This time, Asel Sherniyazova shares with an exclusive interview with actor Brad Pitt, who won Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. The interview was conducted by Serge Rakhlin, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which organizes the Golden Globes.
How did you train, or what did you have to do before you knew you were gonna be in the roof of that house and had to take your shirt off?
Uh, no. You know, I look at films like- well, depends on what character you’re doing. But in there, you know, I’m playing a stunt man so I can’t… I gotta be on the better end of shape. So, you know, I try to eat right during the film. Get some exercise. And, that’s that.
That’s that. And then when it’s off, then it’s Shake Shack and pizzas. (laughter)
Hollywood is teeming with thousands of stuntmen, many of them also dreaming of becoming a star someday. So, in that context, in portraying Cliff, THE STUNTMAN, what are your own reflections on fame, how fleeting it can be, and how, for every Cliff, there are hundreds who are struggling to make it in Hollywood?
Are we talking about stuntmen or actors?
Actors. You know, because Hollywood is filled with stuntmen who are also trying to make it as a star. And then WHAT ARE your own reflections in portraying Cliff, about fame and trying to make it in Hollywood?
Well, you know… I was sitting there, you know, I was watching the film and there’s Leo and I and Margo, but an entire cast around that and then one hundred to three hundred people, probably a hundred people on set, three hundred people total, behind us to make that. And what I thought Quentin did was really… what he portrayed really nicely, especially with the Cliff character is that, you know, when the job ends, you’re hustling for another job. And most of the industry is that and trying to continue work. And I’m talking about mainly the crew. Beautiful things happen with streaming now. Because more and more people, more than ever, talented, talented writers, directors, actors, are getting opportunities that were, you know, that weren’t available before. Because of that, we’re seeing this explosion of talent. I mean really compelling. As an actor watching other actors, I’ve found so many people that are just compelling. And they’ve always been there. So, I think now in this time of streaming, we’re gonna see… we’re seeing it. We’re gonna see more and more.
Margo Robbie talked about the first time she ever saw herself on a poster, on a movie poster. What was your first time? Where was it? What was it for? How did you feel?
They had asked us, we were in a group yesterday… I can’t remember. Really, I can’t remember. I know it’s funny. I’m sorry, I really can’t remember.
Relationship to stuntmen. Have you ever had a particular camaraderie with one of them? And if so, in what movie?
Yeah, it’s different- I mean I have great respect for stuntmen. I love stuntmen because they’re doing the hard stuff and I’m in my trailer. (laughter) So, I’m more than happy. I’m more than happy. I’m the opposite of my friend, Tom. But, it’s just different these days. You know, back then, you know, Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins was a historical combination. They were partnerships for an entire career. Bud Ekins comes up with the jump for “The Great Escape,” or the big chase. He and Steve and Bullet. You know, the directors relied on him more. And they relied on each other more. It’s different, it’s more transitory. We rely on stunt coordinators who have their own team. It’s probably because things are more litigious these days, as well. But these really amazing groups come in and, like we had Zoë Bell on this one and her and her team, they’re amazing. But what it represents is the friendships, and that we still have. You know, those people… I think I got a couple of them sitting in the back right there that I’ve had for thirty years that, you know, fill in the downtimes that make it, not just survivable, but really pleasurable. You know, those really tight friends that you don’t have to say anything with. And that was pretty much the Rick and Cliff camaraderie that Leo and I understand. Hey, I got you an answer! (laughter)
We’ve watched you become this big movie star. And you’re one of the last. We look at that poster of this film and feel like the next generations not gonna have that sort of persona anymore. What it’s been like for you on this journey?
We’re like we’re like ’80’s super models. (laughter)
Can you talk about relating probably more to Leo’s character and seeing the people that did struggle when they got older and weren’t able to maintain it and how you sort all that?
Well, I think what the story’s really about is where’s your worth? You know. Where you finding your worth? And from Margot, to Leo, to my character or Sharon, to Rick, to Cliff. There is kind of a complete human there, you know? She represents hope and looking at the future. He’s dealing with self-doubt and self-worth and he’s putting all his worth on what ends up there versus what he’s experiencing. And Cliff is more at a place of acceptance and he’s gonna make the best of whatever’s he’s got and knows that he’ll figure it out. So, when I say it’s a question of- maybe this is just me being older, but to me, it’s, you know, that seems to be the game. You know? Being human. Where we find- finding our worth and where we find it. And too often we get caught up, and especially in our industry, it’s very misleading that way. You know, finding our worth on… trying to define our worth by where things land, or what they represent. Which is a really empty shallow quest. Instead of what’s on the inside. Your person relationships, what happens in that day. That’s my take on it.
This movie’s about friendship. I wonder, who is your best friend?
Who’s my best friend? Well, again, I have friends… I’m not gonna name names. I have friends for thirty years now that I was very fortunate to meet when I was just beginning. And, it’s a group of friends. It’s not a single friend. But it’s what I say, it’s been the most valuable… it’s just what makes this thing… again, it’s bigger than this thing, you know. It’s a real love and a reciprocated kind of exchange. And, I’m really grateful for that. What? You want more? What are you looking for? Who? Name names? Nah, I wouldn’t- they get to enjoy their privacy or their freedom.
You look happy and healthy and all that stuff. Please tell u what’s making you happy and healthy. But also address something which hadn’t been thought about it in terms of men. Like when you hear about women and the casting couch, and you started in Hollywood a long time ago. Was that always prevalent? Did you feel that? Did you have to go in for any of that crap?
The casting couch kinda thing? I think… I mean, when I first started out, I certainly met a couple predatory people. When you’re really vulnerable, when you haven’t worked, I think people are most susceptible then, when they’re… especially moving out here from the Ozarks and not knowing what’s what. And someone says this way, and this is the way. You know. And I certainly, ran into a couple of those people. But you know…
How’d you handle it as a young guy?
I don’t know why I was able to… it’s, you know, it’s not anything… I’m not comparing myself to any of the experiences that have been illustrated in the last couple of years, by any means. I’m just saying that vibe was there. But at the same time, you know, I just gravitated toward really good people. People who were smarter than me about this industry or wiser than me in life. And, I don’t know. It’s made the difference. You know, I don’t want to spend any time on this, but I think it’s a really important recalibration that’s been happening here in the last two years. And it is that, a recalibration. That’s needed.
One of the most interesting sequences in the film is when your character shows up on the ranch. How was it filming that scene? How long it take?
It was, (something falls) (laughs) uh- ah ha! You’re the one. It was loaded. You know, it was loaded in the movie because, you know, it was a horrific moment in history. We all know the highlights or the… big strikes of the story. And so when we get to that point in the film it’s loaded. Anything can happen. And it’s dangerous. Being there was odd. The location was actually a stone’s throw away from the actual Spahn Ranch which has since burned down. And it had an eerie feel. And I don’t know how much of that is me projecting. The cast, the crew projecting because of this nightmare from history, but it was certainly prevalent. It was electric being there and it was good to get out of there.
The way Cliff is approaching life, the way he drives, the way he talks to people and is open to people, would describe him as fearless with a sprinkle of cockiness. how fearless are you and what would you say your sprinkle is in life?
Uh… fearless. Um… fearless. a really good skirt, by the way. Very old-timey famous people. Um, the uh… sorry got blinded by a flash and then an interesting skirt.
Well, fearless, I mean fearless the idea of that is going to climb Everest or bungee jumping or something. I’m not so much interested in that anymore. Um…. wow your flash dude. You’re killin- No, no, no it’s because we’re stacked right here. Give me two seconds. And the, uh… uh, you know I see fearlessness as sometimes, you know, speaking up or speaking out. And that I, you know, I still feel like I’m groping my way through. But Cliff, yeah, I think that’s pretty good explanation of Cliff. There’s still a little bit of devilish in him. There’s like… like it seems to me, you know, he’s like, look for the best in people but expect the worst. And he’s fine and if people wanna dig their own grave… We used to have a saying back at home it was, give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. Yeah, I think he’s okay with that.
Cliff obviously has a lot of scars on his body because he’s a stuntman, so I was wondering what’s like the one scar on your body that tells, like, the best story or best Hollywood story?
Oh, I don’t know if any tell a good story. Or certainly, a Hollywood story. They don’t tell good stories. I got this one playing baseball when I was a kid. Pop fly at high noon, it bounced off my head. But I threw the guy out, I got him out at second. (laughter) And then someone said, “Ew! You’re bleeding!” I have stuntmen, I like stuntmen. As I said; Like some of that driving I did… I didn’t do it.(laughter)
So, You have your own Rick?
Well, yeah, not that he travels, but yeah. In the movie? Yeah.
The Bruce Lee scene…Do you like Bruce Lee?
Yeah, I love Bruce Lee. I mean, Bruce Lee’s an icon from that time. And I’ll tell you something about Mike Moh. It’s the quintessential Hollywood story. Mike Moh who played Bruce Lee and is amazing. He was a struggling actor here, started a family, was having kids, decided he can’t follow this thing anymore. He’s gotta provide for his family, so he moved back to Wisconsin, I believe. And he opened up a dojo. And then heard about this part, submitted himself from across The States. And he got it and came back and was able to do the part.
Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to the Mousso and Frank restaurant? You’ve shot a few films there. Is that the kind of place you would do business meetings? Or would you take a lady for a date there?
Funny, in the early days, when I first got it, yeah. There was a lot of business meetings there. I live like 7 minutes away from it. In fact, I think the last business meeting I had there, I met a guy, we both had signed on a director. Pretty well known director at that time, we both signed on to do a script, a movie. And we’re talking about it and he’s saying, you know, “This part’s really important to me, I really like this”. I’m going… I don’t remember that. And then I’m saying, yes, but this is really important to me and I love this bit where this happens and the character does that”. And he’s going that, I don’t remember that. And we figured out we both signed on to the same movie but different scripts. And so he didn’t like mine and I didn’t like his and we parted ways at that meeting. I think that’s the last time I was there for business.
For a date? I think you could do better! (laughter) It’s a good place for the end of the day, you know, go have a cocktail.
When you hear the word “Hollywood”, what comes to mind? And what’s your favorite place in Hollywood?
Well, I live in Hollywood so that’s gonna be my favorite place. I live kinda near the sign. Under the sign, I can see the sign. Um, you know, Hollywood… Hollywood is this place to me where, you know, stories are told and sides of us are revealed and stories that… make us laugh or show us ways to be or, you know, it’s a microscope into human nature. That’s Hollywood to me. Then there’s the, I guess the old flash side of things, but that I’ve never been drawn to.
Which one of the fake news about you is real news. I read that you don’t want to act anymore. Is this true? What does it mean acting for you today?
No, that’s not what… I don’t know what that is. No, that’s not true at all. I really enjoy it. I think someone else had asked if I was retiring. I said, “No, no”. They said, “You announced in Australia”. I said, “No, I didn’t”. They said, “Yes, you did”. I said, “I was there. I really, I didn’t”. (laughter) So, I was trying to make, I think I was making the point that I see it. You know, it is a big commitment to go and leave your family and some extent, you’re doing long… you know a movie can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months. It’s 14 hours days are not uncommon. Especially driving. And, it’s also the stories. I was just trying to say it’s a younger person’s game. And as we get older, the roles are equally important, but they’re fewer and further between or something. Or I would be less interested to commit that kind of time to it. I still, you know, I’m gonna do it as long as they let me do it. I just see it as not having the verve of a younger man.
You still enjoy it?
Oh, I still enjoy it. Absolutely, And the people I get to work with. But it’s really important to me, like, if you’re gonna spend the time, who are you spending that time with? And on what?
You worked, for the first time, with Leo.
How was the relationship with him? Did you guys enjoy working together? Did you become friends?
Not really. Nah. (laughter)
Nah, he’s overrated. (laughter) No, he’s a great egg and I got a lot of respect for him coming into this. I mean, the mark he’s left on cinema. His contribution already is pretty extraordinary. And, you know, going into this thing, when it’s kinda all on your back, it’s you know… there’s pressure that comes with that and responsibility. When you have someone of Leo’s caliber, you know, he’s gonna be holding up the other end of the table and that’s a relief. And for us, we both kinda popped about the same time. We both have grown up in the same ecosystem of filmmaking of our community. We both had to negotiate our way through it to survive it. When I mean survive it, is it’s an industry that can chew you up and spit you out pretty quickly. And to find out way and I really respect his choices and what he’s done. But because of that, we have this instant reference point. We’re both… have lost that freedom of privacy in a way. There’s a lot we can relate on. And us doing this film, this story, understanding this camaraderie, about an industry that we love and hate and ultimately adore. Within a city that we love and hate and ultimately adore. You know, it was just so automatic for it. It was really, really comfy from day one. Really, really comfy. And I think it shows. You can’t fake that.
Three things about that era that you like and enjoy? Places or food?
I like the music. I like the clothes. And I like the cars. Man, that was pretty shallow wasn’t it? (laughter) Except for the music. Except for the music. The movies, too! It was an amazing time.