Brad Pitt says all actors have a shelf life and his is coming but he wants to play the grumpy old man who swears
By Neala Johnson
IF YOU’RE choosing a team of the coolest dudes on the planet, by all means pick Brad Pitt first. If you’re choosing a team to play, y’know, an actual sport, maybe pick that dweeby kid in the spectacles standing next to him …
“It was high noon,” recalls Pitt, setting the scene of his schoolyard humiliation. “I was in centrefield and … I wasn’t born to be a baseball player.
“I took a ball in the face. But then I still threw the guy out of second! But then the guy said, ‘Ewww, you’re bleeding’ and I was off to emergency.”
Lucky Brad Pitt can act, eh?
But as he approaches his 48th birthday, Pitt may no longer be the first guy picked to take the field in the acting game either. Or so he says.
“We have a shelf life, no question. And mine’s coming. But there’s a few more things I wanna do before my shelf life expires.”
Such as? “I wanna get to play the grumpy old man who swears,” he grins.
He will not prolong his time in the business as his mate George Clooney has done by turning to directing.
“I have no aspirations whatsoever,” Pitt declares. “I would make a good movie, but it would take me three years of agonising and pain and sweat, and I wouldn’t see my family. It wouldn’t be healthy for me. I’ve seen the worst and I would beat them all.”
So what’s one of the world’s biggest movie stars to do but make the very most of whatever time he has left?
“A film is a big commitment as far as your time, your life,” Pitt says. “You get to do one, maybe two a year. A film, it’s a month of pre-production, and if it’s a lead (role) anywhere from three to six months, then you’ve got post and here we are now (promoting the film) … it’s a big commitment.
“I’ve found it’s gotta mean something to me or what’s the point? You’ve only got so much time … I don’t know how much time I have left and I just want it to matter.”
He says he is more passionate about acting than ever – “I’m more clear about what I wanna do” – even though it sometimes
feels like a chore.
“It’s like being in the ring and you enjoy the fight, but you’re taking punches.”
It’s his kids with Angelina Jolie – all six of them – that have brought this clarity about his profession.
“I’m painfully aware my kids are gonna be seeing these movies when they grow up,” he says. “I think about movies that affected me when I was a kid, there were ones that left that indelible mark, told me something, honed me a little bit, and … “
Is it about leaving a legacy?
“No, it’s not. Well, maybe, maybe … It’s just important that I leave something they’re gonna be proud of. So maybe.”
So it’s not just the need to play what he calls “hopscotch” with his and Jolie’s schedules – “so one of us is with the kids” – that goes into Pitt’s choice of roles these days. Every project needs to call to him on a deeper level.
(Except maybe the one he’s shooting right now, World War Z: “I’m currently being chased by zombies, I kid you not. I love zombies, man. And my boys are gonna love it regardless.”)
That’s why Pitt stuck with his next release Moneyball through several uncertain years. As the film’s eventual director Bennett Miller says, Moneyball was “a problem that needed solving”.
A quick overview of the story makes it clear why many doubted there was a film in it. And that’s before you tell the financiers it’s set in the baseball world – how do you sell that in territories that don’t give a toss about baseball?
But, says Pitt, “it’s authentic, it tells a special story”.
That story is the real-life tale of Billy Beane, who as a kid was earmarked as a future baseball star. But at 30 he quit and moved into the administrative side of the game.
“This is unheard of,” Pitt gushes, picking up the tale. “It’s every little boy’s dream to make it to ‘The Show’, they call it. He was a guy who had been groomed for this thing and discovered along the way it was not what he really wanted to do.”
What Beane ended up doing was revolutionising the business of baseball in the US by using, erm, sabermetric principles to calculate the value of individual players in a new way, to make his relatively poor team the Oakland A’s competitive against the league’s big-money franchises.
“The beautiful thing is, in the process of that, these guys that were considered has-beens or wash-outs or not talented enough got a shot to play and do their thing,” Pitt says.
So far, so full of graphs and mathematics and .219 batting averages. Whatever that means. But Pitt was hooked.
“I’m a sucker for a little guy going up against a system. I grew up in a religious background and I always questioned that – so there were some parallels for me in that,” he explains.
“This idea of value and the quiet victory spoke to me. More than I understand, I’m sure, because I got my teeth in it and really couldn’t let it go.”
Though he’s no stranger to $20 million paydays, Pitt reckons he knows a thing or two about being undervalued.
“I don’t know whether it was implanted in me as a child, but sometimes I rage at injustice … even when it’s perceived injustice, there’s no real injustice there,” he says.
Yet he related even more to Beane’s eternal questioning of the “system”.
He returns to his Christian upbringing: “I had my problems with it. It doesn’t work for me. I had a lot of questions.
“But to get to that point where I actually questioned something that I’d based my life on – it wasn’t until I was 20 that I really started separating from it, knowing that the ideas didn’t make sense.
“I remember this scary moment where I didn’t have anything to pin my existence on, to be comforted by.
“At the same time, it didn’t work for me, man. I had to go up against this thing. I’ve since … My family accepts me for who I am and they worry for me because I’m gonna burn in an eternal pit of fire. But … “
It’s fair to assume, then, that the Jolie-Pitt brood aren’t being raised in the church. The eldest, Maddox, is 10 years old. Does Pitt dread having a household full of teenagers?
“Man, I feel so rich because of those little guys. I can’t imagine it not getting just better and better.”
And besides, adds the avid motorcyclist, “I kinda like a little chaos. I kinda miss it when it’s quiet. When I get that first moment of quiet I go, ‘Oh man, this is great’.
“Then within 30 minutes … I miss that crazy running back and forth and sounds emanating from the house and someone fighting and someone banging into a wall and someone calling for Dad.”