• x022 Various (Candids, Killing Them Softly, The Counselor)
Brad Pitt bounds into a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, doles out a quick handshake that turns into a hug, and sprints to one of the three windows in the room. He pulls open the curtains and looks at the sleet and rain hammering Manhattan 29 floors below him. Like any commuter, Pitt is concerned about annoying travel delays and getting to work on time.
“I gotta get out of here. I go straight to set,” he says, referring to the London re-shoots of the zombie flick World War Z. “I just buzzed in and am buzzing out. I hit the plane this afternoon.”
Yes, this is what the most famous actor in the world is really like. Shockingly, weirdly, almost off-puttingly accessible. Once you get past the thick layers of security – necessary, as evidenced by a hotel employee who had earlier flipped out in ecstasy after seeing Pitt in person – and peel back all your expectations, fed by years of panting tabloid coverage of everything Pitt, you meet a guy who’s friendly, a bit tired, and exceedingly pleasant.
“He’s the most normal guy. I spent a lot of time with him on those Ocean’s movies – he doesn’t do anything to drum up that insanity. He lives in the middle of that and he’s somehow found a way to not go crazy. He’s not crazy,” confirms his friend Matt Damon, who had just seen Pitt. “I don’t know if that’s his family or his upbringing and now it’s become his children and his wife. It’s incredible – seeing him yesterday, he’s the same great guy from Missouri. I don’t understand how he keeps doing great work. It would seem to me that you would lose your ability to be a human being. I genuinely don’t know how he’s still such a great guy, such a real guy.”
The face is hardly wrinkled and the long blond locks appear unchanged, but Brad Pitt, who will turn 49 in December, is increasingly preoccupied with the passage of time and the thought that his rarefied place in movies is fleeting.
It’s now been more than 20 years since Pitt broke out as the heartthrob of “Thelma & Louise.” While nothing has diminished his status as one of the few genuine movie stars on the planet, Pitt says he’s now working as if an expiration date lurks.
“I’m definitely past halfway,” says Pitt. “I think about it very much as a father. You just want to be around to see (your children) do everything. If I have so many days left, how am I filling those days? I’ve been agonizing over that one a bit like I never have before.”
But that sense of urgency has helped fuel some of Pitt’s best, most daring work, including his new film, “Killing Them Softly.” It’s his second with Andrew Dominik, the New Zealand-born director of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” In the adaption of George V. Higgins’ 1974 crime novel, “Cogan’s Trade,” Pitt plays a hit man operating in a shabby underworld of image-conscious gangsters.
It’s almost surprising how few blockbusters Pitt has starred in over the last decade. Instead, he’s gravitated toward working with revered directors like Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”) and the Coen brothers, and shaping his opportunities by producing them. His production company, Plan B, produced both “Jesse James” and “Killing Them Softly,” as well as many of his films in between.