The Truth About Jared Leto's Bizarre Cult

In August 2019, photos emerged on the Twitter account of actor and musician Jared Leto's band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, under the hashtag #MarsIsland. The post featured pictures of a white-robed, Leto, Jesus-like in appearance, tending to flocks of similarly white-robed attendants. The caption on the post read, "Yes, this is a cult," as if in anticipation of how the public might react. But was it real, or just a publicity stunt from Leto, known for shapeshifting performances in films such as "House of Gucci" (via IMDb), as well as other erratic and alleged illegal behavior?

Of any celebrity, it's perhaps least shocking of all that Jared Leto might start a cult. The Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman — and one-time gangster-with-a-grill Joker in 2016's "Suicide Squad,"(via IMDb) — is notoriously heady on fame, nearly as much as he's prone to bizarre conduct. While filming "Suicide Squad," the actor who many know from TV's "My So-Called Life," brought a dead pig to a rehearsal to help him get into character, per Den of Geek. To learn that he may have in fact started a cult is facepalm-inducing enough. Delve into the details, though, and things turn truly bizarre, as many more troubling questions about Leto's actions, both on-screen and off, remain unresolved, according to Newsweek.

What is Mars Island?

Since that 2019 Twitter post, online rumors have run rampant as journalists and Jared Leto fans alike try to get to the bottom of what seemed like more than just a Mediterranean getaway at an exotic locale called Mars Island, just off the coast of Croatia, as Total Croatia News reports. In what could be the groundwork for an honest-to-goodness pseudo-religion, Leto and his band sold three-day weekend passes with VIP packages costing up to $6,499. Attendees would also get matching tattoos, with opportunities to learn yoga, among other activities.

The biggest draw of all though, would be a performance from Leto's band, dubbed "Church of Mars." This would not be the first time Leto had used cult-like vernacular and imagery to describe his following, both as an actor and as a musician. As far back as 2013, Thirty Seconds to Mars used the phrase, "Yes, this is a cult," to describe the undying adoration of their fans, perhaps ironically. And since 2015, the band has held annual "summer camps" for the truly devoted, as Distractify explains. It wasn't until 2019, though, when photos and videos were released of devotees engaged in what seemed to be literal idol worship, that members of the public and press grew equal parts curious and concerned.

There are other dark allegations against Jared Leto

Possibly starting a cult is not the only concerning allegation levied toward Jared Leto. When the actor and pop star Olivia Rodrigo were photographed together after the 2022 Grammy awards, rumors of alleged sexual misconduct and possibly worse on Leto's part reemerged on Twitter, as Newsweek notes. According to a 2005 New York Post report, Leto and his band were known to invite underage girls to their concerts, and Leto is also said to send inappropriate texts to teenage fans, per the New York Post. If this is true, Leto's dabbling in cult-like behavior could be even more troubling.

Sexual misconduct allegations aside, the inner circle of what might be called the Letotian religion (coined here), or as Thirty Seconds to Mars followers refer to themselves, the Echelon, are outgoing about their devotion. They seem to identify with triangular, Illuminati-like hand gestures, as shown by Diply. There's even a promotional video on YouTube with a string-heavy backtrack intercut with footage of Thirty Seconds to Mars live in concert, complete with weeping fans and adherents brandishing tattoos, as the words "Belief, Hope, Emotions, Understanding, Music, Support, World Unification, Love, Shouts, Communication, Freedom, Happiness Tears, Dreams. It Is The Family," run over the top.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

It's all for publicity ... probably

The truth behind Mars Island, and its retreat-for-the-well-off, may be very simple: It's a stunt from Jared Leto and his band to drum up publicity, cement their fanbase, and earn some extra cash which they likely don't need. Whether or not Leto believes any of the religiosity of this rehashed Fyre Festival is completely unknown. One thing's for sure, though — the internet can definitely count on Jared Leto to continue providing everybody with amusing and sometimes concerning anecdotes. Especially since, in 2022, the Mars Island Festival returned after a two-year layoff on account of the COVID-19 pandemic (via Total Croatia News).

Just like the first year, many similar amenities are offered for those who chose to attend this edition, including live concerts, tattoos, and the opportunity to practice yoga, or just take in the beautiful scenery. As Total Croatia News also notes, fans who attended the Mars Island festival back in 2019 were disappointed when promised concerts turned out to be preaching sessions from Leto. All that proves, if the actor is not really starting a cult, he's at least committed to adding Prophet Leto to the fictional roles he's portrayed. Let's just hope, for Leto, the line between fiction and reality become no more blurred than they already seem to be.