SECRET AGENT WITH HEART – by Elisabeth Sereda
In Ocean’s Eleven Brad Pitt played a gangster. For the spy-thriller Spy Game he switched sides to the CIA camp. He confided SKIP journalist Elisabeth
Sereda in an exclusive interview what he thinks of secret agents and how it was to work again with Robert Redford.
SKIP: You worked with Robert Redford for the first time in A River Runs Through It. Was your relationship different now filming Spy Game than what it
was back then?
Brad Pitt: Man, I was still so green [new to the business] when I shot that first movie with Redford. We had, as a matter of fact, a sort of mentor-protÈgÈ relationship. Interestingly, this kind of relationship helped us too with Spy Game. The fact that we had worked together before gave us a common history that was the basis for our film-story. Even before the shooting began I was very happy to sit down at a table with Redford again, even more so, since I had gathered a lot more experience in this business. We had a lot to tell each other and exchanged experiences.
SKIP: How did your friendship reflect itself on your work as actors?
Brad Pitt: Well, it was not easy for me to contradict him when I pictured a scene differently than him. I ultimately did grow up with his films. I love his movies. Redford was always the man that had an answer for everything. The guy that could explain everything better than yourself and the one who stands for his principles. And that is why it was so hard for me to argue with him. No matter how intensely I got into my role and how much I was the guy that I was playing – when arguments were exchanged, I always got to the point where I just listened to him and would have preferred to say: “Man, you are totally right, I agree with you completely.” … (laughs) … It took me a couple of weeks and many takes to overcome this feeling, this respect. Redford is in this film as strong and eloquent as only he can be. Spy Game is the classic Redford. Whereas Spy Game is, in principle, nothing more than a troubled father and son story. I want, as the young Tom Bishop, to live up to the expectations of my mentor Nathan Muir, played by Redford. But the environment is complicated. Both of us have to fulfill a mission, each in his own way. We even have to risk betraying each other. It is a dirty business, in which we both operate.
SKIP: The two of you work in Spy Game for the CIA. What do you think about the secret services in general, and the CIA’s in particular?
Brad Pitt: As we were preparing for the movie I met a couple of CIA-people. They are unbelievably loyal and take themselves and their work very seriously. In times like these, and I tell you that very openly, I simply sleep better since I know that such men exist. In my opinion the secret agents are today
more important than ever before. I say that as a citizen. In our film, the CIA only serves as a background for the story. The man that Redford plays started his career during the Cold War, when the frontlines were clearly defined. In the 70’s the Americans realized that their politicians were just human and made mistakes. And the CIA lost its power. Then came the end of the Cold War and in the ensuing confusion one questioned if the CIA was still significant. But today no one would question the CIA. Oh my God, I am ranting again with my political monologues … (laughs) … Spy Game does not deal so much with foreign politics. The film was only the trigger for myself to deal with these issues.
SKIP: Doesn’t your renewed interest have anything to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11?
Brad Pitt: September 11 did naturally contribute to my already existing interest. When you buy insurance for your house, you also sign a clause that
states that the insurance does not cover terrorist attacks. It used to crack me up. This clause had absolutely no significance before. And suddenly it
has one. I feel like such an idiot in relation to many things I used to think. Before I shot Spy game I had no idea about the work of the secret services.
Now I know that we have a lot to learn in this country. We need to try to have a better understanding of other cultures, their history and our own. In my
movie The Devil’s Own there is a line I will never forget: “Someone who is considered a terrorist by some is a freedom fighter for others.” That’s heavy.
We need to understand that first. And one more thing – while I am holding here a political speech: we should finally give up our dependency on oil. We have
enough alternative technologies. But nobody talks about that.
SKIP: How did you do your research for Spy Game at the CIA?
Brad Pitt: I had two meetings with them. They drove me in a car to a private airport, we then flew in the private plane till the end of the world, changed cars twice, then they drove me to a residential family home that looked completely harmless, but functioned as a spying station and was equipped with the appropriate technical equipment. And the agents were all undercover. Therefore they couldn’t show me much. The younger ones didn’t even want to talk to me. Now I understand that, but at the time I felt like a fool. Now I understand that these men have no private relationships. It doesn’t work. No normal human being understands this world that consists of only secrets, and of this job that they are not allowed to talk about. Their colleagues are their family. Some of them have broken marriages behind them and live with the fact that they had to sacrifice their private life for their job.
SKIP: In Spy Game you are undercover as a photographer. Photography is something that interests you privately, isn’t it?
Brad Pitt: Yes, I enjoyed that because I have a great interest in photography. This is the most creative activity in my life. I took a bunch of pictures during the shoot.
SKIP: Do you want to publish your own photo coffee-table book?
Brad Pitt: I would like to do an exhibition first. But in order to do that I need more photos, a bigger collection. Not long ago I tried to get some of my pictures published in a magazine. But they were not interested; they thought the photos were too “artsy” there weren’t enough stars on them … (laughs)
SKIP: The curse of your image, right?
Brad Pitt: We are all placed on a pedestal and worshiped. The danger of that is that soon you could believe that you are something special. And that is a dead end for the development of your personality. It may be beneficial for the career, but personally you make an ass of yourself. I admire George Clooney. The guy has understood that better than anyone else in Hollywood. He knows who he is, he knows his position, but yet he still enjoys the simple things of life. I respect him for that.
SKIP: How do you achieve, with your fame and superstar status in Hollywood not to make an ass out of yourself?
Brad Pitt: Well, I work hard at it. And whether I am an asshole or not, that depends on who you ask … (laughs)
SKIP: Has your marriage to Jennifer Aniston changed you?
Brad Pitt: Yes, for the first time I have the feeling that I am not an outsider anymore and that I belong with someone. I have found my home. The thing that surprised me the most was how well I feel. It is very reassuring to go together down a path that instead of getting boring gets more interesting every day. Oh God, I can already see the headline: “Brad Pitt: Happier that ever!” … (laughs)
SKIP: What do you want to achieve in the future? As an actor and as a human being?
Brad Pitt: Good question. One that I keep asking myself. I spent last year doing things that I always wanted to do, in my job. Doing movies that I hadn’t done before. The comedy Ocean’s Eleven, where I had so much fun. And Spy Game where I had everyday the feeling that I was learning something from people that are better at articulating than myself. And as a human being? As a human being I only want to survive … (laughs)