Good Morning America – 1997

GMA Host: Actor Brad Pitt is known for his starring roles in such films as Legends of the Fall, Interview with the Vampire, The Devil’s Own. His latest movie Seven Years in Tibet, and he plays an Austrian mountaineer who sets out to climb the Himalayas just before WW2 began. Through a series of circumstances he ends up befriending the young Dalai Lama in Tibet. Our entertainment editor Joel Segal talked with Brad Pitt about what drew him to this true story.

*Clip of Seven Years in Tibet*

Joel Segal: Terrific film.

Brad Pitt: Good.

JS: Beautiful film.

BP: Good. Thank you.

JS: And, I was very moved. I was much more moved than I thought I was gonna be. I was in tears at the end of the film.

BP: Yea, it’s tougher, especially with the Austrian accent, cause it’s very monotone. So I put some kinda feeling into it. I found it a bit of a… challenge?

*Clip of Seven Years in Tibet*

JS: I was wondering cause I hear you doing accents like you’re turning into Meryll Streep. Why the decision to do an accent?

BP: Well, for the flavor I think. And then it was tough tackling the accent, because there’ve been so many caricatures of the German accent. We really had a tough time finding the right level and a little melody for it.

JS: The mountaineering stuff, how did that feel? How dangerous, I mean, it looks dangerous, it is dangerous.

BP: Well it can’t just because of uh… I mean that’s what you hear all the stories about people going down, expert or new, it’s going down. Cause the weather changes so fast. So, you know? And they made the call if we got the shot or we didn’t and you had to go, we had to evacuate and I think they lost some camera equipment. And I’ll tell you something else; Jean-Jacques Annaud was always the last one to go down.

JS: The director.

BP: Yea.

JS: Yea. Like we have to go…

BP: Exactly, exactly.

JS: You had to go every morning.

BP: Sure. Well we had to… I think it was two plane flights and a helicopter ride and then a car ride to get to our location. And then every day was helicopter noon, like apocalypse now or something.

JS: Did he… did you ever do any mountain climbing in real life?

BP: Well we did lot from training before the film actually. We did some severe climbs actually. I mean, by my standards. But, we feel pretty good about it, we got a little cocky at the end… not in the beginning!

JS: Did you know much about Buddhism before…

BP: No. I really didn’t.

JS: What did you learn about Buddhism that made you…

BP: There were notions that I was quite struck by, of course abandoning the ego and to be in this position and this strive for fame and success and seeing so many people who would attain it, and yet not be happy. Because I think certainly in a capitalist ville, we think it will fill or patch up the holes in our lifes and then you see these people who come from… nothing by materialistic standards and yet they’ve this inner peace and there’s a happiness there. So it tells me that it’s all in perspective. And of course all the other notions of it as in the film, rejecting violence as a principle, and look at that as our strong point and not a weakness.

JS: It’s also interesting because generally you expect the man to teach the child but here is the child that teaches the man.

BP: Yea… yea… this story it’s really; one man’s redemption, one man’s learning to take responsibility. And which I think that’s something we could all use a little bit of.

JS: Yea… yea.

GMA Host: Seven Years in Tibet opens around the country on Friday. We’re gonna hear about the controversy surrounding the movie in part two of Joel’s interview with Brad Pitt, which will air, on this broadcast tomorrow.

*Part two of the interview*

GMA Host: The new movie Seven Years in Tibet tells the true story of Heinrich Harrer. He was an Austrian adventurer and tutor to the Dalai Lama during WW2. But recently discovered documents detailing his involvement with the Nazi party, have created some controversy around the film. It is a controversy that our entertainment editor Joel Segal discusses in the second part of his interview with the film its star: Brad Pitt.

*Clip of Seven Years in Tibet*

Joel Segal: I don’t understand this controversy. I’m being absolutely honest.

Brad Pitt: Well I…

JS: I don’t understand it at all.

BP: When you scream out Nazi, immediately you’ve visions of… Auschwitz and all that. Which is understandable but I think that was just jumping on the sensational side of the story before listening and kicking back and hearing all the facts. You know?

JS: Well, the facts are… Where was this guy when the war started?

BP: Right. Well, he wasn’t there.

JS: Right.

BP: He was in Tibet.

JS: Right. Where was he when the war ended?

BP: He was in Tibet. And it was this journey to Tibet that changed him.

JS: Was there a moment when you read the script that to you said; this is the moment he changes.

BP: No because it seems more to me like life, you pick up a little thing here and you get slapped in the face there and you trip over that here and little by little you start putting it together.

JS: Well I guess one of the key moments in the film is when you’re building the movie theatre.

BP: Right.

JS: For the Dalai Lama.

BP: They’d to stop because of… they were killing the worms. And the worms could be someone, a relative from a past life.

*Clip of Seven Years in Tibet*

JS: Now I know initially you wanted to shoot in…

BP: Sure I’d love to…

JS: …India.

BP: Well yea, India we couldn’t shoot in the Himalayas, in Tibet. But India… India was a second choice, but the Chinese government put pressure on them so we were booted. And… we lit up Argentina.

JS: The Chinese government, they also put pressure on the Argentine government to keep you guys out.

BP: Yea I know, it was strange. We got out there and… we were in the middle of nowhere; this little town… not even a town it was two roads, two crossroads and a restaurant, at the foothills of the Andes and they happened to hold a Chinese Steal Convention at that time, out there so…

JS: I hear that you’ve become persona non grada in China.

BP: Yea… which is a shame. There’s so much of China I’d like to see, Southern China especially.

JS: Why are they so afraid of this film?

BP: Well it’s… I think it’s a black mark on their history. Right? I would feel that. There’s gotta be some shame and you don’t wanna look at that… put it aside.

JS: When people see the film, what do you want audiences to feel when they leave the theatre?

BP: I don’t know what people are expecting, it’s a very sophisticated and a subtle film. And gosh… I don’t wanna tell people how to feel I guess.

JS: That’s a very Buddhist kinda answer.

BP: Was it? It rubs off.

GMA Host: Brad Pitt, the star of the new film Seven Years in Tibet.