Empire – August, 2009


Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine

Who’s Aldo?
“He’s from Tennessee, he’s a lieutenant, and he runs this guerilla outfit in Nazi-occupied France that is hellbent on taking out the Nazis. In true guerilla style.”

Favourite memory of QT on set:
“I was really impressed with the way he was able to reshape the film while he was making it. He’s so well-versed in film language that he could feel when he himself was getting tired with his own movie.”

Favourite line:
“Oh, I got a few of ’em. There’s some good ones in there. But mine, personally, is, ‘They’re the footsoldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass-murderin’ maniac, and they need to be dee-stroyed.'”

“You want a coffee?” Brad Pitt sounds like he needs one. We’re in a windowless lounge bar in a smart but low-key hotel in Cannes, ten minutes from his usual haunt, the five-star Hotel Du Cap. His shades are on the table, he’s dressed in black, sporting a great short-sleeved bowling shirt, and he’s all smiles as he gets up to shake hands. His body language is interesting, too: if you figured Brad as a monosyllabic slouch, he’s surprisingly agile in the flesh. The only giveaway is his speech. At times, he breaks off at a wild tangent, like when he interrupts, apropos of nothing, to say. “Directors love your magazine. They do!” Sometimes he fails to answer a question as simple as, ‘Tell us about your character’ (“Er, I just have this button in me that turns off when I gotta talk about character”). And sometimes he loses his train of thought altogether (“The point is,” he sighs, “we had a really good night last night, and now I’m really rusty”)

It’s the morning after the night before and for Brad Pitt last night was a very big night. Wednesday May 20, 2009, saw Inglourious Basterds debut at the Palais to an 11-minute standing ovation, followed by a party at Baioli Beach where he was sandbagged in a corner with his equally famous partner while a fat Eurotrash DJ in a T-shirt and short
kept rudely yelling, “THIS IS THE QUENTIN TARANTINO PARTY” and pointing at QT in the only-vaguely-private VIP area (“South-of-France DJs,” tutted Pitt’s Parisian co-star Melanie Laurent, archly). “Those parties are usually work for me, so they’re all the same” says Pitt. “I get to bring some people along that I want to thank and they have a good night. But for me, it’s work.”

Still, Pitt is happy, and he is thrilled with the film. “It’s pretty outrageous,” he grins, “In true Tarantino fashion, it’s good and outrageous.” So when did he first see it? “Last night,” he says, still shocked by Tarantino’s speed. “Y’know, we only wrapped shooting three months ago. I think Quentin’s last one, Grindhouse, took him so long
to get to screen–because he and Robert Rodriguez were doing their movies in tandem–that he got bored with it. So although it took him eight years to write Inglourious Basterds, he got it to screen in eight months, because he wanted to go with that energy, all the stuff that happens while you’re making a movie. He wanted to push things through and not have the luxury to overthink them. And that prescribed the shape, I think. He would throw out some really nice stuff if he thought it didn’t play for where the thing was heading–for the sake of the juggernaut he needed to keep afloat. And if you’ve seen how much he loves making films, it’s contagious to be around. It’s like a religion–and we all drank the Kool-Aid.”

Like many others seeing the film for the first time, Pitt was taken unawares by its unexpected but often hilarious sense of humour. “By the end,” he recalls, “I was surprised at how it had become. When I was doing it, it just turned funny. I didn’t get it from the script, it just went that way.” He laughs. “Meanwhile, women are getting strangles and people are being shot up.”

But as for the film’s head-on collision with the true facts of World War II, Pitt admits he certainly had some doubts, “Well, I wondered,” he admits, “Can you do that? I’m a bit of a history buff, and I appreciate it. But, y’know, it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie, and that has its own meaning now. People know what that is. They know that there’s a certain kind of room in a film, if it’s a Tarantino film, and there’s a licence that you get by entering Film. I asked Quentin about that, actually, I did ask him about that.”

What did he say? “I don’t remember because we were really drunk at the time! But he will. Quentin remembers everything. But then I realised he was just gonna have fun with it. It’s a ‘what if?’ scenario.”

And, as well as that, he realised any pressure would be on someone else for a change. After Benjamin Button, Pitt was able to enjoy the thrill of being part of a team and not carry the whole weight of the production on his shoulders. “You know, going into a film, you’re constantly pushing the thing up the hill,” he says. “With your part, you’re trying to reshape it and hone it. You’re trying to break it down and analyse it. But this was truly unique. It was like, after all the years of hard work, this was a reward for it. The script lands on the table, and it’s perfect. You walk in, and you know exactly what to do with it. There’s a great guy leading it, you go off and running..”

He shrugs and reaches for his shades “No hassle in the castle!”