Jared Leto is not only scoring a lot of accolades for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club” — he’s also attracting controversy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was heckled during Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Virtuosos Awards. The Feb. 4 event honored Leto for his acclaimed portrayal of Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman, in the 2013 film, and several other actors including “Fruitvale Station’s” Michael B. Jordan, “Short Term 12’s” Brie Larson and “Nebraska’s” June Squibb.
The tumult began when a woman told Leto, 42, that “trans-misogyny does not deserve an award.”
The actor asked for clarification on what she meant, to which the heckler responded, “You don’t deserve an award for portraying a trans-woman, because you’re a man.”
“Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play the part?” Leto asked. “So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian — they can’t play a straight part?”
The Hollywood Reporter said that the actor and unidentified woman continued their back and forth, with the latter “arguing that straight people always play transgendered characters and received awards for it.”
Leto challenged this statement, saying that if that was the case, only straight actors could portray straight characters.
“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 said.
The Hollywood Reporter said that Leto’s words received applause from the audience, and that the actor then told the woman he was open to continuing the conversation after the event ended. Leto met with the heckler and her friend afterwards, which the website described as a “cordial conversation for about 15 minutes.”
Leto has received critical acclaim and prestigious awards for work in “Dallas Buyers Club,” including a Golden Globe and SAG Award. He is also nominated for an Academy Award, and heavily favored to win.
But along with collecting awards, Leto has also been drawing heat. His acceptance speech at the Jan. 12 Golden Globes offended some viewers after he joked about the process he underwent to play Rayon.
“I had to do a lot of things to prepare,” Leto had said during his speech. “One of the things I did was wax my entire body, including my eyebrows,” he shared.
But Leto made a point of honoring those involved in the ongoing fight against AIDS in his SAG Awards acceptance speech a few days later.
“Today you not only honor me but also all those around the world living with AIDS and all those who have lost to this disease,” he said. during the Jan. 18 telecast. “Thank you for recognizing them and recognizing their struggle through Dallas Buyers Club.”