Jared Leto was on Easy Street two years ago.
His acting career was sizzling — from the TV series “My So-Called Life,” he’d graduated to films such as “Fight Club” and “Lord of War” — and the rock group he’d started with his drumming brother Shannon, 30 Seconds to Mars, had gone platinum with its sophomore salvo “A Beautiful Lie.”
That’s exactly when he got blindsided by a $30 million lawsuit from the band’s parent label, EMI, that accused the group of breach of contract.
“There’s a moment where it’s so big, it’s surreal,” says the singer of his reversal of fortune. “There’s that next moment where you realize it’s incredibly real. And it wasn’t for show — this wasn’t about teaching us a lesson.”
But 30 Seconds — which plays Live 105’s Not So Silent Night Friday backing its aptly-dubbed new release “This Is War” — found a surprising ally: the sole surviving cast member from “Gone With the Wind.” Olivia de Havilland helped create the de Havilland Law, which contractually freed displeased artists after seven years.
A grateful Leto even reached the screen legend at her home in Paris.
“It was a real thrill to communicate with her, a real honor,” he says. “She’s a very classy woman and — for 93, especially — just really sharp, witty, sweet and kind. And very smart — you can tell.”
War, indeed. “We had letters asking for our hard drives, dates stamped on all our writing,” recalls Leto, 37. The limbo lasted for a year and a half.
“There were days when it totally consumed me and it was very brutal. And other days, you just pushed it away and stayed focused on the work.” A concerned de Havilland sent the singer a handwritten letter, Leto says, “asking after us and wondering how everything was going. And she was glad that her fight was able to help us in ours.”
It’s not surprising that “War’s” anthems — “Escape,” “Hurricane,” “Search and Destroy,” co-produced by Flood, Steve Lilywhite and the group — are roiling with venom, even though 30STM amicably settled the lawsuit and remained on
“Conflict can be an amazing teacher,” Leto says. “And it really helped me as a songwriter.”
Leto also filmed the upcoming fantasy “Mr. Nobody,” and directed the new Mars video for “Kings and Queens.”
He’s been invited to lunch with de Havilland when his tour hits France. “So there’s a time for war, and a time for peace,” he says. “We’re just glad to be putting a record out, rather than sitting in a courtroom, fighting about who owns it.”
IF YOU GO
Live 105’s Not So Silent Night
Where: Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland
When: 6:15 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $47.25 to $56.75