Empire – November 11, 2006

BEING BRAD – by Erin

It cannot be easy being Brad Pitt. Laugh if you will, but I believe that to be true.

Sure, he is one half of, “the most beautiful couple in the world”, a new father, a noted philanthropist and a multi-millionaire, but for those things he has paid a significant price – his privacy. Everybody wants a piece of Brad Pitt.

I recently had an opportunity to catch a glimpse into the media spectacle surrounding Brad Pitt when I attended the North American premiere for his latest film, Babel, at the Toronto Film Festival. Afterward, I sat down with him while he talked about babies, Babel and being Brad Pitt.

The Toronto Film Festival has become two weeks in September when the entire city is abuzz with media outlets and celebrity watchers. This year, however, was different. There seemed to be a surreal glow as people watched, waited and hoped for a glimpse of the most famous face in the world.

Everywhere Brad Pitt went, a sea of people was sure to follow. People ambled through the lobby of the Park Hyatt hotel, where he was rumoured to be staying with Angela Jolie and their children. At his film’s premiere, hundreds of people stood on a narrow sidewalk hoping to catch a glimpse of him. The film – a subtitled “indie” film which would normally appeal only to film afficionados – showed to a full house.

It is difficult to describe the experience of meeting Brad Pitt. A man after my own heart, he arrived at our press interviews clearly demonstrating the signs of someone who is not a morning person. Unshaven, hair slightly disheveled, collar unbuttoned and tie loose around his neck, he was as gorgeous in person as he had been in any photograph that I had ever seen of him.

But the most memorable aspect of meeting Brad Pitt was not his looks. What I will never forget is the indescribable aura that surrounded him. Relaxed, affable and articulate, he was one of the most magnetic, charismatic people I have ever met. He was remarkably at ease and seemed almost amused at the sight of journalists and photographers pummeling one another to get to him.

As the sound of camera shutters reached a deafening pitch, and the photographers were admonished by press conference moderator Henri Behar, Pitt began to play for the cameras, making faces and waving his hands in the air.

“That’s the photo that is going to end up [in the press] when I have a breakdown”, he said, “They’re going to take that photo from this moment…when I get arrested for a DUI late at night and make racial slurs or something.”

When asked about his “icon” status, he seemed incredulous. “I don’t participate much in that, other thing”, he said, gesturing to the gathering crowd outside the press room.

A willing participant or not, Pitt cannot help but be affected by the, “other thing”. The remote location in Morocco where his scenes in Babel were filmed was a blessing, because it gave him a reprieve from the media that he would not be permitted in more accessible locations.

Director Alejandro Inarritu acknowledged the benefits of the remote location. “This town where we shot, it is a town that didn’t have electricity. It’s a town where Brad could walk easily without being recognized. Some people didn’t know who he was and that was great because we were really surrounded by that atmosphere of…people who were there for no reason other than helping the film.”

“I think that was a really kind of relaxing atmosphere. I felt that Brad was really completely submerged”, he added.

Pitt agreed with Inarritu’s assessment. “It was freeing in that sense where you could really just concentrate on the work.”

The result is a film that many say will garner Brad Pitt his second Oscar nomination. In speaking about the film, it is clear that he is proud of the final product.

“This one I’ll be proud for [my children] to see once they’re old enough to really understand it.”

As the press interviews ended and we prepared to leave, it occurred to me then that it cannot be easy to be Brad Pitt. I caught a glimpse of him as he was leaving the press room, accompanied by escorts who were taking him to his waiting vehicle outside. It was then that I saw it – a deep breath, a fleeting moment of panic as he readied himself to descend into the crowd outside.

Sure, it must be wonderful to have it all. But I wondered as I left whether there are days that he would not trade it all for a moment of peace and quiet.