Jean Black, a makeup artist who never gives interviews, talks about working with Brad Pitt and his famous face for almost 30 years, and what it is that makes him so special.
You’ve probably never heard of Jean Black but she’s been behind the scenes with Brad Pitt for over 27 years, a quiet cog in the machine that is his career—and an integral part of his personal life. Black is a makeup artist who has worked with Pitt on about 30 of his films (they recently counted it up for fun), all of his editorial shoots, and all of his red carpet events. Needless to say, a working relationship like this in Hollywood, the most fickle of towns and industries, is very very unusual.
Black’s relationship with Pitt is endearing. She talks about him like he’s a real, true friend because, well, that’s exactly what he is. She’s camped with him on a boulder for A River Runs Through It, trudged through mud for Fury, and been with him throughout his incredible personal and professional rollercoaster of a life. She’s had the kind of experience with a celebrity that just doesn’t exist for most normal people. She’s the one in the trailer with him, she’s the one holding cold spoons to his eyes when he’s tired and looks it, she’s there when he’s falling in love, and there when he’s getting divorced. And she has something (many things) to say about why Pitt is so lovable. Furthermore, she’s the ultimate authority on what exactly it is about Brad Pitt’s face that churns us all into a frenzy. Reluctant to take too much credit for her life’s work, Black insists that Pitt’s appeal is largely due to his charm—to some kind of magical charisma that he himself is not aware of. We talked to her about some of his most iconic movies, what it’s like to be friends with the ultimate celebrity, and how working with Pitt is the easiest job in Hollywood.
Summer is coming and, in America, that means it’s time to hit the national parks. So we took Brad Pitt and photographer Ryan McGinley tumbling across three of them: The Everglades, White Sands, and Carlsbad Caverns. Then we sat down with Pitt at home in L.A. for a raw conversation about how to move forward after things fall apart.
Brad Pitt is making matcha green tea on a cool morning in his old Craftsman in the Hollywood Hills, where he’s lived since 1994. There have been other properties in other places—including a château in France and homes in New Orleans and New York City—but this has always been his kids’ “childhood home,” he says. And even though they’re not here now, he’s decided it’s important that he is. Today the place is deeply silent, except for the snoring of his bulldog, Jacques.
Pitt wears a flannel shirt and skinny jeans that hang loose on his frame. Invisible to the eye is that sculpted bulk we’ve seen on film for a quarter-century. He looks like an L.A. dad on a juice cleanse, gearing up to do house projects. On the counter sit some plated goodies from Starbucks, which he doesn’t touch, and some coffee, which he does. Pitt, who exudes likability, general decency, and a sense of humor (dark and a little cockeyed), says he’s really gotten into making matcha lately, something a friend introduced him to. He loves the whole ritual of it. He deliberately sprinkles some green powder in a cup with a sifter, then pours in the boiling water, whisking with a bamboo brush, until the liquid is a harlequin froth. “You’re gonna love this,” he says, handing me the cup
The worst kind, too. The kind who lets a plant starve to death. The evidence, at two opposing corners of his office in Beverly Hills; skeletal remnants that long gave up hope of ever being watered. He’s been away for 10 months, he says. An explanation, if not exactly an excuse. Regardless, I vow to expose his plant-murdering ways because the American public deserves to know, and besides, at 52 one should take whatever notoriety one can get.
I’m at Plan B, the film production company Pitt co-founded in 2001 and now owns, and I’ve decided to impress him with my knowledge of architecture, something he learned about while helping to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I figured I’d introduce him to Shigeru Ban, famous for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, and other disaster-relief projects around the world. But there, sitting on Pitt’s bookshelf, is an entire monograph of his work.
Near his record player are Joe Strummer’s albums with the Mescaleros, not a surprise, but also rare books on fringe culture, including Danny Lyon’s “The Bikeriders,” which are. This is a revelation not because Pitt is a megastar, which can lead to a certain out-of-touchness, but because he’s a father, and the first thing that goes after having kids is coolness. The first thing that comes are jorts. So when he gets up to shake my hand — dressed in a white T-shirt, white jeans and a white fedora — he seems more like the Dude than a dad.
B A B Y L O N Brad as: Unknown Director: Damien Chazelle Status: Filming begins ? Released: 2021
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