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Gene Siskel – May 15, 1996

The interview took place at Brad’s favorite bar in New York, Hogs & Heifers. He and Gene Siskel are sitting at the bar, and Brad is wearing a brown sweater and beige pants. His ‘current hair style’ is the color and cut as in TDO.

GENE SISKEL: I’m told that you come to this bar, along with bikers and all kinds of people. People who take their bras off and all that! What is the appeal of this place to you … a place like this?

BRAD PITT: (laughs) Uh – just comfortable . It’s like down home music and down home people, ya know?. A little feeling of home, I guess, I don’t know.

GENE SISKEL: (over clips of Brad’s movies and photos) Brad Pitt’s stardom carries a burden. After all, he’s been compared to everyone from James Dean to Robert Redford. Today he can’t walk the streets of New York without attracting a mob. But his career didn’t start out that way.

GENE SISKEL: The story is that your parents didn’t know that you took off from college.

BRAD PITT: No, I never told them, you know…I never told them exactly. I told them I was going to school. Although I have a feeling my Dad knew. He knew somethin’ was up. And, uh…I called them about 6 months later when I started doing some "extra" work.

GENE SISKEL: Now, you didn’t technically know how to act.

BRAD PITT: (laughs) No. And all the mistakes are documented on film. Which I kind of get a kick out of ’cause…listen…if anyone does want to get started and they lose faith one day, all they gotta do is watch one of the things I hopped on in the beginning. It is BAD!

GENE SISKEL: Give us an example.

BRAD PITT: Uh … let’s see, there’s this horror film called "Cutting Class." (Cuts to a clip from CC) I like it because its a testament that you can learn anything; which is kind of something my Dad instilled in me, ya know? You can pretty much learn anything you want to do.

GENE SISKEL: What would you cite as a strong point? Something that came easy — this I CAN do in acting.

BRAD PITT: This I CAN do? Um, I think sincerity … I think … uhh … is that too general for you?

GENE SISKEL: I think you’ve hit the #1 thing about you, you’re honest.

BRAD PITT: Again, that’s coming from my family, I think … something they pounded into me as a kid.

GENE SISKEL: What would happen if you lied in your family?

BRAD PITT: (laughs) See, I just … I would just feel too bad. I’d start feelin’ bad, ya know?

GENE SISKEL: Did you ever?.

BRAD PITT: Aw, sure I did. You know, you figure out what you can get away with and what you can’t.

GENE SISKEL: And what was the punishment?

BRAD PITT: Ahhhh, listen, there is no worse punishment than a look from a father who is disappointed in you, ya know? I don’t care how many months I have to stay in my room. That one look … ya know? … crushed me.

GENE SISKEL: Let’s go back to "Thelma and Louise." Tell the story of getting that part that would change your professional life.

BRAD PITT: I went in and read with Gina and she was really good to me, and really was good to me, and it was just a very fun afternoon, ya know, all around. (Cuts to clip of T&L – JD’s monologue) I actually didn’t hear until about a week later. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t worried, I was’t sweatin’ it, even though it was somethin’ that was very important to me. I just felt like this one was gonna work out. It was gonna work right. And…it did.

GENE SISKEL: For a sex scene, you are very tender. (Brad smiles) Are you aware of that? Very tender, very tender.

(Brad laughs and shakes his head "no") Do you remember how you start with her? And this couldn’t have been in any script…you played the Hand Game, right?

BRAD PITT: Right. That was something that was ad-libbed at the moment. Gina came up with that actually because we needed some kind of segue, we felt, where, um, they were just becoming friends first, ya know?

GENE SISKEL: Getting to know each other.

BRAD PITT: Yeah, getting to take notice in each other … yeah.

GENE SISKEL: It’s very sweet.

BRAD PITT: Yeah, I thought so. I felt that at the time.

GENE SISKEL: I see in your characters where your guy is looking and he wants things to be done fair. And really gets steamed if it’s not fair. Does that resonate with you?

BRAD PITT: What truly shapes an individual more than what they have succeeded at … is what they have failed at. And how they’ve made adjustments from there. And that’s always getting back to characters. That’s very interesting to me, ya know? What are their weak points? What do they NOT understand? I think that defines a character more than what he is capable of.

GENE SISKEL: Let’s go to "A River Runs Through It," where I think the character does have some holes.

BRAD PITT: The holes were, really, that he was faking everything. (Voice over a clip of B fishing). What do I think about life? I think life is about ultimately trying to find peace. That’s it. It’s that simple. And this guy had a genius way of covering it, but no idea how to get there, and eventually the rats got him. Ya know, the rats in the head. Let me tell you something. Redford did an amazing job with that film. He made us better than we were, or definitely myself. Absolutely.

GENE SISKEL: Do you know, the thing that you say about your character is what is true of most of the signature characters that Robert Redford has played? Great surface, hollow inside.

BRAD PITT: But… (he’s cut off)

GENE SISKEL: This great look. This handsome. all-American look, and hollow inside. (Brad continuess to try to interrupt) Remember at the end of "The Candidate": "What do I do now?"

BRAD PITT: Well, that goes back to that (squirms in his seat)…. I’m not sure it’s an area I really want to get into, actually. I … (He looks away uncomfortably)

GENE SISKEL: Was it the phrase "all-American great looks"? Is that what made you shut off?

BRAD PITT: (Rubbing his mouth and chin continuously ) Listen…I get very uncomfortable with the whole looks conversation. Because it’s true that looks do open doors, ya know? — they don’t keep you in the room — but they open doors. And … um … When I think of opportunity and the people that don’t get the opportunity quite as easily…ya know? I wrestle with that one a bit. And … uh … it was something I asked my Mom when I was little, ya know, because…you see the people aren’t treated the same. You see it, and you know it. And she…after asking several times, told me, one evening, she said … uh … "Well, that’s because you have more responsibility." (Long pause) Or…not that I have .. ah, sh– …I get very uncomfortable with this one. Just that ..uh…be more responsible with it. Make sure you’re paying attention. I think what she was trying to say to me. And don’t take advantage of it.

(Opens with clip of LOTF)

GENE SISKEL: Your entrance in "Legends of the Fall."

BRAD PITT: I knew that was coming! See, I wasn’t even aware of entrances as an entity until "Legends" when I saw … when here comes this guy on a horse with the hills behind him, across the plains. And then I go, "Oh, oops. I see."

GENE SISKEL: I would also say that, for a guy from Missouri, to enter a movie that way had to be kind of a kick too.

BRAD PITT: Ah, definitely a kick. Well, the whole movie was a kick in that way. ‘Cause that’s where I’m most comfortable. Get me outside, ya know. Put me in a suit in an office and you can see … or put me in "Interview With the Vampire" gear and I’ll tighten up on you. But out in the country, yeah, I feel very comfortable there.

GENE SISKEL: So why do "Interview With the Vampire"?

BRAD PITT: Just to see, ya know? Just to see if you can do it, for one. It was just about a guy trying to figure out who the hell he was, ya know? What am I here for, ya know? And that was interesting to me.

GENE SISKEL: What were you feeling at the time that led you to "Se7en"?

BRAD PITT: I just had this feeling about looking at myself and my contemporaries and just … my friends. We were at this spot where we were getting cocky or something; like we had the answers, ya know? Coming just from our little circle that we’ve been coming from. And I saw that in this guy, ya know? He was so sure of everything that he spoke of, but actually, he knew nothing. You know?

(clip from "Se7en")

GENE SISKEL: You mentioned your generation or your group. We were lucky to have the world in flux in the late sixties. Everything was changing. But it identified us. You guys, seemingly, have nothing to bump up against in this world. But that’s why we don’t know who you are.

BRAD PITT: I would say, if anything, who we are is trying to figure out who we are. I’m not sure we know, ya know? Listen, I’m not the spokesman for wasted youth (laughing), ya know, but I think it’s a generation that’s very affected and feels a little lost, ya know? And so I think that’s why all the tough guys … the thing with gangs, clinging to gangs and clinging to guns and …. It’s funny, when I was starting acting, I remember — and I fell into this as well — but we all wanted to be DeNiro or Mickey Rourke, ya know? (laughs) I’m a hick redneck from Missouri, I’m trying to be DeNiro, ya know? So I’m going: (He looks over his shoulder, imitating DeNiro). That look, right? He does that because he has to, he’s broad right here (motions to his neck). I got this pencil-neck, and I’m doing this (the DeNiro thing again), like I can’t do this ( He looks over his shoulder normally.) But I see this trap out with the young guys because we wanna … we want to have that toughness and be known to pull the strings and not have any…uh, not being affected…not letting people get to us. I think, maybe, I think there’s something there. Right off the cuff

GENE SISKEL: Brad, when you talk about playing tough characters, I immediately think of Sean Penn. He’s about as good of your group as there is, right?

BRAD PITT: When I watch the young guys and when I watch myself, I can see direct influences, ya know? He was the one guy who is around our age that we can look at and say, "Yeah, check out the ugly," ya know?

GENE SISKEL: When you say "Check out the ugly," I think what you’re saying is, and what you admire, is that he is willing to play unlikeable guys.

BRAD PITT: Unlikeable guys, but let’s see what’s behind there, right? Lets give them some feeling. Lets understand a little bit of it. And its very interesting. But he’s just the most powerful thing we’ve had, I feel, and definitely everything now can be traced to him, is what I say.

GENE SISKEL: I have this theory that people who become very successful actually do know it’s going to happen to them. When they’re very young, they know that they are special.

BRAD PITT: "Special." I …. Ya know, I’m not real comfortable with the word "special." But … somewhere (laughs), I was just having this conversation with someone who said exactly the same thing — and, yes, there was that feeling as a kid that something big … you were being prepared for something big. But the funny thing is that … now I don’t even feel like I’ve found it yet. Yeah? (smiles)

GENE SISKEL: Now, of course, people would say, if what’s happened to you isn’t ‘it’ …. This is a pretty good ‘it.’

BRAD PITT: (laughing) Yeah, now listen, I understand that. But that’s coming from the outside looking at the shell, the exterior, at all the things spinning around you.

(Brad’s voice over best clips from his movies.)

I went, ya know, a little round-faced boy, and I left everything I knew, I went to this place and I drew the winning ticket. I hit the lottery, ya know?

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