Oscar Shoo-In Dallas Buyer's Club: Talking with Jared Leto

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On March 2 we'll find out if Academy shoo-in Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto will win the coveted Oscar for their courageous performances in Dallas Buyers Club. Both actors have already received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards for their work in the film. Dallas Buyers Club has also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Dallas Buyers Club is the true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), who was given 30 days to live after his doctors diagnosed him with HIV in 1985. Though he appears on the surface to be a white trash escapee from the trailer park, Woodroof was in fact highly intelligent and resourceful.

Refusing to accept his fate, he drives to a clinic in Mexico, where alternative and holistic treatments restore his health. For the next few years, he operates an illegal clinic out of a Dallas motel room, where he makes holistic treatments readily available to anyone with cash in hand.

His daring business venture puts him in direct contact with Dallas' AIDS ravaged gay community. As the story progresses, the seemingly homophobic Woodroof softens his anti-gay stance considerably.

Since the film's theatrical release last fall, a number of gay news outlets have reported that Woodroof was never homophobic, but was in fact openly bisexual.

In a story that was later picked up by the mainstream media, Dallas Voice (which serves the city's LGBT community) writer/editor Arnold Wayne Jones reported that he had interviewed Dr. Steven Pounders, Woodroof's personal physician. According to Jones, Pounders said that Woodroof, who died in 1992, was quite honest about his bisexuality.

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Rayon (Jared Leto, left) and Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) in Dallas Buyers Club, now on DVD/Blu Ray.

Why screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack kept this aspect of Woodroof's life out of the film is unknown. Regardless, Dallas Buyers Club remains a riveting and powerful work which raises many important issues regarding the medical establishment's initial reaction to the HIV crises. The film makes a strong argument for the rights of people who face life threatening illnesses to determine their own destinies.

Jared Leto has received an enormous amount of acclaim for his portrayal of Rayon, a transwoman with AIDS who becomes Woodroof's business partner. The actor/musician, who is not gay or transgender, said that he felt comfortable performing in female attire.

"It felt complete, right, as she wanted to be," Leto told SF Weekly. "I think she was in a process of discovery. It was a lot of fun to invent her."

The actor explained the process by which he found the character. "You find things like the desire to be loved, the search for identity," he said. "I loved her grace, her charm, and her levity. It's a timely film, so much of this battle rages on. This is an American story, not over told. It's great that this film got made. It was in development for twenty years."

Leto hopes that his performance will open people's hearts and minds. "A greater understanding would be nice," he said. "An eighty year old woman told me that the film was life changing for her. Films have the power to change us. Stories have the power to change us."

Universal's DVD/Blu Ray of Dallas Buyers Club is out now, and includes a three minute featurette that, unfortunately, doesn't offer any information on the film's development or production. But the disc does include a powerful deleted scene in which Woodroof, acting against doctor's orders, and gives a feverish Rayon a shot of the life-saving alternative therapy he brought back from Mexico.

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