BRAD PITT – by Martyn Palmer
Martyn Palmer meets the man in the miniskirt
Brad Pitt is muscled, buffed and honed like a middleweight boxer in peak condition, or, he hopes, a Greek god. His toothpaste-white T-shirt is, frankly, too small for his bulging biceps. This peak physique will, however, be lost on the audience of his latest screen venture, providing the voice for Sinbad in an animated feature.
Though he is heard but not seen, the makers claim they have captured the “essential Brad”, even if it is a cartoon version. “They say they used some of my physical characteristics to create Sinbad, but I can’t really see it,” he says. “I mean, you never see me swing from a rope. And I’m not really conscious of my own little quirks.”
It’s fair to say that plenty of his fans are aware of Pitt’s every move, quirky or otherwise. Ever since he breezed onscreen, playing JD, a hitchhiking petty thief who provides Geena Davis with some late-night fun in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, Pitt has been the No1 golden boy on Hollywood’s pin-up chart. “I knew that Thelma & Louise was quality,” he says. “It was like being let in through the door.”
He was reportedly paid just $6,000 (about Pounds 3,700) for that role in 1991, but it paved the way to greater rewards. His fee was somewhere in the region of $20m for Ocean’s Eleven – his last big role two years ago – and it is a similar amount for Troy, Wolfgang Petersen’s cinematic take on Homer’s Iliad, which Pitt is now filming in Malta.
He plays Achilles: hence the toned and tanned physique and the long, golden tresses tumbling down his shoulders from underneath an army-style baseball cap, which, if it’s part of a disguise, has failed him – a small army of teenage girls has gathered at the hotel where we meet.
As the girls giggle outside, Pitt is offering up some schoolboy humour inside. He trained for six months before starting Troy in March, and although he is enjoying it, there are drawbacks: the outfit, for one. “Let’s just say that the skirt took a few weeks to get used to,” he grins. “It’s not even like a kilt. With a kilt, you’ve got a bit of length, but those Greeks liked the mini. I do my homework, and when we’re debating the old hemlines, I’m paying attention. Somehow, the Trojans got the longer ones, but the Greeks, man, that’s a short skirt. And they fought with all their tackle hanging out. Didn’t mind a bit, apparently. And as this is R-rated and not Caligula, they’ve got us strapped down. So there’s a little pressure, being a demigod, but I think it’s working out all right.”
Pitt, as you might gather, is in a playful mood. As well as jokes about his miniskirt and tackle (British slang presumably picked up while working on Guy Ritchie’s Snatch), there are jibes at Mick Jagger’s expense and confessions that Mr and Mrs Pitt (his wife is the Friends actress Jennifer Aniston) can’t cook and watch Jamie Oliver for inspiration. And the fact that an animated film is just about the only genre he hasn’t tried before – “Except porn, of course, but I’ll leave that until I’m on the way out.”
He seems happy to be back at work after a two-year hiatus. “It wasn’t intentional. A couple of things fell through, and all of a sudden, two years go by.” Troy, with a reported budget of $180m, is a physically demanding six-month shoot, but Pitt seems prepared.
And not just physically. He has also read his Homer and done his homework on Achilles. “If you put in the work, it certainly shows,” says Pitt. “The great thing about it is being in this classical work. Our film isn’t a direct representation of The Iliad, but there’s obviously a lot of material you can research to build your character. And I was ready to get into something more difficult – I think you have to keep adding to the mix.”
If Troy does prove to be a stretch – and Petersen, who made the highly acclaimed Das Boot, is a respected director – then it will follow several films where Pitt has hardly broken sweat. Indeed, the last time he did that was in 1999, with Fight Club. Since then, there has been the dreadful romantic comedy The Mexican, with Julia Roberts; the average thriller Spy Game; Ritchie’s enjoyable underworld comedy drama Snatch; and the breezy Ocean’s Eleven.
This year, in December, Pitt will turn 40. He claims to be undaunted, but admits that from now on, the roles he is offered may change. Even Pitt’s looks will eventually fade. “Being 40 doesn’t feel like a landmark the way it did when my mum was 40,” he smiles. “Then, I thought, ‘Damn, you’re old.’ But hopefully, the trade-off is wisdom. I feel better about things.
“Certainly, there are people in our business who run from it,” he says of Hollywood’s fixation with youth. “But I think there comes a time when you’ve got to let it go, man. I mean, Mick (Jagger), come on.”
Perhaps the fact that he has been happily married to Aniston for three years has a lot to do with his settled outlook. She has spoken recently about how they would like to start a family, and he seems genuinely contented with his lot.
“Man, I like my home,” he smiles. “I used to love to travel and explore – like I’m in Malta now and there’s 5,000 years of culture there. I love being there. But it gets harder as you get older, and I’m sure with kids, you know, it would be even harder.”
Pitt reveals that one of the reasons he agreed to do voice work for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, where he is joined by an all-star cast of
Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joseph Fiennes, was because of his numerous nieces and nephews. “I mean, the latex sex scene in Fight Club isn’t going to make the cut, is it? I’ve got nieces and nephews that I’m a bit mad for and wanted to give them something that they could actually see. I didn’t think about any of my own children, but that would be a bonus, too.”
To his credit, Pitt does not pretend it was his greatest-ever creative challenge. “I mean, to be honest, it’s an easy road, man,” he says. “We (actors) get credited for it, but we’re such a tiny component of the overall piece. Somebody asked me: ‘How did you bring this character to life?’ But I didn’t, somebody else did – about 500 animators over the course of four years.”
Pitt’s light workload over the past two years has given him a chance to pursue other interests. “I’m a bit nutty about architecture,” he confesses. “It’s a bit too preliminary to go into it, but I have what I call a little Bauhaus group of guys that I work with. And we’re taking on some projects.”
He has already dabbled at home. In June 2001, Pitt and his wife bought a $14m, 12,000 sq ft Normandy-style mansion, with six bedrooms, in Beverly Hills. Pitt has designed a gym, a wine cellar, skylights and more, apparently.
So does he sometimes wonder whether, if he hadn’t tried acting, via a journalism course at the University of Missouri, he might have done something else? “Only with women,” he jokes. “But I’ve got that sorted out.”
Theirs is a solid marriage, despite what the rumour-mongers would have us believe.
In America, hardly a month goes by when there isn’t tabloid speculation that their relationship is on the rocks. “I know, I’m living in a hotel,” Aniston said recently. “And I’m a jealous bitch. Our marriage is crumbling. We’re separated, even. When I was younger, I might have been bothered by that sort of thing. But I don’t feel that way with Brad. He’s a very loyal, honest person.”
Certainly, Pitt mentions his wife in glowing terms several times. Presumably, Hollywood would just love to see Pitt and Aniston, America’s hottest celebrity couple, make a film together – he did, after all, make a cameo appearance in one episode of Friends – but it is unlikely to happen.
“You look at the couples who make a film together and it always comes out crap,” he says. “There’s too much baggage. Like the sex scene between Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in the remake of The Getaway. I mean, put her with anybody else and yeah, I’m paying. I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t work. And fortunately, being married to Jen, I see her a lot anyway.”
Instead, they like to spend time at home and watch television. “I love the extreme-sports channel, man, they’re maniacs,” grins Pitt. “And funnily enough, Jen and I are going to take some cooking lessons because we’re crap in the kitchen. We suddenly got obsessed with the Food Channel. The English guy, the Naked Chef – yeah, Jamie Oliver, he’s great. But it’s a whole other art form and I have to get into it. Otherwise,
I’ll stick to cereal.”
Mr and Mrs Pitt do occasionally discuss work. “We do talk about it, definitely,” he says. “She’s great ballast when you’re trying to figure things out.” Pitt is no longer the new kid on the block, but an established star, a few months shy of a landmark 40th birthday, with 39 films on his CV. Next up is Mr and Mrs Smith, a romantic comedy in which he will star opposite Nicole Kidman.
He believes some of his best work lies in the future. “I think I’m probably at the halfway mark,” he says. “The direction gets clearer because you really focus on what you want to focus on and not the game.” And he smiles with the quiet confidence of a man who clearly expects still to be a player 20 years from now.