PAPA PITT, SHILOH AND ANGELINA, PART 02 – by
LOS ANGELES—WE continue our column (part one appeared last Friday) on Brad Pitt who granted his first interview with us since the media frenzy over his relationship with Angelina Jolie began.
As he settled into a chair in a meeting room at the Universal Hilton, Brad said, “It’s been a long time. It’s nice to see you all. I’ve got three kids (now).” He joked, “You guys do anything?”
Then he proceeded to give a remarkably candid interview, with not a single “no comment” reply. As we wrote in the previous column, the only time he hesitated was when he was lobbed the question, “What are you good at?” “I really don’t know how to answer that,” he answered. He was being modest, of course.
He’s getting very good at acting, as he shows in his latest outing, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Babel,” a magnificently realized film that manages to make all four interrelated stories in Morocco, Tunisia, Japan and Mexico equally riveting.
The famous ex of Jennifer Aniston is also getting very proficient in co-producing films that are being buzzed about as contenders in the coming awards season: “The Departed,” which has critics raving and beating each other for the most number of superlatives they can heap on Martin Scorsese’s finest film in many years; and “Running With Scissors,” the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs’ bestselling memoir with Annette Bening reportedly excellent as a would-be poet and mother.
At the press con, there was a touching earnestness and sincerity in Brad’s face as he answered a question about why he and “Angie” decided to have their baby, Shiloh Nouvel, born in Africa.
With your interest in architecture, do you explain to your kids how to build strong structures when you play Lego with them?
I try to steer them to that direction. I hope we get a little engineer in there somewhere. I heard this great story of a father whose son drew this crazy structure. The son said it was a tree house so the dad made a tree house that looks exactly like the drawing. I thought that was a really nice story. I hope to be able to do that, too, someday.
Angelina said that motherhood has not stopped her from taking causes that are even wilder—those that urge her to take more risks. Do you share that sort of wildness with her?
Yes, unconventional, I would say. Your own personal experience and growth don’t have to stop at being a parent. It can be enhanced in some way, and your experience becomes fuller.
How has your celebrity status affected your humanitarian causes?
Of course, it helps because there’s an automatic spotlight on us. In fact, it’s hard to get out of that spotlight. It occurred to me a couple of years ago and I said it then: Since I couldn’t get out of the spotlight and there were so many people who are in need, maybe if I can be a conduit and deflect from myself.
So it’s been a great help and it opened many doors. We have access to meeting a lot of great minds who can give us a very informed education on a subject. It’s important that if you take on something, you stick with it because Hollywood is known for being flighty. Hollywood has a reputation of being self-serving sometimes. So it better be something that you believe in enough to stick with it.
Certainly, there have been (unfortunate) stories in the past because of this perceived idea, which is truly not the case. But a couple of bad examples can color the whole thing. You can do more harm to the cause. You can actually cause people to turn away and do exactly the opposite of what you set out to do.
What irritates you the most in this world, outside your personal sphere?
That list is long (laughter). Our country was founded on freedom. Anything that becomes a hindrance to that freedom I find shocking and shortsighted. The thing that irritates me the most is not being able to just live my life and let others live their lives as they wish instead of being threatened in some ways. I’ll give you two to keep it short. Second is our shortsighted foreign policy. This film speaks about that in the sense of getting back to this idea that we’re all the same. I am not hugging a tree and holding up a white flag but I am for true understanding and the willingness to understand others’ positions.
Can you talk about the media circus at the height of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”?
If there was a real conversation about what was going on, instead of this push to sensationalize and make money off that, I would have made myself available. But at that point, it was a no-win situation. I knew there would be a time when things would calm down and I could speak more freely and it wouldn’t be abused.
That (the media circus) was not about real journalism. To me, journalism is an unbiased telling of the facts. It’s not about speculation and sensationalism. I rail against the invention of “news.” It says something about our culture.
How has the last two years been for you?
Since I became a father and turned 40, the direction that I’d personally like to take has become clearer. Before, in my younger days, I was more of a drifter. I’d try many things on. I’d try anything. Now there’s real pride in understanding myself, what’s important to me, my own values and acting on those values.
This film probably parallels your passion for cross-culturalism, especially with the international breadth of the cast.
What’s extraordinary is the level of acting. We have people here who will headline a movie and we have adults and kids here who have never acted before in their lives, yet you cannot distinguish the difference. It’s extraordinary on Alejandro’s part to cast these people without any acting experience and to get that depth. The Moroccan kids and the one who played their father were extraordinary. In the scene where Cate’s (Blanchett) getting sewn up, that was actually the local veterinarian (laughter) doing it. He brought this realism. Yet the performances are all equal and there’s no story that stands out above any other.
Can you comment on how adoption from different cultures can help heal the world?
A few years ago, I said this and got into trouble. I just wish everyone would screw everyone so then we’d only have one color. Or we’d have so many colors that we couldn’t keep track and then it really wouldn’t matter (laughter). But that’s an obnoxious way of saying it. On the adoption front, we’re talking about the difference between a kid having a future and death. That was probably the case with our daughter (Zahara) and probably the same case with Maddox as well. That supersedes any other argument. I would like to see more of it instead of this idea of separatism which I rail against.
Africa has a special significance for you now. What are your impressions when you first landed in that continent?
It’s so vast and so different. There are places that are extraordinarily, beautifully haunting. The first thing I was struck by was the lack of opportunity for the people. Remember (the late comedian) Sam Kinison’s joke in the 1980s, which I thought was funny at the time but was really destructive? He said, ‘You live in a f—g desert. Move, move.’ We truly do not understand how fortunate we are with where we were born on the longitude,
latitude scale and what a difference that can mean in the course our life can take. It can mean the difference in having the opportunity to become an actor, doctor or a writer or struggling every day for food to feed yourself and your children. God forbid when they get sick. What would you do?
But there’s a great verve and understanding because they deal with death and survival. We don’t have that. It’s a wisdom we don’t understand. As I think about it, that leads me to my character and Cate’s story in this film. They’re a couple who are used to having a pharmacy down the road. We can get anything we want—doctors and all. So our characters don’t think when they just say, ‘Great, we’ll go to Morocco,’ it’s the romantic idea of
going to another country. They don’t think about what would happen if they were to get into some kind of accident and how they would deal with it. They’re not accustomed to the lack of services and opportunities. (But in the US), we grow up with the American dream—that we can be anything we want. That’s the most lasting impact Africa has on me. It goes back to the issue of equality. It makes me and others I work with want to even out that playing field in some way.
Some reports claimed that you got married yesterday. And can you talk about the message you are sending by having an American baby in Africa?
No, not true (on the first one). But (we are) just as dedicated. Two people with our track record, you know (laughter). Namibia served a twofold purpose. I’ll tell you a funny story. I was told this after the fact. At a meeting of the African Union, the Minister of Tourism from Namibia was asking South Africa, “How do we help ourselves with tourism? No one knows we exist. People don’t come here.” That was about two months before we went there (laughing) but we may have ruined a good thing. There was a search for where we can bring this child into the world and have some semblance of privacy for ourselves and our kids, especially her (Shiloh), and especially this idea that she could be part of another place. She was given a Namibian passport. That will bring us back there and at the same time we can invest in that place that Angie had been to before and fallen in love with. We can help out a little bit with their programs. There are great programs going on there. They’re doing some good things on the equality and opportunity front. It was more of an instinct than an actual defining reason why it (Namibia) was right on these levels. Namibia just felt right for us and that was our goal from the beginning. We knew it would be a circus here. We had some romanticized ideas too—going deep in the Congo. But it was more instinctual on our part.
Has fatherhood exceeded your expectations?
Yes. They (the children) define what they want to be. You can’t really push them in any direction. The fun part of being a parent is trying different things on the kids and seeing what they’re drawn to and what they’re not. It’s almost like putting an array of musical instruments out in front of them and finding out which one they’d go for. Unfortunately, ours went for drums (laughter).
Have your kids exceeded your expectations?
Oh yeah, absolutely. As I said before, I am not joking around. I’m looking for a soccer team (laughter). I want to compete in the World Cup.
Since the Mexican portion of this film’s story deals with the immigration issue, can you comment on how cruel the experience can be for people who are not allowed to enter this country legally?
I’m really not knowledgeable enough to speak on it. But I like what Thomas L. Friedman (three-time Pulitzer prize winner, The New York Times’ foreign-affairs columnist and pro-immigration advocate) said—something to the extent of proper control but bigger gates (The exact quote is, “Personally, I favor a very high fence, with a very big gate.”). My worry is if we become too isolationist, we’re going to choke ourselves.