Since first being introduced to television audiences as the object of Claire Danes' angst-ridden lust in My So-Called Life, Jared Leto has enjoyed a growing popularity that has allowed him to make a name for himself in a steady stream of films. Born December 26, 1971, in Bossier City, LA, Leto led a peripatetic childhood under the care of his mother, who moved her family to places ranging from Haiti to a Colorado commune. Leto, who was interested in becoming a painter, enrolled in Philadelphia's University of the Arts, but then discovered acting and transferred to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. While he was a student there, he wrote and starred in his own film, Crying Joy.
Leto moved to Los Angeles in 1992 to pursue his acting career. In 1994, he got his big break playing My So-Called Life's oblivious heartthrob, Jordan Catalano. Although the show didn't have a long run, it accumulated a loyal cult following from being ceaselessly re-run on MTV. Leto soon became daydream fodder for teenage girls, a status furthered by his selection as one of People's "50 Most Beautiful People" in both 1996 and 1997. After starring with a pre-Clueless Alicia Silverstone in the 1994 TV movie The Cool and the Crazy, Leto was cast in his first big screen role in How to Make an American Quilt (1995). More work followed in The Last of the High Kings (1996), in which he co-starred with Christina Ricci, and in Switchback (1997), opposite Danny Glover and Dennis Quaid. Leto then took on an athletic part in the Disney-produced Prefontaine (1997), the story of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine.