TOP GUN – by Joanne Doh
Chiseled, tanned and enhanced by ‘character lines’, Brad Pitt possesses one of the world’s most recognizable faces. Here is an actor who belongs to the elite group of those blessed by the gods in the looks department. Putting his gifts to good use, Pitt has muscled up to become a top-notch action man.
From a mascot [dressing up as a chicken] for a restaurant to the title of Sexiest Man Alive, Brad has indeed come a long way. In a career that spans 15 years, Pitt has become a powerful player in the industry, and a pretty bankable one too. His box office earnings last year were recorded at a staggering US$1.1 billion, and this is just from the United States market. Pitt has also achieved the amazing feat of retaining his leading man status for a decade. He was ranked 36th [after Denzel Washington] out of 100 by Premiere Magazine’s 2004 Power List.
Fresh off a dirt-bike through the mountains of Morocco, his iPod blasting his absolute favourite new band, Kings of Leon, Brad Pitt’s just come off a whirlwind tour of Africa speaking out on behalf of Bono’s ‘One Campaign’, and has landed in the desert there to begin shooting his newest film Babel with Cate Blanchett. Invigorated after his ride and rejuvenated after finding a platform to vent on the political and social injustices taking place in Africa, Pitt is ready to talk about his upcoming film, Mr and Mrs Smith, his coming-of-age at 40 and the world’s universal obsession with him and his love life [well, not quite].
You’ve said Mr and Mrs Smith is a metaphor for marriage. So for married couples, does that translate into ‘even through you love them, you still want to kill them?’
Brad Pitt: Well, that’s what first made me laugh in the beginning when I read the script. The fact that you had a husband and wife that literally wanted to kill each other. I loved that. Of course I signed on for this film about two years ago and I was in a different place.
Do you think it’s the kind of film that married couples will relate to?
Yea because at the end of the day it’s really a funny film. It’s a difficult film to categorize because of the tone of it. This one is an amalgamation of a drama, a comedy and an action movie. There have been many versions. At one time, John Woo was going to direct it and it would have been strictly an action version. When Doug Liman came in, we went for a little bit more of an independent, character feeling.
Are there subliminal lessons about love and relationships in it?
No, no, no, I really try to stay away from lessons. This one reveals some truth and you can have a laugh in the process.
So what’s the ultimate truth in Mr and Mrs Smith?
That it’s very easy to lose yourself along the way and to lose the original idea of what brought two people together. That there is no manual that guides you past that initial coming together. Think of how many couples you know in your life that you look at and say, ‘I want to have that.’ And it’s not what you always think.
How was the role different and challenging for you as an actor?
I guess it was the comedy of it all. One of my favourite movies is Midnight Run. It successfully walks the line of a comedy, and the characters are independent and interesting. That is one of the most difficult lines to walk and capture in a film.
We saw some of that with you in Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, didn’t we?
I think people saw some of it, but I didn’t get to go far enough with that character and in Mr and Mrs Smith, I was able to take it further. And now I’m done with it and get to put it away and move on which is why I’m here in Morocco.
You are more involved in mainstream projects lately. Has there been a change of heart on your part from the more edgy projects you typically choose?
No, what happened was before I got on this bent, I had a year planned of independent projects. They all threw and didn’t work for various reasons, and I ended up not working for a couple of years. So after putting a lot of work into those other projects, this avenue opened up for a little bit. It was kind of my plan anyway, to try and go in this direction a little more.
You are at the centre of this new celebrity culture where new and old entertainment tabloids are feeding off each other. How do you deal with that?
I just don’t play. I am the Zen master these days of not caring what they say. I am motherf****** Siddhartha.. I’ve been in the tabloids for 14 years now. In the beginning I was outraged by their spittle and their lack of understanding. Then somewhere along the line I got wise to the idea that understanding wasn’t even important. At this point I understand the game so much, how they create quotes and how they will keep milking a story if there is money to be made, even if there is no story there. I’m just sorry that the public can’t see it and I don’t know if they will. I’m a big believer in evolution and whichever way it goes. I’ve heard my buddy, Tom Cruise, has recently stepped in. I’ve got to remember to send him flowers for knocking me off the covers for a week or maybe Jennifer [Garner] and Ben [Affleck] too. I love it when these guys step in and take off the heat [laughs]. Or maybe I should call Ashton [Kutcher] and see if he and Demi [Moore] can do something. I just figure it’s going to be this way for another year now. I just don’t care. When it first started 14 years ago, it was the aggravation of being represented so shamelessly. And now, I just know how inaccurate the reporting is and I’m the joke teller. I also think everything comes out in the wash eventually. Hey, I’ll take the hitch for the next year. Let them say what they want to say. I just do not care.
You’re 41 now and you seem more at peace with yourself. How did that happen?
There are just no more excuses now. I’m very aware of every decision I make. It’s my decision and I’ve got no one to blame. I like that. There’s been great satisfactions in that for me. If I make the right decisions, I’ll take that and if I make the wrong ones, I’ll take that.
You’re no longer afraid of mistakes?
There’s no way around the mistakes. You can beat yourself up all day long, but that’s where the real education comes and it’s what leads you to the next wind. There’s no way around it and it’s not fun, but ultimately it’s good.
How do you define personal success these days?
Authentically, truth and honestly. I also have a great admiration for dedication. That’s strictly for myself. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I’ve lived someone else’s life. That’s my focus.
Architecture is a great passion for you. What are you working on?
I did some conceptualizations for a hotel group with this bunch of people that I work with, and it looks like it’s not going to happen because it’s too expensive for them. It pisses me off because they’re not taking a chance and they should. But it’s a corporation and if it doesn’t fit into their formulas, well, what can I say? My plan for the next couple of years is to focus on the production company, Plan B, do a couple of interesting projects for myself, but less and less of that and kinda make the move over into building after that.
Your preference in architecture is towards the more austere in look and in materials. How are your architectural tastes reflective of you as a person?
No, I wouldn’t say that. Warmth is first and foremost. It’s everything. Well, it’s what I love about the desert here in Morocco. There’s a brutal honesty here and what you call austere, I would call brutally honest. Also simplicity, I love that. Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve in architecture where everything works in a rhythm and nothing is superfluous. Not that single extra do-dah for decoration, the grains and the materials you’re using and the way they all come together. There’s a harmony. Those are the elements that take my breath away when I witness them.
You seem more comfortable in your skin these days and don’t fight your celebrity status like you once did. How come?
Yeah, that’s true. I guess I’ve to come to accept my plight [laughs]. The upside to it is that I’m in the ring. By that I mean I’m fighting, I’m in the middle of the action. It occurred to me about five years ago that I was getting so hung up on playing interesting characters that I wasn’t seeking out my own interesting life. That was really an eye-opener for me. I don’t want to end up watching television for the rest of my life.
So is the cost for living that interesting life then having the media all over you?
Well, I’m not sure why my image has gamered a particular obsession with the media or why my romantic life is always the focus of so much attention. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take my shots. I can’t help but think of Robert DeNiro, when he said, ‘But you didn’t knock me down, you didn’t knock me down.’
Do you think attractive people have an easier time getting along in life?
What you have to understand is that they have an easier time getting in the door, but a harder time staying in the room. It’s just a different card game.
Would you like to comment on Angelina Jolie?
[Smiles] Let’s just say she’s a wonderful woman, a great actress and humanitarian.