Parade – September 15, 2011

Brad Pitt to the World: ‘Open Your Eyes’

By Dotson Rader

Brad Pitt opens up about family and finding time for what’s important in life in this Sunday’s PARADE with Dotson Rader. In the exclusive extras below, the 47-year-old star talks about faith, gay marriage, and why he needs to learn French.

“Can you believe that we’re still fighting for equality in America? To be against marriage for everyone is utter discrimination. I feel strongly about that because if equality of marriage doesn’t happen now, the next generation will have to deal with it.

“It is an amazing thing that New York has finally gotten same-sex marriage. But the real problem is that the federal government hides behind states on this issue. It is blatant, ugly bigotry, and the federal government shouldn’t be doing that. You’re denying some Americans the right that all Americans have, to live their lives as they choose.

“What are you so afraid of? That’s my question. Gay people getting married? What is so scary about that? It’s complicated. You grow up in a religion like that and you try to pray the gay away. I feel sadness for people like that. This is where people start short-circuiting—instead of being brave and questioning their beliefs, they are afraid and feel that they have to defend them.

“I don’t mind a world with religion in it. There are some beautiful tenets within all religions. What I get hot about is when they start dictating how other people must live. People suffer because of it. They are spreading misery.

“My family is all devout Christians. Yes, absolutely. We don’t see eye to eye on this one, yet at the end of the day we love each other, we’re still family.”

“I grew up Baptist, and then the family switched over to more of an evangelical movement, probably right around the time I was in late high school. There’s a point where you’re un-tethered from the beliefs of your childhood. That point came for me when it was finally clear my religion didn’t work for me. I had questions about Christianity that
I could not get answered to my satisfaction, questions that I’d been asking since I was in kindergarten. I realized it didn’t feel right to me, that one question just led to another. It was like going down a rabbit hole, each answer provoking another question. There were things I didn’t agree with.

“My religion was telling me what not to do—what not to even think about doing. Those are the things I would try, because that was my nature. I had to experience things to know what would work for me—say, something as simple as premarital sex. I can figure out what works or doesn’t work. I will know. You say that something is wrong for me to do? Well, I know it’s not wrong because I just did it. Then you say something else is also wrong? Yeah, I did that too, and you’re right, it is wrong for me. But it wasn’t wrong just because you told me it was.”

“When Angie and I first met, we came together quite quickly and we decided we were adopting. Now the rules are that because we are not married, I can’t adopt. Angie adopts. We decided we were adopting a daughter. We were going to do it right out of the gate. We were not going to mess around. Angie said, ‘No shopping [for kids].’ I thought that was
astute and beautifully put. It took the pressure off of adoption and brought a magic to it. We had set our parameters—we had room in our family if anyone needed a home. We got the call, and that’s our eldest daughter, Zahara.

“You get an attachment to people and places that you see. If you see suffering when you’re there, then you’ve made a connection to those people and you have to act on it. Once you have an understanding of it then you have to try to help. I say to people, go travel the world. Open your eyes. See it.”

“If you ask me about nature versus nurture, I’m going to say it is 80 percent nature, absolutely. You see [a child’s character] six, maybe nine months in. Now, some of our kids need more nurturing than others. Some have more delicacy. They’re all just unique individuals.”

“All our kids are speaking French, so now we have that second language infused into our home. Everyone is learning another language. I’ve got the Rosetta Stone for French sitting right on the table in the bedroom, and it’s going to be loaded into my brain. I know there are certain synapses in my brain that just freeze dead at French, but I have to learn it because our kids are speaking it. [Laughs] Even the twins as babies were saying certain things in French.”


“I don’t read about Angie or me in the press. I don’t see anything. I really don’t want to know. I don’t think the generation [of celebrities] preceding me had it as bad as I did. And I think the generation after me has it worse than that. I’m talking about the tabloid press.

“In the ’90s it really shook me up. I couldn’t believe that people would just make up stories. I would never think to do that. I mean, I went to journalism school. And there’s a code of ethics to journalism. It’s about being unbiased and not sensationalist and speculative. Now there’s a cult of speculation. ‘A close source says…’

“The thing that really amazed me was when someone would describe why I did something, or what I was feeling. I used to go mental over it and try to fight it. But it was a futile battle, so I just gave up on it.”

“I try not to play the same role twice. I’m not the guy that can make and sell a brand. I’m capable at most things and great at nothing. I’ve only repeated two roles. It was when I thought there was something I didn’t crack the first time and wanted to crack it.”

“The first version of a script is always the most organic. Then too many voices get involved in the process and start trying to hone it and shape it into what they think a movie should be and what an audience wants. Suddenly the movie loses its actual reason for being made. It happens time and time again. When I did Legends of the Fall, I was always quite at odds with the romance in the movie, but that’s the way the film went. Then, after the movie was shot, the scene I loved the most was taken out of the film. They told me the reason was that, in market testing, the audience disliked it. This is when I first became hip to marketing tests. I said, ‘Show me.’ It was the second most-disliked scene. But it was also the most-liked scene. My argument then—and it would still stand today—is that what you get from testing people is a visceral reaction, good or bad. You’re asking them if they dislike it, when maybe it’s that they’re uncomfortable with it. And that’s a good thing.

“There is an underestimation of an audience’s capacity to deal with difficult material. There are very few [film] people who really understand story. And those are the people I try to work with.”

“In New Orleans, after Katrina, I saw a solution. My frustration is that we’ve been able to help so little. What we have done in building homes has been really successful and will be so for 150 families. We have about 90 now that are completed or in process. There are still thousands of people more, struggling. Why has it taken so long to repair the city after Katrina? I really don’t get it.

“Why does low income housing have to be built with shoddy, toxic materials? Why put another burden on families that have already suffered, on people trying to make ends meet, facing doctor bills? Why hand them home repair bills and huge electric and water bills that are unnecessary? Why, when you can build solid, energy-efficient, low-income housing properly, using new technology? I got involved because that’s where I felt we should be going. New technology isn’t just for the rich.

“What we’re building has changed the game, it’s revolutionary. It shows that there’s no excuse for building the old way. Dollar for dollar, per square foot, what we’ve built works. People in our new housing, who were used to dealing with $300 electric bills, are now paying $30, sometimes nothing. We’ve had a few months this summer where every house
but two had something like a $7 electric bill, and that was for processing fees.

“You build it tight, sealing it; you build in the direction of the sun and the wind; and you use solar and water collection. It’s not that hard to do. But I’m still surprised it hasn’t caught on. There’s no excuse to build any other way if you’re building from the ground up. We have about 90 houses now that are completed or in process of completion. HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Development] has been very supportive.

“We’re trying now to expand in other areas and prove that it works in other climates in America and beyond. For example, we’re building a pediatric medical facility and TB clinic in Ethiopia in our daughter [Zahara’s] name.”