Jared Leto Is Reclaiming the Word “Guilty”

Jared Leto is craving a cupcake. Unfortunately, he’s on a strict training diet for his starring role in Morbius, the forthcoming installment in Marvel’s villainous universe, so he decides to instead indulge by sending something sweet to Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, who is residing a few doors down from Leto at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. “What’s the craziest dessert they have on the menu?” he asks.

The two close friends and frequent collaborators are in town teaming up for the new campaign for Gucci Guilty, a men’s fragrance blending pink pepper, orange blossom, and lemon. The vision: a wild re-imagining of Americana, complete with a freewheeling ride down Melrose with Lana Del Rey, and a late-night feast featuring Courtney Love as waitress. After the pranks, we got down to business to talk to Leto about his sense of scent and style.

Not to get too heavy off the top, but a lot has changed with the word “guilty” in the past few years. What does it mean to you in 2019?

It can definitely be a loaded term, but I think of it more like a guilty pleasure. We don’t have to be so perfect: you can have the cookie, you can wear the crazy outfit, you can indulge a bit. And that’s great — we don’t have to be so serious or so strict.

Gucci has also changed a lot since your first work with the brand. How do you like working with Alessandro?

It’s been incredible. It’s obvious that Alessandro’s ushered in a new era completely disruptive to fashion. It’s a fun time — of experimentation, of expression, and of real creativity, where it’s okay to not be so safe and to take risks. We’re close friends, and we have a lot in common: we’re similar in age, we’re both art school kids, and we’re both hyper-focused on our work lives. And when we have time away from that, we both like the quiet simple life.

How was the shoot?

It was so sweet and collaborative. Working with this team is one of the great pleasures of my lifetime, because they’re really just a stellar group of people. And it all comes from Alessandro — he’s such a beautiful artist.

How does your approach to an ad campaign compare to your approach to film?

It’s somewhere in between — it’s not like you have set dialogue as you would in a film, but there’s still a spirit. The last campaign was more sensual and provocative, while this one was more playful, nostalgic, and surreal.

Your fashion sense is pretty playful too.

I don’t put much value in succeeding or failing as far as getting dressed. The only time I put in real thought is when I go on stage. I like to wear things that are free flowing, loose, and not constricting, because I move around quite a bit. And what I wear affects the performance and the experience in the room. I think about creating a spectacle with the 30 Seconds to Mars tours, because I like to put on show for the audience.

How do you oscillate between music and film?

I try to make sure that I have my complete focus on the priority at hand. I don’t make films very often, so that helps. It’s really just about time management.

Do you have a first memory of fragrance?

The smell of a fireplace, fire crackers, and gasoline. When I was a kid, we loved to light things on fire — fireworks especially. We didn’t need much to have a good time.

Scent is such a memory trigger — what does Guilty make you think of?

It gives me a sense of abandonment, freedom, and a celebration of life. It’s interesting to mark a passage of time with a scent, especially in L.A., because you can barely breathe with the smog.

The fragrance notes include orange, which is usually used in women’s fragrances. Is the interplay symbolic?

That’s what’s refreshing about Alessandro’s Gucci — he’s not afraid to break tradition, and look at things from a different perspective.