Philippine Daily Inquirer – December 11, 2008

ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD – by Ruben V. Nepales

LOS ANGELES, California—There’s an extra reason to watch Brad Pitt’s beautiful, exquisite film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Shiloh, the daughter of Brad and Angelina Jolie, makes her movie debut with a cameo appearance. Speaking to reporters last Saturday morning at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Brad explained how Shiloh snagged a short scene from the twin toddlers who were alternately playing his daughter in “Benjamin Button.”

“Babies have their own schedule,” he said. “Sometimes they’re upset and that’s it. We had one particular day where both twins who were in the film were crying and colic or something. Time was going by. We were sitting and waiting so we just sat Shiloh in. She’s in one of the little shots. I think they digitally changed the color of her hair.”

Last Monday evening, at a private cocktail party in Century City following the premiere of “Benjamin Button,” Angelina Jolie’s eyes sparkled when we mentioned Shiloh’s brief debut.

Fate couldn’t have decided on a more significant movie for Shiloh to debut in. “Benjamin Button” will rank as one of her dad’s best films. The movie, directed by David Fincher (“Se7en,” “Fight Club,” “The Panic Room”) and written by Eric Roth, was based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of the same name. Fitzgerald’s tale of a man aging backward was inspired by a Mark Twain quote: “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.”

Significant progress in head placement and digital effects made it possible for David to show Brad going from a man born in his eighties who is growing younger as the story develops. Cate Blanchett, brilliant as usual, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris and Elias Koteas are also in the cast of this film set from the end of World War I to the 21st century.

“The most difficult part was just keeping track of the math,” admitted Brad, who looked sharp in a bold print-on-print three-piece suit by Tom Ford. He explained, “Literally, we had to have someone on the set who had to remind us before the takes and who would say, for example, ‘Benjamin appears 67 now so he’s actually 14.’”

Pure honesty

“As far as my approach is concerned, it was just about pure honesty for me; just how honest we can be with it,” he continued. “Fincher described it really well when we started. It was about the story of a man’s life and the people who leave dents along the way—people who make impressions. I always carried that with me … Fortunately, we had some fantastic actors from Cate, Tilda, Taraji, Jared to Jason so … I didn’t have to push anything up a hill, so to speak.”

“My knees are starting to go,” he said in half-jest about how he related to his character’s aged appearance in the beginning of the film. But as the movie progresses, as Benjamin gets younger-looking, David, aided by cinematographer Claudio Miranda, photographs Brad in what will probably be among the star’s most iconic cinematic images. The golden boy images of Robert Redford in “The Great Gatsby” come to mind.

Asked if the film’s recurring themes of life and death prompted him to think about his mortality, Brad answered, “The thing I walked away with is that time is short. I have to make sure I don’t waste those moments in any kind of pettiness, bitterness, laziness and so on. I surround myself with what’s most important to me and with those people who are most important to me.”

He added, “When we began the film, David had already dealt with the death of his father. Eric had dealt with the death of his mother. About a month into shooting, Angie’s mother passed away so it was this idea of mortality (that permeated this film).”

Waste no time

The actor, who turns 45 next week, stressed, “It makes me want to not waste any time because I’m in a company I really, really love.”

“I had a friend who worked at a hospice and he said something really interesting,” Brad volunteered. “He said people in their last moments do not discuss their successes, awards, trophies, what books they wrote, what they did, what they accomplished. They only talk about their loves and regrets. I think that’s very telling.”

Proof that the Jolie-Pitt kids are so used to their mom and pop as actors is that they were not surprised to see Brad made-up as an old man (the process took almost five hours each morning) on the set. “My kids weren’t thrown by it at all,” he said. “They came up and didn’t even notice. I thought that was really interesting (laughter). It’s still daddy and they didn’t comment on it in any way, especially the youngest ones.”

Prompted for an update on the joys and difficulties of raising twins Vivienne and Knox and how he helps Angelina, Brad said, “Well, it’s really double the pleasure. One (baby) seemed simple and twins are just double the fun. What do I do? I pitch in. I’m fairly good with a diaper and all that.”

Brood of six

As for the matter of having a brood of six young kids, the daddy pointed out, “It’s really important that everyone gets their individual time and group time so it’s a big focus of ours. Some of the nights can get long. The babies are starting to sleep through the night now so it just works.”

On the family’s French language lessons, he admitted, “She (Angelina) is ahead. My synapses seem to have shut down. I’m struggling. My seven-year-old rips it. He’s fantastic. It’s really humiliating but we’re really proud of him. So I’m in ecole (laughter) and it sounds about like that. Merci beaucoup.”

“It’s a nice way of life there,” Brad declared about living part of the time in the South of France. “We were looking for a place where our kids could run free and not be hassled. They seem to care less about us there so it’s a nice relationship with us and the area.”

But home right now is Berlin while Brad is doing “Inglorious Bastards” with Quentin Tarantino. When we told him about Quentin’s impressive knowledge about certain Filipino films made in the ’60s and ’70s, Brad commented that he was just as amazed with the director’s knowledge of world cinema. The actor appeared very excited about “Inglorious…,” which he described as “outrageous” and “It’s the World War II film to end all World War II films.”

Gold ring band

Brad, who wore a gold band on the ring finger of his right hand, was informed that in Germany, such ring placement meant he was married. He playfully pretended to begin moving the ring as he asked, “Is that right?” But he added, “So be it.”

When a journalist asked Brad if he agreed with what Angelina told us in a recent interview that they’re not quite done yet having more kids, he replied with a smile, “We haven’t found any reason not to yet. It is chaos at moments but there’s such joy in the house. I look down and there’s our boy from Vietnam, our daughter from Ethiopia, our girl who was born in Namibia, our son who’s from Cambodia and they are brothers and sisters, man. They are like blood relations and it is such a sight that make us feel elated. Given that with our jobs, we have the capability to also give someone a home, provide a home… Let me tell you, it’s selfish too because the reward has been extraordinary so no, we haven’t found any reason to stop yet.”

How do mom and dad get a minute alone? “Mom and dad are creative,” Brad said with a grin. Then he said with a laugh, “There are some dry spells. There are a few moments in the desert but mom and dad get very creative and we’re good. We have our ways.”