Tribeca: Jared Leto Talks Depicting "This Crazy Nation of Ours" in Directorial Debut

Jared Leto 2019 Tribeca - Getty - H 2019
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

The Oscar-winning actor worked with 92 film crews to capture footage across the country on July 4 for 'A Day in the Life of America.'

When Jared Leto was young, he was fascinated by the National Geographic book series A Day in the Life of America, for which photographers would capture subjects across the country over the course of one day. After determining that the concept could produce a good documentary, Leto premiered that film, his directorial debut A Day in the Life of America, at the Tribeca International Film Festival on Saturday afternoon.

“It just stuck with me all these years, and I just thought it’s an important time to turn the camera on ourselves and to take a good look at who we are and this crazy nation of ours,” Leto told The Hollywood Reporter.

Leto worked with 92 film crews across the U.S., including in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, to capture footage on July 4. Everything seen in the pic comes from that one day of filming.

“Knowing that you have to do everything within 24 hours, there’s a lot at stake because you want to capture the stories that really reflect who we are,” said Leto, calling the project “logistically really challenging.” He added, “We all had high goals for the project and for ourselves and the way that we wanted to film it. It was tough, but really a lot of fun. I don’t think any of us slept for a week.”

The impetus to finally start the film came when Leto was working on the album America with his band 30 Seconds to Mars, and he thought the documentary would offer a good companion piece. “I look at it as time capsule, something you can dig up 100 years from now, 1000 years from now, and it would give us some insight into who we are, what kind of people we are, what kind of a time that we’re living in,” he said.

After the screening, Leto took questions from the audience about the movie, discussing why he featured so many different viewpoints and why he’s not discouraged by the darkness in the movie, which includes footage of white supremacists, drug addicts and violent neighborhoods.

“There’s quite a bit in the film that I personally don’t agree with, but again, I felt it was really important to not censor who we are, who our neighbors are, who America is and to get an accurate depiction of the nation in this really tumultuous and important time,” said Leto.

Despite the darkness, Leto said he still thinks there’s room for hope. “What’s so important about America and the American Dream is we have instilled inside of us this idea that with hard work, with passion, with the help from our friends and neighbors, that anything is possible,” Leto said. “And I still took that away personally from the film. But it’s a tough world out there for a lot of people in this country and I think that’s what we see. But I didn’t write the script. I’m just the messenger here.”

As for whether he plans to continue directing films, Leto told THR that it just depends on the project.

“I love to tell stories and to share creative work with the world,” he said. “That’s a really beautiful thing to be able to do, so it’s just about time.”