Charlie Rose – May 13, 2004

Charlie Rose: Brad Pitt is here. In 1991 he gained watched attention as a swindling drifting JD in Thelma & Louise. Since then his focus on diverse characters and his tendency to seek interesting projects has made him one of Hollywood’s most interesting actors. Here is a look at some of his work.

*Clip of Thelma & Louise, A River Runs Through It, Legends of the Fall, Se7en, 12 Monkeys, Seven Years in Tibet, Fight Club, Snatch, Spy Game, Ocean’s 11*

CR: This month he takes a lead in Troy, based on Homer’s The Iliad. Here is the trailer, for the film.

*Trailer of Troy*

CR: I am pleased to welcome Brad Pitt to this table for the first time.

Brad Pitt: Thank you Charlie, great seeing you.

CR: My pleasure.

BP: Yea, great being here.

CR: Achilles. Interesting guy. Why’d you wanna play him?

BP: Interesting. Introspective. Isolated. Tormented. Iconic character. There was a lot there, there was a lot to go after. The physical demands. The research. The personalization of the character. He himself is [Brad is trying to find words to describe what he wants to say]… as Homer shapes him, we never quite know where is till the end. He does this really interesting thing where you believe you know who Achilles is. He’s this vain guy searching for glory. He’ll then throw back, he will take you back in time to a scene when he was very benevolent and giving and so his character is constantly unfolding. The second thing he does, which I was really taken with is that that character is forged by experience. And by his responses to experience. Which are often very extreme, sometimes despicably extreme.

CR: Yea.

BP: But this I understand more than adopting a dogma or a belief system. That it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to be a bastard at times. If you can right that wrong, if you can learn from it and take it, that gets very important.

CR: People are making a big deal about this notion. One; you were reluctant; they’d to talk you into this, number one!

BP: To some degree.

CR: To some degree. You liked the character so.

BP: Yea, very much. You know I’m… I get in my way a lot. And it just seemed too obvious.

CR: Was it the right moment to play that kinda role?

BP: Well it was, I sat the bench for a couple years I hadn’t done anything so I was anxious to take something on that would be a little more, difficult. I mean, had to throw everything into this one. Open that up.

CR: What’s the physical challenge?

BP: Well the physical challenge is… you know there is a current movement for, it’s kinda the MTV cutting style where things are getting faster, harder, slash-boom-insert-insert-insert. And Wolfgang Petersen and Simon Crane who, Simon comes from ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ I mean he’s top of the game. We’re really adamant about us learning the fights and doing, doing them ourselves so we’d get, pulling the camera back and you could see it unfold, and you could see the strategy, you could see that, you know you’re going for a kill-shot every time. There is nothing superfluous or Van Damme about it [Brad striking a fighting pose with his arms and smiling]

CR: Yea exactly.

BP: You know, it is…You’re going for a kill-shot. You understand the chest worth of the fight and this one, by the time we get to the Achilles/Hector fight, which to me is, something, I think it is the great show-down.

*Clip of Brad and Eric Bana practicing their big Achilles/Hector fight*

BP: And it, it unfolds slowly and it’s almost balletic. Until of course you almost forget that someone’s gotta go.

CR: What’s terrific about this movie also is, A; is the historical notion for coming from the Iliad and others, it is the characters that surround you.

BP: Yea…

CR: Peter O’Toole.

[Brad letting out a sigh]

BP: Eric Bana, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Rose Byrne, Orlando Bloom… Diane Kruger and on we go.

CR: Julie Christie.

BP: Julie, and Julie Christie yea. I was afraid we were gonna have a little Oedipus subplot we were gonna read through there or something. She is to me just the pinnacle of the late 60s, early 70s. She’s the barb.

CR: Yea, take a look at this; this is King Agamemnon, Brian Cox discussing the siege of Troy with Achilles. And ya gotta understand that what is here is this notion of the warrior yet there is conflict between the two of them because Achilles does not have a lotta respect for the king or suggest he has different motives. Here it is.

*Clip of the movie Troy*

CR: I mean that’s a classic leading man. Warrior, leading man.

BP: Good shot. Good movie stuff.

CR: [Laughs] But they’ve been wanting you to do this for a long while. Did you just look for the right role or have you been building to it or you needed to do this other thing because you knew you could come to this at a certain moment in your life?

BP: I think it’s more that. I think. I really didn’t understand what I had to offer more than anyone else could do, it seemed to me we’re all kinda doing the same version. I needed to I guess work some things out for myself. Plus I come from this school, when I started, I come from the school of Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, these guys were… these were the guys that flipped me out man. And the 70s films of course.

CR: And especially Sean in terms of character roles.

BP: Absolutely. So this became my drive, this became my interest, I wanted to see you know, how I stood up, what I could find that was original that was a reason for me being there.

CR: Did this in any way invigorate a sense of wanting to act more? I mean you’ve got 3 films coming out.

BP: No it still felt the same I felt I graduated again in a way. But still went in it about the same and still you know, tormented through it. And still would like to change a few things on the way out.

CR: What do you mean about changing a few things on the way out?

BP: Well there’s always a couple you know? That you wanna…

CR: As we were sitting through the composite you said ‘I chunked that’.

BP: Yea I chunked that.

CR: What does that say?

BP: It means you know, I chunked this and…

CR: You chunked this? You blew it or?

BP: I fluffed it. Meaning it could be better or have another shot in it.

CR: Yea.

BP: You know we… you and I both architects, you know architect junkies.

CR: Right.

BP: I remember when Disney, I mean not Disney, Hall when Bill Balance Spain opened up I went to go see it, I stood across the water and you see this laid out the Guggenheim there by Frank Gehry and I literally, I got shivers, it was the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. Cut to I got home and I see Frank and he’s standing on the same spot it’s a television program and they’re asking him about it and he is standing there and he is telling the story of how, standing on that spot he looked and saw. And all he could see was what he wanted changed and how he blew it for the clients and oh my God what have I done? So I think there’s some kind of, I think their fires would push as you propels you to the next. To some degree. So I don’t take it so seriously.

CR: You also had to buff, I mean you really had to go through a certain kind of denial.

BP: Yea.

CR: To get ready for this.

BP: The body is an amazing machine. It is an amazing machine, if you tell it to perform in these areas and feed it the proper fuel, it needs to acclimate, it will acclimate. It will get to the point where, you injure it, you rip it and it will repair itself stronger because you’re telling it; it needs to be able to carry this kinda weight.

CR: Just take a look and we’ll explain it afterwards.

BP: Okay.

CR: Here it is.

*Clip of the movie Troy, in which Hector and Achilles are talking before their infamous battle*

CR: Tell me a little about shooting that. From the cinematographer’s standpoint what it was that you, you know, coming to that scene.

BP: Well we’re… again; we’ve rehearsed that for months and months and months…

CR: And it was shot late.

BP: It was shot at the end. In fact, we only had that fight scene to shoot, we had 5 days left and one week and a hurricane came in, whipped out the wall of Troy, which is about the size of half a stadium, football stadium, and then also I tweaked my tendon so, so we were shut down.

CR: This is when you were down in California… in Mexico.

BP: That’s right.

CR: And… you shot it at the end and then you’d to take 3 months off.

BP: Yea 2 and a half months off it was and then we came back and shot that what you just saw; the fight. Actually the dialogue was done right before the hurricane hit it [laughs] and we had to come back.

CR: The idea of the performance here, how much did you get from some kind of exchange with Peter and Brian Cox and…

BP: All of it and we certainly will get to Peter after this.

CR: It’s excellent.

BP: But at this point, it’s all about vengeance you know? We’re dealing with Achilles, Achilles’ Heel, which is the metaphor for that weakness that actually becomes the strength, that’s really we’re talking about; you make the, we’re talking about the heart, I gotta say.

CR: Yea.

BP: And… here at this point he has… Homer talked about; when I blindly set myself against another, you, and I draw this line, that it actually becomes evil, when I blindly set myself against. And at this point here we wanted to see the vengeance, you know, this is a, at this point we’re dealing strictly with vengeance and we as Americans we really steeped in a vengeance tale, we probably take it too far, I don’t know if it is so healthy. And at this point that’s what we’re dealing with. But we take it, I wanted to see rage to the point of insanity. Cause in the Iliad there’s a great line where he talks about it; he wishes Troy an evil death, he doesn’t just say death, he strictly says an evil death. That’s very telling.

CR: This is where you see the rage in which he, in what he does with Hector’s body.

BP: Right.

CR: After that it shows you the extension of the rage.

BP: Right, which still doesn’t help him at all.

CR: And the vengeance of his cousin.

BP: That we’re building to. Yes the vengeance of his cousin. Or cousin in our… he was a friend in the Iliad.

CR: Right.

BP: And… look where we’re building to is where the enemy, the enemies sits down and Priam comes and asks him for the big favor…

CR: Set this up, we’re gonna see this now, this is my favorite moment in the film and I think you said it is one of your favorite?

BP: Yea it is for several reasons. It’s one of the greatest moments, I’ve ever read. It works in the script, David Benioff’s credit, and I get to take a shot at this with Peter O’Toole. It’s very special to me just to have that opportunity, I was really savoring that and here at this point ‘course Peter O’Toole playing Priam father of Hector, is coming to ask for a favor after I’ve done something completely despicable.

CR: We’re not saying this out of the interest of the film.

BP: Yea.

CR: But he’s coming to ask something out of humanity of the king.

BP: That’s right.

CR: And to pay respects to.

BP: That’s right and at that point Achilles is completely walled off. He’s impenetrabele, he’s invulnerable and…

CR: Cause he too is experiencing enormous pains and loss.

BP: Loss, he’s suffering loss and the vengeance hasn’t licked it. This is where we are. Priam comes in and, it’s a scene constructed to disarm him, dismantle his ego in a way, completely disarm his body and it doesn’t come at Achilles with force, which is what he understands, it comes at him with the weapons of peace; with words. And through that, this line that separates you and I or side versus side. My side, your side, And Achilles, Priam gets a raise, and he witnesses almost his own reflection and they form this kingship of suffering, they both have lost what they love. And from there it’s a real turning point in the film, it’s a turning point a vengeance tale, it takes it a step further it’s really the point of our world.

CR: Roll the tape, here it is.

*Clip of the movie Troy: scene with Brad and Peter O’Toole*

BP: .. but even enemies can show respect.

CR: But even enemies can show respect.

BP: Yea, that was a line that..

CR: What do you get from working with Peter O’Toole?

BP: I was just gonna say.. I love him. This takes me right back.

CR: Sitting here, watching it.

BP: Yea, just had to have that moment. But Peter O’Toole himself, beyond the legend, he’s a true force. He’s a force of nature. He comes from a different school that I don’t understand. He’s got this eloquence. This gift of story telling and he’s just a laugh to be around.

CR: You know what’s interesting about this whole fame business though? It comes about in part, because of craft, and skill and experience, it also comes about because it’s the nature of the business you’re in. It also comes about because of DNA, the way you are, looks, all of that.

BP: Right.

CR: Do you shy away from it? Do you accept it and say ‘it is part of what I am and what I do so therefore I’m keeping my pride’? How do you handle that?

BP: I used to wrestle with it a lot, more than I do now. I accept it pretty much, yea. For what it is. And, you know, it just became much easier when I gave up on wanting understanding.

CR: Yea.

BP: Wanting justice in a way.

CR: What do you mean about that?

BP: Just wanting the record to be right. Set the record straight and..

CR: And so at some point you come to a place where they are gonna take the pictures and they are gonna write pretty much stories that they wanna write.

BP: Right. And, it all comes out on a wash. As we say back home.

CR: It’s a kind of game.

BP: Yea, oh it is a definite game. No question. Clooney does it best. He’s the best actually.

CR: Why is that?

BP: He just has.. One, he knows how to enjoy it more, he knows how to play with it. And his quick wit. You know, he’s ahead of the game.

CR: Tell me about you and architecture.

BP: I don’t know what it is. Well, I do know a little bit what it is. I’ve always been a bit of a junkie for it. And it’s one of the few art forms that you can be inside and you can experience it by being smaller than it. And I have a strict belief that architecture has an ability to lift your soul. That we are susceptible by our surroundings. Like the imprisoned self. That would be the opposite. And that there are these people now who are leading us to a future and.. I will tell you the misperception, of architecture. Is that it’s all aesthetics and it’s really not aesthetics and when you sit with these guys, these masters like Gehry and Hadid..

CR: Koolhaas.

BP: And Koolhaas, sure sure!

CR: All of them have sat on this table.

BP: Yea, and I watched. The science first, the study, the study of how people will move to the space, how they want to use it, how they.. the weather, the climate, how we can harness air through, how can we better peoples lifes? And that is the science. And that is where architecture starts.

CR: And finding its flinty with titanium in a..

BP: A whole other different act.

CR: A whole notion of.. Or you can end.. I think you’ve shown some real interest in this, according from what I’ve read of Frank, if you go to his place, in Los Angeles.

BP: It’s an experiment.

CR: It’s an experiment. And you can see how..

BP: An open ended experiment.

CR: And the impact of computer technology, especially to him, with his creativity, you know, just opened up a whole new.. I mean, he couldn’t have done what he did with at.. I mean he couldn’t have done what he did at Disney without the impact of the technique that now makes his ability to see how it’s possible.

BP: These are pioneers, they move the lit off the box. Literally. And yes his house is one big jam session, isn’t it? You just see him trying this out and this out. And trying that out in this corner. But..

CR: You know what’s great about him is it’s a guy in his 70s.

BP: Yea.

CR: You can talk to him. His enthusiasm for the world and for the ideals and for the pushing. And for his work too.

BP: And the future. Where we can go. Show us the future. Show us how we can better our lifes. How we can life. It’s why Disney Hall is so important. For LA.

CR: And the achievement of the sound quality. It is stunning.

BP: Right. It immediately became an iconic symbol. And yet now there’s, I think there’s 13 acres around, but they’re already, it’s already hijacked by developers.

CR: But how do you take this fascination, looking back to movies and all with its fascination with it. In terms of what you do. I mean, cause to look at it. I saw one story with some terrific pictures and what it showed to me was an, a an aesthetic it did show an aesthetic but it also showed a real sense of feeling about material. About stones.

BP: Yes.

CR: And about wood and about other materials.

BP: Yes I.. I’m certainly not, throwing myself in the lot with these people you’ve mentioned. I guess I’m always looking for a harmony. The harmony of materials. I’m at the comfort of more a Bauhaus understanding which is all about materials. Let the grain in the wood be the decoration. You don’t have to fill it up. There is beauty here in nature. Harness that and show that. So, me myself I’m always looking for harmony and I always seem to be looking for a way out. [laughs] Exits!

CR: Exit meaning what? Exits to?

BP: Meaning freedom. I want the walls to go away.

CR: And the connection to outside as well.

BP: And that’s right in fact.

CR: And the use of light.

BP: All of it, it’s all about light. And how the light bounces around the place. Or not!

CR: Have you ever thought that you, do you look at acting and say this is what I was born to do? This is what I should be doing. For a whole combination of circumstances.

BP: No not at all. In fact I get a little frustrated cause I think there’s so many things to do. There is so much to do.

CR: But where do you think you are in terms of some sense of enthusiasm for it?

BP: For acting? Well in two years you do need to get away from it, or I needed to get away from it. To fill up again. And I got a jones for it again, here with Troy.

CR: What comes across, and it comes across especially in here, this is a piece, I don’t know if you’ve read it. [holding up a copy of the 2004 vanity Fair magazine] Or whether you like it.

BP: No I haven’t.

CR: It’s a very good piece! It is Vanity Fair which is coming out. And it’s by Leslie Bennetts.

BP: Uhuh.

CR: And it’s, she captures in print, an extraordinary sense of reflective and interesting mind at work. I mean all you gotta do is read and make your own judgment about it. In terms of someone who really has, who’s really on a journey, and is enjoying it, you know? Yet at have the same time understands with a kind of sharp eye realism about the nature of the game.

BP: Okay. Okay. I’ll read it and tell you what I think.

CR: But part of it is this notion to two is that is it any part of you, cause what comes across is this intelligent, very bright, curious mind. Reflecting our conversation. Is there any part of you that is sort of got characterized or stereotyped or whatever because of looks and acting.

BP: Sure. Sure.

CR: Cause people that have no role set and that frustrates you.

BP: I’m also more in command of my exploration as I get older. I really appreciate getting older, so far anyways. I’ll take wisdom over youth any day.

CR: Really?

BP: Oh absolutely. But also I like watching the new younger generation coming in. I see exactly where they’re heading.

CR: You mean the 20-21 year olds.

BP: Yea sure, and you try to tell and they listen or they don’t.

CR: Yea but did people try to tell you and did you listen?

BP: I probably didn’t. I don’t know if anyone did. But yea to some degree I mean.. not giving.. I’m sure half of it was projections on me for the way I look and also and half of it was me just from not, not really speaking up. You know? I was much more internalized. I was much more inside.

CR: How do you influence. What’s the fact. In this sort of, rather what appears to me a remarkable marriage and peace.

BP: Same thing, we always called it an exploration as well.

CR: The marriage itself?

BP: The marriage itself. And Jen and I have been, well we succeeded most in getting everything on the table. That’s been our law at home. It’s been about our only law. Everything. It’s gotta end up on the table. It may take us a little while to get there but. And there is a great freedom that comes. And we’ve become better friends because of it.

CR: Who’s had the most influence on you?

BP: I gotta say. I still go back to Rourke and Penn. Cause that’s when I really started focusing.

CR: Because of the way they were doing it. And the choices they made.

BP: Yea it’s..

CR: And the characters they created.

BP: An amazing junction position of toughness and hardness with also this softness of soul and heart and need. It’s very difficult.

CR: And that’s Achilles, that’s difficult.

BP: And that’s Achilles, you can trace everything back to those guys for me.

CR: Hector and Achilles or.

BP: No no anything I’ve done.

CR: Back to..

BP: Back to Penn and Rourke. Yea. This one I actually, going into it, I started, I drew a little from Nicole Kidman from The Hours. I thought she had great internal turmoil. And also I used Webber from The Sacrament of Keys.

CR: Really?

BP: Yea! He’s got this key on the court. He’s a great warrior on the court. But he also is in constant conflict. There’s an immense rage there. And there’s also a great warrior’s heart there. So I actually used him as a starting point. There’s a great tone there and you can probably find it in there.

CR: When you’re with guys like Redford, who’s directing you or Norton who’s a colleague, O’Toole, Brian Cox! Do you guys talk about acting and do you, is there time for that? And does it influence you? I mean if drink with Peter O’Toole.

BP: Not a lot. I think we absorb each other and then we tell war stories.

CR: …

BP: Yea I see that. I think we’re constantly studying each other in a way but not in a. Yea it would have to be.

CR: Does this side, does the diction side come easy to you?

BP: No it’s not my strong point. And I’ve done a few of them now where people think it comes easy to me to.

CR: It’s how you make it look easy.

BP: I work. I work very hard at it. I gotta work and I gotta work and I gotta first find a music and that I can understand. I gotta find a melody.

CR: You gotta hear.

BP: I gotta hear and I gotta understand. I gotta understand the song.

CR: How do you get there?

BP: Umm [scratches his head] repetition and I need someone to come in and show me the notes. Meaning the sounds. The specific sounds. Certainly when I came out here, my accent was, I still swallow my words, I just kinda talk like this and not annunciate much and just kinda talk like that [laughs after doing this barely understandable accent].

CR: Do you like the physicality of acting?

BP: Yea I do. I do, I feel better there.

CR: You’re at one with your body.

BP: I don’t know I just can feel again the music. If that makes any sense whatsoever.

CR: Any passion to, if you think of the architect. Is there any passion for you to do, to combine this great application you have which is an interest in the visual and design and in architecture and understanding. And also the future. Is there a story of a great architect?

BP: Well that’d be getting back to The Fountain.

CR: I know it is but would you redo that?

BP: There was actually talk about it. The thing is, it would have to be so dense and complex it would have to be a 6 hour movie. I don’t know how you do it under 4, not to loose, really loose what they were after.

CR: Does it interest you?

BP: Yes it does. Actually, I believe Oliver Stone is on it now.

CR: Is that right?

BP: Yea. It’s a possibility.

CR: To make it as a feature film.

BP: As a possibility yes. As a feature film.

CR: If you weren’t doing this, what would you most want to do?

BP: I like to build. Just make things. I’ve kinda reduced it down to this, I just wanna make things.

CR: Just make things?

BP: Yes just make things but whatever that intend is, wherever that takes me.

CR: Brad Pitt. Troy is the film. It has everything that you could want for an epic film, it’s a great story. Terrific performance by him. A great supporting cast. As you saw Brian Cox, O’Toole, and here is Orlando Bloom [holds up a magazine] as Paris and Eric Bana who plays Hector and there is a great conflict between 2 proud men. Achilles and Hector. It has all the elements of a film. It is summertime.

BP: And may I say: directed by Wolfgang Petersen! Who is really responsible for keeping this whole juggernaut on track.

CR: I thank you for doing this again and it’s great to see you. We’ll do it again.

BP: Great. Thanks Charlie.

[They shake hands]

CR: Pleasure. Thank you.