Why Jared Leto's Oscars Speech Mattered

3.3.2014

By Jerry Portwood

The actor won his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing a fictional transgender woman battling AIDS and transphobia in 1980s Dallas, Texas

When actor-turned-rock star Jared Leto accepted an Oscar last night for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he gave shout outs to his single mom, family, bandmates and others, but most touching was his dedication to "the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love."


We spoke with Leto last year about his role in the film, and Aaron Hicklin noted that Leto brought a "subtlety and serenity" to the role. Although Rayon, the trans woman he played in the movie, is a composite of several real-life people, Leto was conscious of the importance of the part. As he explained at the time: “I remember sending advance word, saying, ‘Listen, this is great, I want to do this, but I want to make sure that everyone’s OK with me playing this part as a person who is choosing to live as a woman, and not as a cross-dresser.’ I think there are a lot of people who don’t know the difference.”

Later in the show, Matthew McConaughey was nearly brought to tears while accepting his award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for DBC. While somewhat of a ramble in which he thanks God multiple times, it was a touching moment and it certainly was a culmination of McConaughey's transformation into an A-list actor. McConaughey's speech struck an odd chord and many wondered if thanking God was more confusing to those Christian fundamentalists who think AIDS is God's punishment. 

In most people's minds, however, Leto's speech was the clear winner of the night. Read his full acceptance speech is below:

Jared Leto:

"Incredible. Ellen, I love you. To my fellow nominees, I’m so proud to share this journey with you. I’m in awe and have so much respect for you all. To the Academy, thank you. In 1971, Bossier City, Louisiana, there was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard, and to do something special. That girl is my mother and she’s here tonight — and I just want to say, I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to dream. To my brother, Shannon, the best big brother in the world, you’re a true artist. Thank you so much for sharing this insane and amazing adventure that is 30 Seconds to Mars, and for being my best friend. I love you. Thank you. To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and as you struggle to… to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible… We’re thinking of you tonight. And this is, is incredibly special as well because there’s so many people that helped me get here. And I just want to say thank you to Focus Features, to Mick Sullivan, to Jim Toth, to Jason Weinberg, to Emma Ludbrook, to [Calpernia Addams], to the entire Dallas Buyers Club team. Matthew, I love. Jean-Marc. And this for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you. Thank you so much and goodnight."

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