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#BradPitt is one of our #GreatPerformers of 2019, photographed here by by @jackdavisonphoto. In both “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “Ad Astra,” he uses the same tools — laconic cool, understated emotion — to build two entirely different versions of masculinity. Chosen by our critics Wesley Morris and A.O. Scott, our annual Great Performers Issue names the 10 actors whose work was the most captivating, challenging, shocking and inspiring in the year gone by. See the full list at the link in our bio.
Brad Pitt was chosen as one of the actors profiled for the New York Times Magazine’s Great Performances feature. This is not really the awards-season feature I look forward to the most – something about the fact that it’s with the NYT Magazine, this series usually comes across as very fart-sniffy and pretentious. So it is with Brad Pitt, who – to his credit – tries to limit the fart-sniffing with his “aw shucks” answers. Still, he agreed to this! He swore he wasn’t going to campaign for an Oscar and look at him, aw-shucksing his way through a campaign. He’ll probably win too. You can read the full profile here. Some highlights from the piece:
What he brought to his OUATIH & Ad Astra characters: “With Cliff it’s connected to my dad, the way he carries himself. It’s also the iconic figures like Butch and Sundance and in Clint Eastwood movies. Then it’s where I am in my life. I don’t care who you are, life is struggle. It’s how you perceive those struggles. As I’ve gotten older, I take them more as another day in the office, acceptance of what the day throws you. And in “Ad Astra,” we were looking at this idea of being older, being a dad. You become more aware of your shortcomings. You look into starting to break some of that open, which is not always comfortable.”
Whether he’s lied on camera: “I must have somewhere. Some days you’re drowning on set. You just can’t quite get there.
There was a shift in his career starting in 2004: “You’re absolutely right. I’m happy someone could read that. It was really a turn on “Troy.” I was disappointed in it. When you’re trying to figure things out in your career, you get a lot of advice. People are telling you that you should be doing this, and other people are saying you should be doing that. There was this defining film I never got to do, a Coen brothers film called “To the White Sea.” We had an opportunity to go, and then it was shut down. Then another interesting opportunity arose, and instead I was talked into: “No, you need to be doing this other thing. You can get to your art project later.” I ended up taking that advice.
Why he had to do ‘Troy’: “I had to do “Troy” because — I guess I can say all this now — I pulled out of another movie and then had to do something for the studio. So I was put in “Troy.” It wasn’t painful, but I realized that the way that movie was being told was not how I wanted it to be. I made my own mistakes in it. What am I trying to say about “Troy”? I could not get out of the middle of the frame. It was driving me crazy. I’d become spoiled working with David Fincher. It’s no slight on Wolfgang Petersen. “Das Boot” is one of the all-time great films. But somewhere in it, “Troy” became a commercial kind of thing. Every shot was like, Here’s the hero! There was no mystery. So about that time I made a decision that I was only going to invest in quality stories, for lack of a better term. It was a distinct shift that led to the next decade of films.
Whether he’s aware of his movie-star persona & how it affects people: “The answer is no. I mean, I’m aware of when a director is using my persona really well. Fincher in “Fight Club” was twisting it. In “Jesse James,” it was pretty blatant. But no, I’m not really aware, and I’m not sure I should be. I stopped reading all press about 2004. Not just reviews. I mean any magazine in the doctor’s office. Because some of it would bounce around like a rat in the skull. It would stay there, and it would inform some of my decisions and choices in work, in life, and I didn’t find any of it helpful…. I don’t go out of my way to avoid [the gossip], I just don’t seek it out. I don’t know how many women they’ve said I’ve been dating the last two or three years, and none of it’s true — I just flashed on something, but maybe it doesn’t mean anything.
He doesn’t walk into a room thinking ‘I’m a movie star!’: “Yeah, but you don’t know how you read. I’ve had moments where I’ve seen pictures of myself from years ago and gone, “That kid looks all right.” But I didn’t feel that way inside. I spent most of the ’90s hiding out and smoking pot. I was too uncomfortable with all the attention. Then I got to a place where I was aware that I was imprisoning myself. Now I go out and live life, and generally people are pretty cool.”
“I spent most of the ’90s hiding out and smoking pot.” Same. Man, the ‘90s were fun. We were all baked AF and hiding out constantly. What I found interesting was that… at no point does he acknowledge another reason for the shift in his public or career “persona” in 2004. I mean… at the start of 2004, he was one half of Hollywood’s golden couple and his image was “People’s Sexiest Man” starring in big studio movies. Then… Angelina Jolie happened. And his career changed around the same time. I’m not saying Jolie was the reason for everything, but she was PART of the change.
Cover courtesy of the NYT Mag’s Instagram, photos courtesy of Backgrid.