It is true that one day my brother lived in Santa Cruz and the next he took off for Mexico without telling anyone. But he didn’t disappear as sharply as I like to say he did. I felt like I was losing him before that. I remember saying those exact words to my mom on the phone. “We’re going to lose him,” I told her. It was less of a warning and more of a fact. It’s not that I was prescient about the move to Mexico or anything like that. What I meant was more along the lines of “We are going to lose him to whatever place he’s in that’s making him so angry, listless, and far away from the person he seemed to be not so long ago.”
In 2012, at the age of 33, Jarrett Schaefer took off from Santa Cruz, Calif., without telling anyone he was moving, and abandoned his career, his family, and his life. And his was no ordinary life. In the span of five years, while I patiently pursued a career on the fringes of the magazine world, he’d shot to success as a filmmaker and achieved a minor level of celebrity in Hollywood. The first movie he’d written and directed had won awards and attention at the Sundance Film Festival and gotten respectable reviews in wide release some months later. The movie, Chapter 27, chronicled the three days Mark David Chapman spent in New York before killing John Lennon, and starred future Oscar winner Jared Leto as Chapman.
Now he was somewhere in Mexico. Maybe. I didn’t have any more information than that.
– – –
About a year after Sundance, in March 2008, the company that bought the movie released it in about 10 theaters. That’s a bigger reach than many people get, but it wasn’t what my brother had hoped for. He never said he was disappointed, and I didn’t ask, because that seemed like a dick thing to do. But it felt like he was frustrated that the movie wasn’t being seen the way he’d wanted or intended it to be, or not being seen at all.
He said that J.D. Salinger and the Beatles had always made him feel less alone, and he wanted to write about how someone could be inspired to kill anyone as a result of their work. There was plenty of critical praise. But in general, my brother (like me) always hears the bad stuff the loudest—and it was out there, especially in an online boycott of the film. He didn’t cold-shoulder the negativity like I thought he should have.
– – –
I was always searching for a good reason for him being so angry and unknowable, anything that would help explain what was going on, but couldn’t find a clear one. I wish I’d been able to break everything down better for both of us back then. What I really wanted to say was, “I’m scared of what’s happening,” or to ask if he needed help in a way that didn’t make it seem like I was doing it from someplace up high where I didn’t need help, too.
Instead, I’d ask, “Are you okay?”
He’d respond, “Are you okay?”
The last time I saw him there was about a month before he moved to Mexico. It was dark when we said goodbye, and I remember the outline of him as he leaned in the doorway. I thought that might be the last time I saw him there, and it was.
– – –
Jared Leto wrote back in 30 minutes. I’d sent him an e-mail early one morning last June telling him Jarrett was somewhere in Mexico and asking to talk with him about what I might not have known about my brother’s experience on Chapter 27.
I wasn’t sure he’d respond, and I definitely didn’t expect him to do so quickly.
Hi Kayleen – let’s jump on a quick call to talk.
The Jared I got to know during Chapter 27 was always earnest and thoughtful, but I’d forgotten just how intense he is until he was on the phone. He has a way of talking that suggests that, of the million conversations going on right now, he’s having the most important one.
He said he understood what I was feeling, from his own experience. “It’s tough to go through this,” he said. “I’ve learned how it is to have someone disappear and not be able to control that, and to have that real fear of losing someone forever.” I felt water in my eyes when he said that. I swallowed.
“We’re going to go to Mexico to try to find him,” I said. “But we’re not sure what city he’s in. The last I knew, he was in Mazatlán,” I told him this mostly because I wanted to make it clear that I was doing something to locate Jarrett and wasn’t just letting my brother go.
The more we talked, and the more positive he said I should be, the bleaker I felt. I was thinking that I used to know pretty much what my brother did every day, and now I didn’t even know where he lived.
“Did you ever talk to Jarrett about the movie?” I asked, both because I wanted to know and to change the direction of the conversation. “I never really knew how he felt about it after it was done. Was he not pleased with it?”
“I didn’t talk to him after the film came out,” Jared said, “but it was a film that was very polarizing. There were a lot of problems on the shoot itself, and being a first-time director with budget constraints and other issues, that was probably really challenging. I know he had some frustrations about the process, and I think he acknowledged that, that it was a frustrating process.”
Jared said he’d write Jarrett and see if he’d tell him anything about his life. “You’ve got to have hope, and wonderful things can happen,” he said. “I will send him a note.”
– – –
A few days after we talked, Jared forwarded me Jarrett’s response. Part of it said:
Estoy Yann Martel-ing en Mazatlan, Mehico. Muy bonito.
I smiled. He was making reference to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, in which the shipwrecked titular character spends 227 days in a lifeboat, lost at sea with a Bengal tiger. I thought it meant he was having some kind of primal adventure.
– – –
From Fade Out, a Kindle single that can be purchased here.
We know this much is true, very true:
This is who jaredleto really is.
He never publicizes these moments – but they exist and are more frequent than we can ever know. The fact he doesn’t do it for the press release proves just the kind of heart he has.
Reblogging this because it’s time to start filling up the “Jared Leto” tag with honest, positive and above all else – factual – things about the man.
Instead of letting people hijack his name for purposes of shock and slander.
Listen, I totes get that it’s the cool thing to tear someone down online – all the popular kidz do it – and that our society is built upon reminding one another how much the other sucks, for lolz. And I know that Jared’s latest moment in the spotlight with talk of impending success (if Kevin Smith, the world’s #1 most-recognizable and unapologetically-honest comic book fanboy, is touting Jared’s work in Suicide Squad as next level – JUST LET JARED BE GREAT) – has only served to mark him as this generation’s celebrity whipping boy. Again.
I get it. I get it all. So much.
But it’s one thing to pass around a meme making fun of Leto’s supposed edginess* (based off of a pretty imaginative piece some kid wrote and 98% of the Twitter & Tumblr population who stumbled upon it was simply too dumb to realize was actually satire and not actually like, real) – and it’s a whole ‘nother thing to drag someone’s character thru absolute career & life-ending shit, based on nothing more than some half-read rumors and overheard, unconfirmed and unfounded gossip.
Like a buncha preteen meangirls playing telephone in a rec room somewhere.
Jared is by no means perfect (to be honest, I prefer him that way; the messier, the better) but the truth is, despite whatever decade old gossip someone wants to believe is legit about him – he undeniably has a brilliant heart and a strong character that is first & foremost empathetic and sensitive. And this is coming from someone who does love having a giggle at his expense every now and again.
Does he always say the “right” thing (tho, realtalk, wtf does *that* even mean)? No. He doesn’t. But his actions most-often speak so much louder than his words ever could.
The inherent problem here, with him, is: he isn’t one to brag about a good deed he’s done, or something sweet he’s said or put into motion. Nor will his team send a press release out about it. Maybe because his publicist tends to believe in a defense strategy (denying shit that bubbles up) rather than promoting the good shit that happens all the time. But most likely, it’s probably because Jared doesn’t see doing something that’s thoughtful or sweet as extraordinary.
Because he just does it.
I hope more will do the same and start to share positive factual, firsthand truths about the person Jared really is inside, even the most mundane, under the “Jared Leto” tag – pushing off the dredged-up, made-up bullshit posted to shock and get reblogs.
(Cause, imma turn my chair & my hat backwards and rap at you now: obvs anyone posting the most debased rumors about a celebrity on a tumblr blog isn’t actually doing it to be some sort of justice-seeking vigilante. This is being posted with one purpose: to manufacture a public figure’s downfall (even if only on tumblr) for their own excitement & amusement. Which just ends up saying a lot more about the people posting & sharing shit than what they’re trying to do with it.)
Anyways. As for me – I hope to send the “Jared Leto” tag some lovely bits I discover/have discovered – cause they’re cute & he is bae – but also because I find people persecuting someone without even knowing the first thing about the person they are actively trying to ruin – just to be the lowest of the low.
*btw. I have a post in the works addressing this meme and Jared’s actual edge when it comes to his profession and his work. Preview: “First Rule of Jared Leto’s edge: bae has NO CHILL. Second Rule of Jared Leto’s edge: no, really, when I said bae has no chill I meant he forreal has no fucking chill at all. Like, none.”