Jared Leto becomes Kurt Cobain: Touching tribute or horrible blasphemy?


Yesterday, legions of rock fans remembered the seventeenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death with a spin of Nevermind or a viewing of “Heart Shaped Box.”

Jared Leto decided to do it another way:



On his blog, Leto wrote:

I heard today was the day Kurt passed away 17 years ago. Can’t believe it’s been that long. So grateful for his contribution and inspiration. Not sure I’d be doing this if it weren’t for him. He gave us all permission to create no matter what our skill set and reminded me that dreams are possible. Thanks for that. This made me recall a short piece of film I shot when I heard they were making a film celebrating his life. I made it to explore the character and explore creative possibilities. I never sent it to the studio or to anyone but thought I’d share it now…

Here’s the thing: Leto clearly did this out of affection. Just about every song he has ever written for 30 Seconds to Mars has borrowed a bit of Nirvana’s balance of quiet and loud, and it’s pretty obvious that he took great pains to make sure that he looked exactly like Cobain did when he recorded Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged six months before his suicide. Just about everything is perfect, from the way he holds the guitar to the vocal inflections.

But there’s something about it that just feels … wrong. The video itself is well made, but really, it’s more about how great Leto would be in a movie about Cobain than about remembering an icon’s death. I mean, this is a tribute.

It puts the spotlight on Leto, which makes the whole thing feel creepier than it actually is. Consider this: If Angelina Jolie put out a video of herself doing an impression of Elizabeth Taylor two weeks ago, wouldn’t everybody have immediately bristled at the concept, even if it was executed lovingly?

What do you think? Is the video an awesome tribute or a total bummer? And is Leto’s crime more in his timing than anything else?

Read more on EW.com:
Nirvana baby recreates iconic cover photo as teenager
Jared Leto talks “banned” Thirty Seconds to Mars video: “It’s an interesting double standard”
Remembering Kurt Cobain: Looking back at EW’s archived Nirvana reviews

Comments (90 total) Add your comment
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  • Danya

    I don’t see any crime here. It’s not even like he made it specifically for the anniversary. Even if it is his backhanded way of suggesting to anyone making a Cobain movie in the future that he could be good in it, what does that matter? Biographical films about dead celebrities honor their subjects’ legacy and simultaneously produce profit all the time. I don’t see any problem with your hypothetical Jolie-as-Taylor idea either, even though the situations are not the same since she just died, whereas Kurt died 17 years ago…not really sure what point you’re trying to make there.

    • Ed

      I agree totally…it seems clear that Leto is paying tribute to Cobain in the best way that he can, as an actor and musician. The guy is obv. very serious about his art, and his blog post supports that view, so the video doesn’t seem exploitative at all.

    • Jill

      I see this as an homage to Cobain. How is this different than Jennifer Aniston made up as Barbara Streisand or Madonna’s Material Girl video? Leto appears to be more talented than I thought – and the fact that this is was made public 17 yrs after the fact kinda makes any controversy moot.

      • gingerly

        Made public 17 years after the fact? We don’t know exactly when the video was made. Ledo says he made it when he learned they were casting a movie about Cobain’s life. What in the heck are you talking about 17 years ‘after the fact?’

        Nothing was made public 17 years ‘after the fact’ (as you put it.) Cobain died 17 years ago. This Ledo video was made 2 years ago for all we know. WHAT IS AFTER THE FACT 17 YEARS LATER?

    • nick

      if EW hadn’t added the “is this creepy” question–and just called it a tribute, we might be more inclined to just say, “Solid impression of a fan to a fellow artist.” Exactly, Liz Taylor died the other day. Cobain was 17 yrs ago. Let Leto pay his tribute. His timing is bad?? Was he supposed to wait till we can’t remember Cobain anymore? Silly.

    • Tom

      Nobody cares anymore about the 90s.. They all got big, fat, lazy and did too many drugs.

      • Steve

        The dream of the 90’s is alive and well in Portland!

      • Dani

        On the contrary, many MANY artists these days STILL do drugs, and on top of that their music sucks! 60s-90s love<3
        Oh, and Leto did an amazing job.

  • noson

    for real man, it’s just a simple video; why the people feel so damn offensive about this? I’m sure if anybody else would’ve done this, nobody would’ve complained but let face it JL it’s very talented; if he wanted publicity, he would’ve shown this last year, when the movie rumours started.
    as for blasphemy?? dear god, he’s impersonating Kurt Cobain not Jesus Christ
    kudos for Leto!

  • myprettypony

    it looks like he’s throwing himself out there for a Cobain biopic. Sort of weird, but whatever.

    • Monty

      nice VM reference

    • Tom

      People are sooooooo full of crap about this band.. It’s not that important anymore.

      • Dave

        Nirvana is iconic. unlike the garbage spewed out today using voice correction equipment and sampling. true music started in the 60s ended in the late 70s, picked back up in the early 90s and was killed by brain numbing pop and boy bands galore. you want harmonious vocals, pick up a crosby stills and nash album, or for modern, try sonic youth. as for Jared Leto. Is of the era, he was a teen on My So called life just as this amazing era of music was being suffocated slowly and has every right to express his appreciation of Kurts genious any way he wishes. I personally think Kurt would be happy that someone is bringing back the come as you are look with cardigan and flannel

      • Marcia

        Thanks @geturown11 Thanks for your answer. So I get to the same couslncion I had before: These lyrics are hard to understand not only for foreigners, but also for american people themselves, who would be the ones supposed to understand it without any difficulties. I’m interested in this kinda stuff since I’ve been learning english. My impressions on the english language, as a non-native speaker, is that this language, while being logical and practical, can also be confusing and easy to misunderstand

  • jeff

    Yet again, Jared Leto finds another reason for me to dislike him.

    • doudou

      wtf is wrong with you???? that performance was very very very good

      • Laurie

        I agree with doudou

    • Aditya

      Yes! I think I saw these pics from Ferris Bueller’s blog (I think) but she is a perfect blend of her ptnares. And I’m happy that she grew up sort of quietly and without a bunch of tabloid chaos

  • Karate Pants

    I don’t know, that was pretty weird. A tribute might have been that blurb, maybe even playing a song…but not trying to actually bear his physical likeness.

  • crispy

    The statute of limitations has long passed.

    • Karate Pants

      I think your affection for Jared Leto is clouding your judgment…

      • crispy

        Possibly. He’ll always be Jordan Catalano to me. BTW, I’m not allowed to play 30 Seconds to Mars in the car… my SO despises him!

      • tracy bluth

        Honestly, my love for Jordan Catalano has died down. Leto just comes off as such a narcissist already, and now this? I think this is definitely blasphemy.

    • Tom

      Delusional fans. You guys are sad.

  • misha

    What’s the big deal? If it’s a tribute great. If he wants to be considered for a biopic that’s fine too. It looks as though he would kick ass at it.

  • Bobby’s Robot

    Creepy? Maybe a little. Inappropriate? I don’t think so.

  • SaraS

    Why would this writer compare Jared Leto’s tribute to Angelina Jolie doing one for Elizabeth Taylor?? Kurt Cobain died 17 years ago, Elizabeth Taylor died DAYS ago. Get a grip, that’s not even a realistic comparison.

    • marie

      I agree. And Leto says this short film was made a while ago, it was not opportunistic IMO.

  • jmcg

    I’ve always thought that Leto comes across as more than a little narcissistic and creepy. This only proves that.

  • Dude

    It’s one thing to play the part, it’s another to actually “look the part” – dude, be yourself, play some tunes in tribute and all will work itself out.

    Way too much fashion, not enough action.

  • ryan

    “has borrowed a bit of Nirvana’s balance of quiet and loud”

    let’s give credit where it’s due. THE PIXES!

    • crispy

      Dude, where were you in yesterday’s Nirvana post? I coulda used your help!

      • Mimi

        Thank you so much for the shout-out on Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden , which absolutely made my day. Love the post and the rest of your blog too ~Otessa (from OJBG)ps In ornpesse to your Kurt mention I remember *exactly* where I was & how I found out (Kurt Loder interrupted Liquid Television). 17 years later, and the day is still emblazoned in my memory like the lunar landing for the grunge generation.

    • tracy bluth

      I LOVE Nirvana, but to me the best band of the 90s was The Pixies. But Nirvana is a close second.

    • Steve

      Nirvana didn’t invent quite/loud dynamics and neither did The Pixes. That’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. They are both great bands though!

    • Kurt

      Minutemen started all of this…
      But at least the 90’s sound is coming back!

  • bob

    “And is Leto’s crime more in his timing than anything else?”
    I’m not sure I get that part… 17 years seems to be enough time for this not to bother us. Haven’t other people already done this? The singer of that crap band “silverchair” built a career out of looking and sounding just like Kurt. There already was an unofficial Kurt movie years ago “Last Days.” I’m not sure what the story is here… sure the video is odd but I don’t see the issue…

  • bob

    oh… and I completely agree with Ryan’s Pixies comment…

  • Hannah

    Clearly a very talented man (who knew he could do grunge on top of everything else- VERSATILE)but i dont think he would do that film role, pretending to die as someone you admire is a little creepy and morbid and would attract soooo much negative attention

    • christie

      good job jared!!!! you even look like kurt cobain wow not too may guys can do that :) i enjoyed the video and more then anything wished i could have seen cobain himself live in concert, kurt and his music will forever live in my heart:) thankyou for the tribute !! remember “its better to be hated for who you are then to be loved for who you are not’peace,love,empathy “kurt cobain’

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