Warrior Love

5.29.2006

By Degen Pener

Jared Leto has just flicked my left nipple. The two of us are sitting in a breakfast joint in Hollywood not far from the house he rents. We've been talking for two hours, and occasionally he has touched my arm or leg in order to emphasize a point. He has now progressed to poking at me for similar effect. I think he meant to simply flick my chest, but Leto's aim is dead-on. The actor raises his hand and extends his arm, and the tip of his index finger connects directly with that little, unseen spot on my pectoral muscle.

More than a bit surprised, I tell Leto what he just did. He responds without missing a beat: "I know I'm gay. I must be gay. I fucking flicked your nipple."

Jared Leto is not gay and not about to come out of the closet, but it sure amuses him to affect that he might be. Perhaps we're at the point where male cover-boy actors in Hollywood can play-act at being gay'for fun and titillation and appeal and attention'just like the ladies (think Britney and Madonna) do. It certainly seems that way today. At one other point in our conversation he winks at me with one of his rounded, steely blue eyes and jokes that he may not totally understand the nuance of every gay issue because 'I'm only half gay.' Indeed, when it comes to discussing gay sexuality, Leto is more than open and comfortable: He's often ribald and even quite a bit cocky. 'I've always had an understanding and a connection and a good relationship with gay men and women. And I don't want to censor myself about the fucking subject because I don't have a problem with gay or straight or any of that,' says Leto, who is laxly lounging on a sofa in a booth at the restaurant.

Leto'who in the past has been noted for sporting blue nail polish'is wearing a tight 'wife beater' and a pair of low-slung black pants. The gap between the two well-worn garments shows off an inch or two of flesh at his midriff, and from behind, when he is standing, a little bit of backside is visible too. Trim as a clothespin, he seems to care as much about covering up his tight V-shaped body as he worries about watching what he says. Unlike many stars, this is an actor who's isn't preoccupied every second with guarding his image.

If he were, he might not have been in his new movie due out November 5, Alexander in which he stars as Hephaestion, the best friend, confidant, general, and (likely) lover of Alexander the Great, played by Colin Farrell. Directed by Oliver Stone, the $100 million film'while focusing mostly on the Macedonian king's battlefield conquests'explicitly portrays its hero enjoying the sexual pleasures of both men and women. 'It's not a gay film. It's a film for everybody, but hats off to Oliver. It's very, very brave. He's committed to showing all sides of Alexander,' says Leto. 'There's no pussyfooting around and walking on eggshells.' According to Leto, Farrell as Alexander gets it on with Queen Roxane'played by the beautiful Rosario Dawson'and shags Bagoas, the eunuch made famous by Mary Renault's 1972 homoerotic novel The Persian Boy. (Bagoas is played by unknown newcomer Francisco Bosch, a dancer with the English National Ballet.)

'Colin was really great and carefree with all of it,' says Leto, sitting up, his posture ramrod straight now that his egg-and-cheese scramble has arrived. 'Alexander was the guy who one moment is with Bagoas and the next moment he's with the barbarian queen [Roxane] and they are fucking up a stairwell.'

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