Details – November, 2014

BRAD PITT – photographs by Mark Seliger

Letter from the editor

I’m often asked about the men we put on the cover of the magazine. Usually, the questions are pretty basic: “What is So-and-so like?” or “Was So-and-so nice?” I’ll generally offer an equally uncomplicated response. “Really good guy.” I’ll say. Or “Excited to have him on the cover.” For the most part, that’s the case. But every once in a while, maybe two or three times in the 15 years I’ve been the editor-in-chief of Details, we get a real pain in the ass–someone whose ego far outpaces his talent and who is so difficult that it makes looking at that cover, even years later, a deeply unpleasant experience.

By and large, though, we find ourselves dealing with smart, creative, and all-around good guys–movie stars, mostly, who are tired and busy and occassionally a little grumpy, but who happily carve out anywhere from one hour to five or six to work with our creative team on shooting a great magazine cover. One cover subject brought a case of beer to a shoot a few years back and turned the location into an impromptu party. And I once watched Tom Cruise walk around a photo studio and introduce himself to everyone in the room–probably a dozen people. “Hi, I’m Tom Cruise,” he said to the Details fashion intern to whom, admittedly, I had never introduced myself.

And then, of course, there’s Brad Pitt. For this month’s cover shoot, Brad agreed to spend two days with the magazine’s creative staff in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California. Needless to say, two days with any celebrity subject is extraordinary. Two days with Brad Pitt is a photographer’s dream. That the photographer in this case is Mark Seliger, who has shot most of our covers since 2012, likely factored heavily in Brad’s decision to give us so much time.

Mark first photographed Brad in Mexico 20 years ago for the cover of Rolling Stone to coincide with the release of Interview With The Vampire, and the two have worked together a number of times since.

“It was the first time I had worked with an artist who really put himself into a place where there was no distraction,” Seliger recalls about that shoot. “There was nothing else around to pull him away from being involved.”

The same was true for the time the two spent together in August amid the redwoods.

“When Brad commits to something, he goes all in–100 percent,” Seliger

And that, it should be said, is also true of the photographer. Camera in hand, Mark steadied himself atop a Ford Exhibition winding at 40 mph along the park’s Avenue of Giants to capture one of the most iconic images I’ve ever seen of Brad Pitt, who was riding alongside on his Indian Larry Legacy motorcycle. (See the portfolio on pages 93-107.)

“It’s interesting to revisit people in your career and in their career through the passing of time,” Seliger says. “I did see how gracefully he’s become this person, this man. I think he’s one of the few people who’s very nonjudgemental in terms of what he looks like.”

Maybe that’s because he looks like Brad Pitt.–D.P.

“My greatest moments of solitude (my churches) are found in the land, on the road…”

“I will always be most comfortable in the outdoors. I grew up in the Ozarks–something resembling Mark Twain country. The woods, rivers, bluffs, lakes, and caves have all left an indelible mark on me. And I’m quite reverential when it comes to a tree. On my forearm, I had tattooed ‘94.9m (311.4ft)’–the height of the largest sequoia.”

“I first rode at age 7 on my cousin’s Honda Mini Trail 50. I tried to jump it and ran it into grandmother’s car. He was severely pissed off. My first bike was a Kawi 150 Enduro. I won it at age 12 in a contest for selling the most pecan log rolls door to door after school. I crashed it four weeks later.”

“A tank crew must work as a machine. [Pitt plays a world War II tank commander in Fury.] It’s surprising how close give guys get in a tank. I could tell you not only which one farted but what they had for dinner the night before.”

“My soul was stolen by the camera so long ago. I don’t have to think about it anymore… One definition of freedom is the ability to follow your bliss without being watched, recorded, scrutinized.”

“I choose a role solely by how it speaks to me. And I sit in a fortunate seat where I can pull the trigger on the more difficult films. I was once talked into a film for ‘career maintenance.’ I have not made that mistake since.”

“I try to carve out time for a solo ride in every country I travel to, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to the belly of India. I haven’t even come close to fulfilling my list yet… But in the traffic of L.A. with a helmet on, I’m just another asshole on the road.”

“I’ve discovered I don’t suck at being a dad.”