Jared Leto has never been shy about the great lengths he goes to to embody a character onscreen. Ever since his breakout film role in Requiem for a Dream, when he lost substantial weight and slept on the streets, the actor has gone method for all of his iconic roles, including Dallas Buyers Club, Suicide Squad, House of Gucci and now, WeCrashed.
On the Apple TV+ limited series about the rise and fall of a $47 billion startup called WeWork, Leto plays its eccentric co-founder, Adam Neumann, and he tells ET’s Lauren Zima that he spent six months “immersed in the character.” In fact, it wasn’t until after filming was complete that Anne Hathaway and Kyle Marvin, who portray wife Rebekah Neumann and co-founder Miguel McKelvey, even met their co-star.
“I had another chance to dive in deep and have a lot of fun with this incredibly rich character,” Leto says of playing Adam, who, by now, is a notorious figure in the business world known for his incredible charisma and unwavering determination to rise to the top. Not only that, but he thought WeWork, a real estate company sold to investors and outsiders as a community and lifestyle tech brand, would one day “elevate the world’s consciousness,” a phrase the Israeli-born entrepreneur said time and time again.
After founding the company in 2010, WeWork quickly expanded across the U.S. and around the world as it continued to attract million-dollar investments until it became known as a unicorn valued at $47 billion, at which point things started to fall apart and Adam’s ego seemingly got in the way of sound and credible decision-making.
“He was a very compelling, charming person. A great salesperson, a great marketer and he had a vision, and he brought that vision to life,” Leto says, noting that it didn’t happen without its faults. “But it’s an incredible story about an immigrant that came to this country and built an empire out of nothing. And I really responded to that.”
In order to capture that character in the captivating eight-episode series, which is adapted by creators and showrunners Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello from the Wondery podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork, Leto not only spent six months as Adam, but he went through great lengths to transform into his real-life counterpart.
For Leto’s physical makeover, special effects makeup artist Kazu Hiro employed a similar use of prosthetics that won him Oscars for his work on Darkest Hour and Bombshell. “There were some things happening there,” Leto says, not wanting to reveal all of Hiro’s visual tricks. “It’s very hard to do subtle work. In this one, we have some subtle things going on.”
“This is a painting, not a photograph,” the actor continues, noting that he was never going to look exactly like Adam. “We did our best to bring an impression of this person to the screen. And yeah, we had our tricks of the trade… We had fun with it.”
When it came to Adam’s distinct accent, Leto hired a team of five Israeli people who served as his “guiding force during this experience,” he says, noting that he went directly from filming House of Gucci, which required its own accent work, to New York for WeCrashed and only had one week in between the two productions to get it right. “It was really, really tight and I was worried that one accent or character would leak into another.”
Leto credits Eisenberg and Crevello’s writing and development of the show for helping him channel Adam. “It’s a testament to how strong the character was here,” he says. “It really took over.”
And when it comes to the final result, Eisenberg received high praise from the one person he knew he had to impress: his father, who is also Israeli. “My dad watched an early cut with me and I was like, ‘I think it’s good. I hope he says it’s good.’ And he loved the accent. He thought it was just pitch perfect,” the showrunner recalls, while noting how exciting it was to have “a collaborator” in Leto.
“He does hours and hours of research,” Eisenberg continues. “We were sharing things with him, he was sharing things with us to kind of create a three-dimensional character.” Also helping in that research is the fact that Leto has met these types of personalities as an investor in various companies, like Surf Air and Reddit.
In the end, “he just became Adam Neumann,” Eisenberg says, explaining that “when we were on set with Jared all through pre-production, he was Jared Leto. And then the cameras started rolling and we started referring to him as Adam. Every morning I would say Shalom to him on set and he would say Shalom back.” And it wasn’t until after the cameras stopped rolling that “he became Jared again.”
“He’s good. He’s no slouch, that Jared Leto,” says Hathaway, who recalls that “he came to set as Adam and I met him as Rebekah.”
“I had been filming for a couple of days and when he walked in and I met Adam, I just thought, ‘OK.’ It was like a tuning fork or something,” she continues. “I just felt something open inside of me and I thought, ‘OK, this is what we’re aiming for. Wow, let’s do this.’”
The series, it’s worth noting, chronicles not only Adam's journey, but the one he and his wife went on together as they poured all their ambition in making WeWork a socially conscious brand that would revolutionize gyms (Rise by We), rental apartments (WeLive) and schools (WeGrow).
For the creators, it’s very much a love story, with Adam and Rebekah’s relationship guiding so many of the ups and downs that take place in the 10 years that follow the founding of the company. “The story of WeWork is the story of these two people coming together,” Crevello says. “The combination of those two launched a $47 billion company and partially led to its decline.”
“They were passionate and they are passionate people,” Leto says of the Neumanns. “They have an enviable relationship and family. And that was something that was a big part of this story: the two of them and how they were partners through this wild journey.”
And the actors’ recreation of that chemistry was paramount to the telling of this story. “They’re really unique individuals and it’s easy when Anne Hathaway is your partner,” Leto says. “She’s one of the best and it was a privilege to work with her.”
As Miguel, Marvin thought of himself as something of a third person in a love triangle with Adam and Rebekah. “So, it was incredible to be part of that romance and inject myself into their chemistry,” he says, adding that after watching the series, “I was blown away by what they do and how much they delved into the really personal side.”
And when it comes to working with Leto in particular, “it was really immersive and it was incredible,” Marvin adds, noting that on set, “we only talked to each other as characters, which was sort of an unreal experience.” But when it was all over, the actor finally got to meet the real Leto. “We went rock climbing afterwards and sort of had this reunion where I was like, ‘Hi, I’m Kyle.’ And he was like, ‘Hi, I’m Jared.’”
In the end, all the time and effort spent immersed in Adam’s world paid off, with Leto delivering another fascinating performance -- one that will likely garner him his first Emmy nomination and recognition for his work on the small screen. “For me, I feel like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really examine a really fascinating character, someone who is larger than life,” Leto says. “And I’m really happy that I had this chance.”
The first three episodes of WeCrashed will premiere March 18 on Apple TV+ with new episodes debuting each Friday through April 22.
Reporting by Lauren Zima and Stacy Lambe