The Arizona republic – September 18, 2011

Brad Pitt on Moneyball, media and why he won’t direct

By Bill Goodykoontz

TORONTO – For a guy whose life is far from normal, Brad Pitt seems like a pretty normal guy. Then again, he’s a good actor, so maybe he was faking it.

But during a chat in a hotel room, Pitt was friendly, engaging and relatively open about his life, even floating the notion that he and his partner, Angelina Jolie, might one day ease up on the Hollywood scene.

Pitt was at the Toronto International Film Festival promoting “Moneyball,” Bennett Miller’s film based on the Michael Lewis book, which opens Friday.

Pitt plays Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager who turned his team on its ear by eschewing the traditional way of evaluating baseball players in favor of more reliance on computer-generated analysis.

Question: You’re rich, you’re famous, all that, but maybe people resent you because you went to the University of Missouri’s journalism school and they’re jealous when they interview you.

Answer: But I didn’t graduate!

Q: I’m sure you could control who you talk to and . . .

A: I gave up on control. Just tell me where I need to be, who I need to talk to.

Q: OK. But did some background in it ( journalism) help you deal with such ridiculous levels of attention?

A: Not really. Truthfully, I was going through the graphic-design sequence. I had to do the basic journalism courses. I’m sure it did in some way. I was really interested in the justice of journalism, this idea of unbiased reporting and accounting of events, and the journalistic creed. I was just uncomfortable talking (about) myself. It took me 10 years to get comfortable with being the subject.

Q: It seems as if a lot of actors are uncomfortable talking about themselves.

A: Uncomfortable, certainly, uncomfortable in their skin. Uncomfortable talking about themselves, I don’t know. I see people who actually enjoy it. They’re quite good at it.

Q: So much of “Moneyball” depends on the chemistry between you and Jonah Hill (playing Peter Brand, who introduced Beane to the scientific principles).

A: Yeah, he’s a great guy, man. He’s not cagey in any way. He’s completely open and sincere in his exuberance for film or life or his girl. And yet he’s funny. He’s just no-holds barred.

Q: Can you work on chemistry, or does it just have to happen?

A: You don’t know completely till you get there. On the day, it felt right and it felt good, and it’s going to take its shape. I know he’s a smart guy, very inventive. I’d run into him a few times and loved his movies.

I think what these guys, these comedians, are doing, they’ve been doing something that’s been grounded in a pathos. It’s not gimmicky. It’s earned, their humor, and yet it’s quite reverent. They’re taking it to the edge. I think these guys, like Danny McBride and (Hill), have been doing the most innovative stuff in any category. I think Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler really opened the door . . . and I think these guys have come in and even pushed it further.

Q: Can you tell it’s working while you’re making the film?

A: I do get a feeling sometimes when there’s rhythms happening. You get on a set and you don’t know what shape it’s going to take. Personalities inform dynamics, and every film has its own life. This one, it was such an intensive execution, constantly trying to rework things and throwing things out there and throwing things out there, I really did not know, walking away, what we’d done. I had an idea, but I really didn’t know when I went to see the first cut.

Q: Was it the movie you wanted it to be?

A: It is the movie Bennett first described that he was after, absolutely.

Q: “Moneyball” seems like a hard book to make into a movie.

A: I think Michael Lewis said the same thing.

Q: Did you think that?

A: No, I was naive enough to think we could find something there. I was weaned on ’70s films, and I saw all these parallels in different films I had liked and what was possible. How to get there, I wasn’t sure of, and we went through an evolutionary process.

Q: Is it odd playing a guy who is still alive and still in the game?

A: There’s a responsibility because I like the guy and I didn’t want to fail him. He’s got a family. He’s got a daughter who’s going to see it. You want to do right by him. There’s no way you’re going to portray someone’s life in a two-hour film. But to get the essence is what you’re after.

Q: Did you meet beforehand?

A: Yeah, we hung out a few times. He’s funny as (expletive), funny as (expletive).

Q: Isn’t it odd for him, being observed?

A: In knowing that, you don’t come in with a microscope on the first meeting and a sniff test in any way. You just kind of shoot the (expletive) and feel each other out. He’s so (expletive) funny. We just got on immediately, so I felt like it was going to be all right.

I think he was already getting accused of being a megalomaniac and authoring this film, which made me want to do it. Because I understand that, to some degree. That was the final nail for me. I was like, “I gotta do this. I can do right by this guy because that’s (expletive).” But as any sane person would be, he was certainly uncomfortable about the idea of someone making a film about him.

Q: A few years ago here, you did a press conference for “Burn After Reading,” and an army of photographers took what must have been thousands of pictures of you in about two minutes.

A: We were left with the green spots in our eyes for eight, nine, 10 minutes. I swear I’ve got eye damage from that. I swear.

Q: People like Matt Damon have it bad with media intrusion, but no one has it worse than you.

A: I think it’s exponentially worse because Angie and I are together. But you know, the unfortunate thing is you can’t go to the parks. You’ve got to buy a bigger yard and put up a wall. That’s the unfortunate thing. It’s unfortunate for kids, and one of the reasons we’re trying to spend more time abroad, find some places where the heat’s not as bad, to back off the kids.

Q: Yes, when the media are interested in what you put in your garbage.

A: For years now we have to put it out when the trucks are coming. We do. It becomes normalcy for us.

Q: Does the attention get old?

A: It’s just a trade-off. There’s pluses and minuses with it. To me, the only concern is the kids. Take your shots, but don’t ambush the little ones. They didn’t ask for this. That’s the one I wrestle with. And we have our exit plan. We’re not going to be doing this forever.

Q: Really? The rewards are great, and it seems like a fun gig.

A: It is a fun gig, but family just becomes so much bigger and more important. When I say exit plan, not a full-time retirement but just something to be less (prominent) as I get older.

Q: Do you want to get into directing?

A: Dude, I’d be a pain in the ass. I would. I’d be a pain in the ass to myself, to the people around me. Too much of a perfectionist. I’d never see my kids. It’s just a bad, bad idea. Too much agony for me – and everyone around me.