Leto, to his own surprise, said the hardest part about dressing like a woman wasn't the heels.
"I don't know if it was because I was so thin," he said, "but sometimes I wore two pairs of tights, because I have tattoos on my legs and we wanted to cover those up. But man they were really, really difficult. I just wanted to rip them off."
Leto said he loves films, but taking five years off to tour and see the world made him a better actor.
"Your life is only as interesting as the life you've lived," he said. "You only have as much to say - whether you're a writer, painter or director - as what you've consumed."
As for McConaughey, Leto had nothing but praise.
"He's in his McConaissance - is that what they call it - his renaissance - his McConaissance? He's making interesting choices and I thought . . . Just follow this guy. He's obviously sussed this out a bit. I thought he was bringing an incredible amount of commitment and passion to the part, so I thought it was a worthy fight."
And fight he did. Leto said he always stayed in character during the shoot.
"I didn't wear makeup all the time because my makeup changed from scene to scene depending on how sick I was, but it was the type of part I couldn't let go of for a number of reasons," he said. "The underlying reason: I wanted to do a great job. I didn't stay in character because I enjoyed every single second of it or I wanted to provoke or have this story to tell. I stayed in character because I didn't want to have to recall every single mannerism and where my voice was - all of the internal and external accoutrements when the director said 'Action.' I didn't know how to do that so I had to keep it with me all the time.
"But I couldn't escape. I had no eyebrows. I was maybe 112 pounds and as much as I thought I would make a really convincing woman, I didn't. You get a lot of stares. People don't recognize you. You get judged - and that's an interesting thing to take with you for the part."
Teen actress Sophie Nelisse won a worldwide casting search for the lead in "The Book Thief," based on the popular YA novel about a rebellious girl living in Germany during WWII (see Page 38).
Nelisse, in town this week to promote the movie, said she was thrilled to get the part, but, as a Harry Potter fan, even more thrilled to find out about her co-star.
"I was just so excited to have a chance to work with Emma Watson. And then one day someone said, you know it's not Emma Watson. It's Emily Watson. And I didn't know who she was! So my parents gave me a copy of 'Warhorse,' and I watched it, and of course she's amazing," the 13-year-old told Daily News movie critic Gary Thompson.
Good to know her parents didn't give her a copy of "Breaking the Waves."
* Paul McCartney cited the lyrics of "Back in the USSR" yesterday as he urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release 30 people arrested during a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig almost two months ago.
In a letter, the former Beatle told Putin that he wrote his playful homage to the former Soviet Union in 1968, "back when it wasn't fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country."
Quoting the song's line "Gee, it's good to be back home," McCartney asked: "Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?"
* Canadian Genevieve Sabourin was convicted yesterday of stalking Alec Baldwin with yearning emails and phone calls that spiraled into showing up at his homes.
Sabourin was tearful and oddly quiet as a judge found her guilty of charges including stalking and harassment and sentenced her to six months in jail. That was on top of a month she's already serving because of her courtroom outbursts.
"I haven't done anything wrong. I'm innocent," she told Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum when he invited her to speak. "You're doing a mistake right now."
* Jake Gyllenhaal needed stitches in his hand after shooting an intense scene for his new crime drama, "Nightcrawler."
Gyllenhaal spokeswoman Mara Buxbaum said Jake returned to work yesterday for a final day of filming after a few hours in the emergency room.
Buxbaum said Gyllenhaal was in character Wednesday when he hit a mirror, which unexpectedly broke and cut his hand.
* PBS's " Tavis Smiley" show has been renewed through 2015.
"The highlight for me is surviving," Smiley said.
"What's made our show work is that it's hybrid: We're both entertainment and information," he said. Smiley is also willing to interview older celebrities and celebs who aren't plugging anything.
* John Stewart's fill-in "Daily Show" host, John Oliver, is getting his own Sunday night show on HBO. It will take a satirical look at current events for the week.
As opposed to current events for the day.
- Daily News wire services contributed to this report.