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“The Little Things” star Jared Leto enjoyed the physical transformation required by his character Albert Sparma, an unsettling man that may or may not be the serial killer responsible for the havoc unleashed in the film.

“It’s a transformation from head to toe,” Leto said. “I had different color eyes, a different nose, different cheeks. I had some other prosthetics and different teeth, a different way of talking, a different way of walking and moving my body, carrying myself, and a sense of humor that was very unique. That took its kind of own path of preparation and research, just like, ‘How would he look at the world? What are his reference points?’”

Leto joined deputy awards and features editor Jenelle Riley at the Variety Screening Series presented by the all-new Toyota Mirai for a conversation on the preparation for his demanding role and working with fellow Academy Award-winners Denzel Washington and Rami Malek under the direction of John Lee Hancock. The performance has already earned Leto Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations.

“The Little Things” is a neo-noir crime thriller that follows deputy sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington) as he joins forces with detective Jim Baxter (Malek) to search for a serial killer who is terrorizing Los Angeles in the ’90s. But as they track the culprit, Deacon’s dark past is unveiled, threatening to derail the investigation.

While Leto said he was initially hesitant to join the project given the dark undertones of his role, which was similar to previous characters he portrayed, he said the opportunity of working alongside Washington, Malek and Hancock was too enticing to pass up.

“All three of them gave me the gift of a lifetime, and it was an unspoken gesture, but you could feel it nonetheless,” Leto said. “They gave me the gift of their confidence in me, their faith in me that I could pull this off. That support was felt amongst the three of us in the scenes, and it created really a beautiful atmosphere where you could fail and you could experiment. You could try things out. You could reach a little bit further than maybe you normally would.”

To ensure the dynamic between Leto and Washington and Malek’s characters was at its best, the actors rarely spent time together prior to filming.

“I think it was the right choice, because we didn’t waste any energy on small talk,” Leto said. “We saved it all for the scenes. So, we kind of got to know each other through our characters, and it just built up this energy so that when the cameras were rolling it was just explosive, and you could feel it … But there was a lot of respect and support, and the energy was great.”