Rather than just tell me what he had been up to since arriving in Chicago, Jared Leto, sitting backstage at the Aragon Ballroom (1106 W Lawrence St.) on Friday, decided he wanted to show me.
The actor-turned-rocker pulled out a baseball he received earlier that day at the Cubs game and proudly showed me his new souvenir, which was signed by, well, I couldn’t tell who it was signed by.
“It’s No. 40, baby,” Leto said confidently hours before his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, took the stage.
Who’s No. 40?
Leto, switching from confident to embarrassed, shrugged his shoulders and quietly mouthed the words “I don’t know.” Turns out it was Cubs pitcher James Russell, but you can’t expect Leto to know that. He lives in Los Angeles and guesses he hasn’t thrown a baseball in 20 years.
“I was never a baseball player, but it’s good to do things like that,” said Leto, sporting the same leather jacket and scarf he wore when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field. “Sometimes on your tour, you can get locked in.”
The band, which features Leto, his brother Shannon and Tomo Milicevic, is on tour promoting its third album, “This is War.” Even though Leto is known best for his film roles (including “Fight Club,” “Requiem For a Dream,” and “Panic Room,”), the group has established itself as more than just the band led by the “My So-Called Life” guy.
When asked to name the moment when he feels he earned the music world’s respect, Leto, who seems to shy away from talking about his acting career in interviews, said, “I don’t have thoughts like that.”
To his credit, Leto didn’t once mention the critics who dismissed the group. He’s humble about their success (“We’re just grateful to have these experiences”), which isn’t what some would expect from a guy rocking a tall pink mohawk, eyeliner and blue nail polish.
“I did it the other day,” Leto said about the new 'do, admitting there wasn’t much thought behind the color choice. “This ain’t gonna last too long. It’s just for fun. On the road, you can embrace the spirit of recklessness and freedom. It’s not like I have to show up to an office and adhere to a dress code.”
Following the interview and a few quick photos (which Leto put on his glasses for), Leto did something I’d seen only once before in my journalistic career: He hugged me.
I’m not talking one of those half-handshake-half-hug deals, but a two-handed embrace. The only other person to hug me after an interview? Jesse Jane, the adult film star.