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“It’s one of those few films that … cuts to the base of our humanity,” Pitt told Ann Curry on TODAY on Wednesday. “And it was not until I saw Solomon Northup’s story that I fully, fully (grasped) the utter horror of losing your freedom or denying another one their freedom, taking their freedom, splitting their family apart.”

“It’s why I got into film in the first place,” Pitt said.

Pitt told Curry that his role is small — he’s onscreen for about eight minutes — but putting himself in the forefront was never his goal.

“I’m there to support the story,” he said. “The main performances are Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, (Michael) Fassbender. These are such demanding parts. These guys had to keep themselves in just this perpetual state of angst and foreboding and longing. And they did it.”

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