If I seem sensitive about this story, it’s because I am. My ma has a physical disability. Since 2010/11 she’s been living with a rare disorder called POEMS which is tricky to diagnose. Since it took so long for them to figure out what was wrong, they couldn’t prescribe treatment, and by then she’d lost the use of her legs from the knees down. She regained some mobility through rehab but she still can’t really use her feet and wears braces when she walks and sometimes a rollator, depending on the setting.
Having a disability complicates already complicated situations. Earlier this year, my ma was in hospital for several weeks undergoing chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Chemo, obviously, is rough on the body, it depletes and weakens you, it wipes out your immune system. It’s hard for those without a physical disability but for those who do have a physical disability, there are additional challenges. Going to the bathroom, for instance.
A person who has functioning use of their legs can take themselves to the bathroom to vomit or if they’re having diarrhea (common for chemotherapy patients). A person who does not have full function of their legs, like my ma, has to push themselves up off the bed, put on their braces – which takes a while – then grab the rollator, slowly amble her way to the bathroom, slowly and carefully take off her pants, and then slowly and carefully ease her way onto the toilet seat. That is, if she makes it. Most times she doesn’t because the nausea and the diarrhea takes over so she’ll end up puking all over herself a lot. And sh-tting herself. Even when my dad and I were there, which was always. But getting from the bed to the bathroom, with assistance, is still a much longer process when someone has a disability. And during the overnight period, when dad and I were at home, of course she could call for a nurse but, not sure if you’ve heard, medical professionals are overworked. They can’t always come running. Sometimes you have to wait a few minutes, they’re trying their best.
I’m giving you all this detail because people with disabilities are often made invisible in the world and those who don’t have disabilities are often unaware of them – me included, until I became a caregiver to a person with a disability. And it’s through this lens that I read about this Jared Leto story and how far he took his “method acting” on the set of Morbius.
By the way, this is no longer a rumour. Morbius director Daniel Espinosa has confirmed it in an interview with UPROXX. You can read his exact response at that link but in short:
Jared plays a character who deals with chronic pain so, as we know, since he’s so “committed” to his performance, he walked around in crutches and a limp the whole time. When it came time to use the bathroom, he would do the whole crutches and limp thing and it would take forever – like up to 45 minutes each time! – and hold set production back and this was causing delays so a “deal was made with him to get him a wheelchair so someone could wheel him there quicker and he agreed to that”.
It was someone’s job on that set to push Jared Leto in a wheelchair to get him to the bathroom. Because it was his “process”, that’s what he needed to be able to deliver his performance. Like somehow he would fail the character if he wasn’t pretending to have a disability at all times, including at bladder and bowel times. Developing an artistic disability, then, was critical to his ability to do his job. Seriously.
And still, instead of telling him to just go to the bathroom out of character, a “deal was made” to accommodate his artistic disability – even though he doesn’t really have a disability, he is actively putting on a disability, like it’s a pair of pants or a shirt, that he can then take off when, you know, he’s done with the role. An entire culture has enabled this. From producers to directors to fellow actors, in admiration of the “quirk” that makes a person like Jared Leto “special”. As Daniel Espinosa rationalised:
“Almost all actors, in general, have their own reputation of being an interesting person how he works with their characters. I think that all of them have these traits. If you want a completely normal person that does only things that you understand, then you’re in the wrong business. Because what’s different is what makes them tick. It’s very hard to be able to say, “I can take this part away and I will still get the same stuff from him.” I don’t do that. I’m more to see like, “Hey, if you’re doing this, we have to do this.”
Do we though? Do we have to?
Because he managed to play a serial killer in a movie recently without becoming a serial killer so, no, I don’t think we HAVE to. But if we are going to do this, if Jared Leto had to develop a disability for the sake of his art, to truly appreciate the experience of living in the world with a disability, I look forward to his work with the disability advocacy community, because I guess, he’s been one of them, kinda. He knows their pain, doesn’t he?
Probably not. In so many ways but here’s one more I’ll throw out there. For many – not all – but many people with disabilities, every day they experience multiple inconveniences. The world isn’t set up to accommodate them. But also, on top of that, there’s the guilt that comes with having to be accommodated. They shouldn’t feel the guilt, no doubt, but I can tell you that from my ma’s perspective, she feels bad when she has to ask for help. When she’s calling a nurse several times a night to help her to the bathroom or to help clean up her mess, she feels like a burden. And I can imagine there are other people out there with disabilities who feel the same way. Nobody wants to feel like they’re a burden.
But here’s f-cking Jared Leto, actively choosing to be a burden to his colleagues, to the production. Demanding to be accommodated for a condition he doesn’t actually have. Having the luxury of prioritising his art over their inconvenience. He’s the star, after all. A real star with a fake disability.
Attached - Jared Leto at the Grammys on Sunday.