How Did 30 Seconds To Mars Pull Off Ambitious ‘Hurricane’ Film?

Jared Leto labored day and night to finish eventual 13-minute-plus short film.

In early November, following his band’s performance of “Hurricane” with Kanye West at the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards and months of adjective-filled hyperbole about the single’s accompanying video, Jared Leto finally unveiled [artist id="1231235"]30 Seconds to Mars’[/artist] “Hurricane” clip on Monday (November 29). OK, “short film.” The singer decided to provide the sneak peek during an impromptu (though well-catered) screening for a handful of folks — including MTV News — in his bedroom at the ME Hotel in Madrid.

It was very late at night (or very early in the morning, depending on how you choose to look at these sort of things), and Leto was extremely clear about the fact that this was still “a very rough cut” of the video, playing the thing on a MacBook Pro and pausing every few frames to explain where a CG effect would be inserted or how the sound design would be shaped. But despite those facts (or, maybe, because of them), everyone left that bedroom thinking the exact same thing: “How the heck is Jared going to pull this off?”

You couldn’t blame them, because just weeks later, the final, 13-minute version debuted on MTV.com, and it did, indeed, contain a number of impressive CGI effects of the type you might see in a Hollywood superhero summer movie, not to mention enough NC-17-rated material to make “Eyes Wide Shut” look like “Love & Other Drugs” by comparison.

At the time, not only was “Hurricane” clocking in at around 20 minutes , it was sort of insane, too: a nightmarish rumination on sex and violence and secret fetishes that not only featured plenty of fight scenes (and nudity), but didn’t shy away from politically loaded imagery. Among the ones that made the cut was one in which a rabbi, priest and imam are seen tossing their holy prayer books onto a blazing pyre in a dank alley and another in which Leto battled a leather-masked foe in a courtyard littered with American-flag-draped coffins. (Spoiler alert, someone you know ends up in one of those coffins.)

Part snuff film, part BBC World report, it was, in short, filled with the kind of stuff that makes censors cringe, in an era where that’s increasingly difficult to do. Following some cuts, the finished product contains a number of scenes seemingly too-hot-to-handle, which are dispatched with a big black “censored” bar. Though given the copious nudity, S&M play, barely there fetish gear and one quick-cut image of a woman spitting into another’s mouth, you kind of have to wonder what was so deviant that it couldn’t make the cut among all these dark fantasies?

Add in the fact that Leto was attempting to weave three separate narratives — the members of 30STM each battling their personal demons and unlocking secret fantasies — in between all that sex and blood and book-burning, and you have the makings of a major undertaking. Considering that, according to his label, the video was due to premiere at the end of the month, Leto was then cutting the thing full-time, in the midst of a world tour, with the help of a team of editors that traveled with him everywhere he went.

It seemed that, in just about every conceivable manner, “Hurricane” was a monster, an ode to not only Leto’s ego, but his unyielding ambition and utterly unmatched enthusiasm, which, in theory, made it not unlike everything he’s ever attempted with 30 Seconds to Mars. But everyone who saw it that night in Madrid knew differently. “Hurricane” may very well have been Leto going too far, pushing too hard. It seemed practically destined to remain forever unfinished.

But, like the song’s guest rapper West, Leto is a hard man to deter, and he clearly got his way, delivering a 13-minute mind-bender that involves secret keys that unlock dark fears, treachery, seduction, submission, an unexplained cockroach cameo, a silver sexual aid on a platter and enough creepy masks to make Slipknot shudder.

Somehow, by Monday, Leto had wrangled all those dark thoughts and visions into one dizzying whole and brought “Hurricane” home for its premiere. It would have been hard to find many people in the room that night who would have put money on “Hurricane” coming ashore in such record time. Well, except Leto. He knew.

What did you think of the “Hurricane” video? Share your reviews in the comments!