Studio Cine Live – May, 2011

The longest day

Thursday 14 April, 11:00.

Thierry Fremaux, is very proud to prolong the suspense before blowing the lid off the cinema pressure cooker (been overheating weeks already) by revealing the list of the 64th Cannes Film Festival. He is happy to have succeeded in extremis to convince Pedro to come back and Terrence finally arrived and the icing on the cake is to be in competition. He tells Lars that it will be necessary to make the revision of his mobile home for his ninth trip on Croisette and the Dardenne brothers Will Be necessary to think of reserving their Thalys. He dubs growing talent and promises of Mai’wenn Cavalier cinema… how to say different. The Happy elected representatives are happy, the failing, much less. In short, it’s a day like any other press conference day at Cannes. Each has its roadmap and it will prepare its Festival. For my part, I have my suitcase ready to join … but in the wake of Los Angeles, waiting for me or the second dish of this strange day. Brad Pitt, too, wonder what he thinks about the selection at Cannes. After a twelve hour flight and thirty-six hours of continuous wakefulness, I admit that my analysis is a little soft. So here I am with our photographer, Vincent Flouret in this desert of Culvert City studio, ready to spend a long time with Brad Pitt. Almost alone (four of us), without an army of assistants and body guards. The Cigarette breaks are in the parking lot next to his car. The meeting is a biblical simplicity, a hundred leagues of interviews timed and prefabricated phrases they are trying to serve us in Hollywood. Brad has time, Brad speaks at length, being photographed without question and without conditions. We savor the moment we are working hard, thinking that all this is a mirage of jet lag. But no, we can still find superstars who take the time and have things to say. With intelligence and with a smile. That, in this case, is Brad Pitt. There are days like this…

An afternoon with Brad Pitt

To mark the much anticipated release of The Tree of Life, the new Terrace Malick film odyssey, we find Brad Pitt in Los Angeles for an unprecedented meeting for the film which he is the lead actor and co-producer. When a superstar speaks about cinema and himself, with such kindness and humility, you know it will be great.

How would you define the Tree of Life, which for one is not an easy question!

Brad Pitt: And will not be an easy answer! For me, the adults that we are, are the direct result of the children we were. In this sense. The Tree of Life follows the lives of three brothers who move between a loving mother, who represents the purest goodness, and a father, who is a human with his own faults. My character is a man oppressed by his life, which brings his grudge with him, even becomes violent at times. It is the first opposition of the film.

And this is not the only one….

With Terrence, the themes varied but still are always closely linked. When nature creates, man destroys. And when the man destroys the other still tries to build. It’s also a film about the tragedy and violence of death. The Tree of Life refers to the infinitely large and infinitely small, the supreme magnificence and small deviance. When Terrence gives in this film his ” version”, so to speak, the creation of the universe, it is surely also to illustrate the human inclination to self-destruction. There are, in the majesty of nature, all roots of the drama which is taking shape in this family.

It’s also a film about religion, faith and belief in an afterlife

Religion is another subject of the film, Malick is also in the southern United States, lands that are still fervent. Religion is also a constant battle between the established rules and the freedom of choice.

There are two scenes in the film where your character, father, takes all its depth: one in which he begs his son a hug and another where he explodes at the luncheon.

Yes, absolutely. He has this strange attitude of giving orders to his son to embrace him and then take him in his arms. This is a time when I tried to show how fragile he is. He knows that his son prefers his mother, he is jealous of their freedom when he himself is chained to his work. But at the same time, he tries to love without really knowing how. The lunch scene where he explodes with fury shows, however, limits to his resentment toward his own family, which is for me a terrible feeling. He seems hopelessly closed from the inside, unable to be happy or even unhappy with the grief that will touch him directly.

How did Terrence Malick prepare you for this role?

We talked at length. It was plunging into a difficult character but also a time full of surprises. He gave us a poem to read, “Nature and Grace” , Which I think has a lot of inspiration for The Tree of Life. For him, human being is so fallible that he can not live while trying to protect others. All the characters are of this logic, the mother who suffers from the reports she has with her husband to the children who violate or break a window to assert their presence and test their personality . The film also evokes American society, especially the ’50s, and the economic boom that has plunged our society into a certain hardness.

For my part, I consider The Tree of Life as 2001: Space Odyssey by Terrence Malick. And you?

Perhaps, yes .. you know, it’s a movie he always wanted to do, he has been working over thirty years. From what I know, the project has gone through many stages and several players…..I think dozens and dozens of different versions and scenarios.

There are similarities in 2001 … the question about the beginning of life and, more generally about the meaning of life…

That’s true. There are constant references to these infinitely large and infinitely small, this philosophical and esoteric on creation. That really affected me when I read the script. Terrence scripts are extremely rich and detailed. It is not a sequence of scenes but a thoughtful and comprehensive text. In the scenario, therefore, Terrence evoked precisely the concept of micro and macro. When you look in a microscope, you can see the cells. And when you look through a telescope, you see exactly the same thing eventually. This opens the field to infinity. How is this possible? And what will that tell us?

I understand your interest in the film as an actor. But why should you also be invested as co-producer?

I’m not going to blow the producer being totally disinterested in financial issues .. although I still make some progress in this area! My goal is simply to help get films to be made. This influence we may have, even if it’s a drop in an ocean, is very rewarding

In Plan B, your production company, you support films like A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom, The Departed by Martin Scorsese, or Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn. It is surprising that a Hollywood superstar as you become a producer of the most independents of films, films which are not really mainstream …

These are favorites. I do not see how I could not help A Mighty Heart to be made. It’s so strong and sensitive. I’m here to help, to clarify gray areas, to clear the ground and make everything go well. For me, a producer must leave the film director to focus solely on his art.

And why these choices?

Because there must be room in the world for everyone. It’s hard in cinema for film like Winterbottom but irreverent fun and entertaining in cinema with Kick-Ass (although Matthew Vaughn, who is also a producer, did not really need help). The Departed, however, we have been behind the project, we bought the remake rights. Then, once Martin Scorsese enters the round, we pulled out because the project could stand on its own.

Rather than go through your filmography, I prefer to submit the names of some directors and some movies to try to understand what motivates you in your choice in your career … Let’s begins with Guy Richie (Snatch).

I always try to discover the world. This is what enriches me. And it really attracts me. The cinema of Guy does not look like no other. I think I’m smart enough to prefer to work with directors who are much older than me … It is perhaps therein lies my difference.

Steven Soderbergh (the Ocean’s Saga)

It’s the same thing. All these people have developed their own language of film. Soderbergh is a guy who never ceases to push limits, to explore terrain he does not know.

Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)?

Ah! I often say that Tarantino is a god, his plate is a paradise. And that all heretics are not allowed to access! Is there anyone more original than him, more singular? He feeds his films and his own personality, his own madness.

Want to work with him again? Scalping a few Nazis?

I’d love to! I should ,perhaps, not say, have a hilarious idea for a possible result of Inglourious Basterds. It’s completely crazy! It is a kind of buddy movie but I’ll say no more. I don’t even know if he will one day!

And of course David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)?

This is probably the one I am closest. We have, more or less, were revealed at the same time, we followed similar paths, we grew up together. He is a film maker first, obsessed with precision details. And a spirit among the most inventive. We are really close and our friendship continues unabated.

Conversely, it is surprising not to find in this list of people like Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton, which would make sense. Why has it never happened?

True, but it is fair, just because things have not happened … for that, you must be in the same state of mind. And then, after there is, in our careers, all animal questions of logistics, and schedule. But I would love to work with them one day. These are two directors that I respect and who are friends.

In the same order of idea, let us choose some films which you made. First 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam…For me one of your best roles.

I remember at the time this film was a personal challenge, I wanted to know if I could go after this character a little upset. Terry helped me a lot for this role. I had reached a point in my career where I did not want to be available, although, unfortunately, I still am today! I made this film in response to what I live at the time, and most importantly, I wanted different experiences in film.

Babel, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu?

Again how to say no to such a director? I like directors who have their proper world, although it must be radical. Babel is a very complex film…What attracted me to reading the scenario in this film was its strength from the myriad of stories that collide.

Devil’s Own, Alan J Pakula, however not necessarily a good memory…

Indeed, this is not a good memory. The film was hard to do and was uncomfortable moment for me. I tried for the first time a foreign character (an Irishman of the IRA, Ed), I had to learn to speak with an accent and then the film was an interesting political content. But the filming went wrong, there was misunderstanding on both sides and I lost my bearings. I learned from this experience, how the Hollywood system could corrupt a beautiful project.

Conversely, when you accept Mr. and Mrs.. Smith, it’s just for fun?

I love movies and entertaining, quite simply, the script made me laugh enormously. The couple who never stops wanting to remove the other, was a good idea and I think that this gives a good film. And of course, now is my favorite movie (laughs)!

I do not know why (laughs)! What theater do you prefer as the spectator?

The more I advance, the more I know the tips and tricks of film, I want a movie that surprises me. The actors who take risks, directors who are finding new things, that is what attracts me to the cinema. When I think, There Will Be Blood, I was fascinated by the story of a man who lives only by hate. I do not know what really were the intentions of Paul Thomas Anderson is one but I think it’s a marvel. It’s always the same thing, I love people who push the limits … But hey, you’ll end up making me look like a nerd so I like all kinds of movies!

But listening to you talk about cinema, its like I see a kid in a candy store!

That’s true. I’m fascinated by the directors. And actors. And directors of photography. I love anything with the creative side of cinema. I’ve always been like that. You do what you want, but if a movie is projected by Stanley Kubrick somewhere , of course I drop everything! Sometimes I even re-watch movies with a means to hope to find something!

This is also why you enjoy doing voices in animated films. Happy Feet 2 soon?

We did them a year ago already with Matt Damon, and it was a pure pleasure. Already, you do not need to be in makeup! And it is more an exercise or you learn a lot while being in complete freedom. Especially with someone like Geroge Miller who is a great man.

You toured with Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet. Are there other European directors who interest you?

The problem is that as a father of a family I do not see too much else than animated films for children! We try from time to time to discover things. Besides, I saw The White Ribbon, by Michael Haneke, which I re-watched. This film has haunted me a long time and still does today …

Finally, are you proud of your cinema career?

Oh yes! I think that becoming a father, I am changing in my choices. I certainly accept certain roles that I would not have accepted. And the notion of quality, point of view, my drive is now true. But I am happy to have had such experiences, David Fincher to Terrence Malick with a view so brilliant and original cinema. But frankly, I consider myself very lucky and how am I seriate to complain?