto answered his detractors head-on when one of his critics lashed out at him in public during a Q&A about his lauded performance as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.
“You don’t deserve an award!” someone shouted at Leto as he took the stage. "Trans misogyny does not deserve an award!" The "City of Angels" singer stopped the sit-down conversation and asked his heckler to clarify the critique.
"You’re a man," Leto's detractor explained. "You shouldn’t play a transgendered role."
"Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part?" Leto countered. "So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian—they can't play a straight part?"
Given that most of the audience members weren't Newsweek writers, they applauded Leto's logic. The Dallas Buyers Club actor continued: "Then you've made sure people that are gay, people that aren't straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art."
Leto went on to say his major inspiration for playing Rayon was a 14-year-old German boy he met on tour with 30STM who had been born a girl. "To me, I thought [this movie] was an opportunity to put a different kind of character on screen."
After the Q&A ended, Leto asked the heckler backstage and the two reportedly had a "cordial conversation" for about 15 minutes.