BEVERLY HILLS, California — Jared Leto has two movies due in 2005, and for him that's a lot.

Although he's been one of Hollywood's hot young actors ever since he starred as Jordan Catalano in the short-lived but much-loved TV drama "My So-Called Life" a decade ago, Leto, unlike most of his contemporaries, has always kept a light schedule.

"I have other interests in my life for one," the actor explained recently. "And I'm very picky when it comes to material. I want to be proud of what I do, I want to be challenged and I want to have some kind of reward to what I'm doing. It's easy to find excuses not to go to work when there's not an abundance of really quality things out there."

Leto insists, however, that he's not complaining. "I feel very fortunate to have worked with the people I've worked with," he said. "I went from David Fincher ['Fight Club'] to Darren Aronofsky ['Requiem for a Dream'] to David Fincher ['Panic Room'] to Oliver Stone ['Alexander']. And that's an incredible thing. And even before that it was Terrence Malick ['The Thin Red Line'], Mary Harron ['American Psycho'] and James Mangold ['Girl, Interrupted']. I'd like to keep that up. I love working with talented people."

Coming off "Alexander," his first film in two years, Leto will work next on "Lord of War" with director Andrew Niccol, whose credits include 1997's "Gattaca" and 2002's "S1m0ne."

"It's about arms dealing," Leto said. "It's kind of a political film, a character study. Nic [Cage] plays my brother and we travel the world together selling weapons. It's fascinating to look into a world that's rarely been seen onscreen. And kind of timely and important as well."

Leto shot "Lord of War" in the fall and will spend the winter in New York working with a first-time director on the indie thriller "Awake."

"It's really cool," he said. "It's about a man who undergoes heart surgery, only to find when he gets put under anesthesia he can hear and feel everything happening, ripping his heart out, it's a nightmare, complete nightmare."

Leto is prepared to play a character flirting with death after doing so himself while shooting "Alexander."

"I'm really surprised, and I'm totally serious, that nobody died," the actor said. "It was so dangerous. They would ride like 50 of us on horseback through the trees in a line and every take, people were on the ground and horses were running wild. Professional riders were breaking their legs and arms and cracking ribs."

Although "Alexander" has been a box-office disappointment — it's made $33 million in a month, but cost $155 million to make — Leto is proud of the movie, in which he plays Alexander's closest confidant and lover.

"It was a great script, great director, great part, and I was fascinated by this period of history," Leto said. "I've always wanted to work with Oliver Stone. He was one of my heroes growing up and has made my most favorite films. So there was a lot to be attracted to."

Check out everything we've got on "Alexander."

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