One of Jared Leto's most memorable big-screen roles was playing a heroin addict in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream.
But if you ask the 41-year-old actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, he could easily have ended up on the wrong side of the tracks and in the drug underworld for real.
Writing a "Letter to My Younger Self" for the UK publication, The Big Issue, Leto talks about how his "turbulent" teenage years were marked by copious amounts of drug-taking and law-breaking.
He also reveals that his penchant for bucking authority caused him a "lot of pain and uncertainty" that easily could have to led an alternate and more hazardous career.
"I was at a crossroads in life when I was 16," he tells the magazine. "I was taking a look at my opportunities and what I'd do with my life and how I'd go about it. I didn't know I was going to be an actor. I thought it might be an artist or a painter. Or maybe a drug dealer. But I didn't know which path I would take. It's just fortunate that I chose one over the other."
Of course, as fans of the actor know, he chose wisely. Trading in his role as instigator of teen drama, he portrayed it on the small screen instead after he was cast on the acclaimed teen soap My So-Called Life, which gave him entry into show business.
That was a far cry, he notes, for a kid who could've easily ended up in jail.
"If I met the teenage Jared now the first thing I'd notice would probably be that my wallet was missing. He had a pretty tough exterior, it would be hard to crack. I was in trouble quite a bit with the authorities, any person who made rules or the law," Leto says.
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Aside from Requiem, Jared has since racked up notable performances in such movies as Prefontaine and Girl Interrupted, as well as cult classics like Fight Club and American Psycho. And when he's not acting, he and his Mars bandmates are putting out a steady stream of albums and touring.
But he acknowledged that his tumultuous upbringing, including a stint dropping out of school, had a big impact on him.
"When you're younger you don't have the tools, you just don't know how to cope with those challenges. Probably a lot of my behavior was related to doing drugs," he admits, adding, "I think everything happens for a reason so its good that I learned the lessons that I had to learn. But there was a lot of pain and uncertainty and that's not always fun."
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