Interview – February, 1992

BRAD PITT – by Alison Powell

As the sweet-mannered bandit, JD, in last year’s Thelma & Louise, Brad Pitt brought us the movies’ sexiest deadbeat of recent times. Raised in Missouri, Pitt moved to California five years ago. He calls Los Angeles ‘base camp’ rather than home, and travels as much as possible. On the eve of a monthlong trip to the Netherlands, he gave us his thoughts over cigarettes and pie at a deli on Sunset Boulevard. Forcing symbolism on the initials JD, I mentioned James Dean. He refused the comparison, however: ‘It’s a label thing. It would be a compliment if you could take it seriously.’

Pitt, twenty-eight, believes he is most likely to succeed in Hollywood as a character actor. This spring, in Johnny Suede, he is decidedly droll as a lovable rockabilly dufus who stumbles through life with only Ricky Nelson records and a pair of cherished suede slip-ons for solace. In the summer, he appears as a World War II vet who discards real life for a cartoon one in Ralph Bakshi’s Cool World. Then, in the fall, he appears as a rebellious younger brother in Robert Redford’s film of Norman maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It.

Alison Powell: So you’re going to Amsterdam tomorrow?

Brad Pitt: Yeah, I rented this place on a canal. One whole wall is windows. I bought gives couch cushions. I’ll use two for chairs and three for sleeping on.

AP: You’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe. Is something pulling you there?

BP: No, it’s just the same idea as going to Montana and living there for a few months.

AP: A different venue?

BP: Yeah, but you see people striving everywhere.

AP: You have a lot of movies finished right now.

BP: It’s one’s dream to have them back-to-back. But you’ve got to step away for a moment and fill up again.

AP: What do you think of Hollywood culture?

BP: This place has been good to me, but everyone makes judgements about it from afar. You can sit around and mope about it, or you can find a kind of peace. It goes back to that silly deal, ‘Is the glass half-empty or half-full?’ The truth is, it’s both. There are people, including me, who thought happiness was the place. This is why I left Missouri. I’ve found happiness is a way of travel.

AP: What got you interested in acting?

BP: A love of movies. I thought, if I’d been born in California, I’d have a shot at them. Then you realize you can go there. Very simple. There’s a difference between going toward something and running away from something else.

AP: Were you running away from Missouri?

BP: In a sense, yes.

AP: When you were growing up, did you have the feeling that as soon as you were able, you’d get out of there?

BP: No. I just decided one day, and two weeks later I left.

AP: How did your family respond to that?

BP: It didn’t surprise them. Of course, they were a little concerned. I told them I was going to art school. That was the excuse.

AP: What did you think when you arrived in LA?

BP: It was wide open. Perfect.

AP: For a beginning?

BP: Yup.

AP: What kind of haul have you had since then?

BP: Of course it’s hard. It’s all part of the climb. I wouldn’t want to go back now.

AP: Are you surprised by your success?

BP: I don’t want to sound pompous. No, I’m not surprised. But a whole lot of new steps come with it.

AP: Now that you’ve made these different types of movies–

BP: What did you think of Johnny Suede?

AP: I liked it. It reminded me of After Hours, or any movie that isn’t reliant on a formula.

BP: You know what I like about it? It’s got magic. It’s got magic as simple as thinking of a song you haven’t heard in a really long time, and then hopping in your car and there it is on the radio.

AP: DO you think Johnny Suede is an innocent?

BP: Absolutely. It’s about a guy who.. Oh, I don’t want to go into this.

AP: What? Why? Say it.

BP: No. Oh, well, OK. It’s almost about self discovery.

AP: I agree.

BP: You know, how you try to emulate this or that, and then you wake up one morning and realize what an idiot you’ve been.

AP: Yes, there is a light bulb floating over Johnny’s head that does go on every one ince a while. What was your view of the controversies surrounding Thelma & Louise?

BP: People have to have something to argue about.

AP: What about you?

BP: I’m having trouble living up to that six-thousand-dollar orgasm. (laughs) I prefer to look at the film as about people i a dead-end situation, and then an event puts them on a different path. They can become victims of that, or they can take control of it.

AP: You didn’t think the men were painted as buffoons?

BP: They were, but it didn’t say that all men are idiots.

AP: Your character and Jimmy (Michael Madsen) were more complex.

BP: Yes, but they fell short. We all fell short. But why get offended? I mean, relax, people.

AP: Are you part of the Hollywood Harley-Davidson crowd?

BP: Nah, can’t see it. Behind that big metal Harley there’s a lot of loss. It all goes back to the cock salesman telling you what you need to be a man. When do you become a man? That’s what I’ve been thinking. I’m asking myself what kind of man I am.

AP: And how are you doing with that question?

BP: When I say ‘man,’ I mean that highest standards. I know very few men to look up to. We don’t have rituals anymore, and if we do, we’re just going through the motions. That’s why I appreciate the older films, because they show a man standing up for his principles.

AP: Like Mr Smith goes to Washington?

BP: Like Redford. He portrayed the kind of man men wanted to be, and the kind man women wanted men to be.

AP: What’s Redford’s A River Runs Through It about?

BP: It’s a very poetic story about a family that can’t communicate. A family of God.

AP: I think it’s painful for American families to discover they are not perfect.

BP: The first time I read Hermann Hesse, or Dostoevsky, I was surprised to find they ask the same questions we’re asking now. We think we’ve come so far, but we really haven’t.

AP: Maybe one difference is that we don’t have religion in the same way now.

BP: Oh, I see religion everywhere. Personally, the word scares me.

AP: Did you have a Southern Baptist upbringing?

BP: Yes, and I don’t want to knock it. It’s a beautiful thing, actually. It’s that comfort. So perhaps I’m too hard on that word. I’ll say all these things now but if you come back to me in a few months, it’ll be all different.

AP: That’s how it if for someone who makes experience the point of their life.

BP: I hope so!

AP: Do you think Hollywood is able to give us meaninful stories we can connect with?

BP: The bucks get in the way and the cock salesman gets in the way. But there’s always someone sitting in a little coffeehouse pouring out their heart on a big cheap pad. The book and the script for A River Runs Through It were so beautiful, I don’t know how you could leave that film with your heart not rippes apart.
That, I like.

AP: When you travel, do you talk to people, or do you keep to yourself

BP: I wander. But not aimlessly. I always end up in the right place.