Jared Leto As HIV+ Hooker In “Dallas Buyers Club”: I Didn’t Want To Be A Cliché

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Dallas Buyers Club screened at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, and a lot of praise is going to Jared Leto, who plays Rayon, a trans prostitue stricken with HIV/AIDS.

The film, coming to theaters on November 1, tells the story of renegade Texan Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), who works to get untested HIV medicines in the hands of those afflicted with the virus in the early days of the epidemic—includjared leto dallas buyers clubing Rayon and Woodruff himself.

Leto was determined to give his character some dignity: “There’s been great drag queens in film. But I didn’t want to put up onscreen this cross-dressing cliché that was the butt of every joke,”  Leto said at Saturday’s screening of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I hadn’t worked in a long time and I saw an opportunity there to bring to life a real person, not a cliché. I knew I was very connected [to her]. I was in character [on set], which I know is a terrible term because it brings up ideas of pretentiousness. But how could you throw it all away, go have lunch, and then ’action’? I’d probably be terrible. I’d probably be a cliché. So I quickly transformed myself into this person.”

Related: Will Dallas Buyers Club  Earn Matthew Mcconaugheys An Oscar?

Dallas Buyers Club is  getting a lot of positive buzz, including Oscar talk for McConaughey and Leto himself, who lost 38 pounds for the movie, eventually standing 6 feet tall and weighing just 143 pounds. “I’ve had more effusive praise for this than I’ve had for anything in my life,” says the 40 Seconds to Mars rocker. “I’m having a good time. I’ve met with probably 50 to 100 journalists. It’s not work anymore. We can get together and celebrate.”

Will people connect with a movie about a time when AIDS was a death sentence? No disrespect, but God we hope so.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.