The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) presented its highest honor, the Maltin Modern Master Award (established in 1995, and then re-named to recognize long-time renowned film critic Leonard Maltin in 2015), to actor Brad Pitt at the Arlington Theatre on January 21st. The award was created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, and the evening was a celebration of his work, not only in his two most recent films, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Ad Astra, but also his entire film catalog.
During the two-hour presentation, featuring clips from many of Pitt’s films, and discussion with Maltin, himself, the actor talked in-depth about everything from his first Oscar nomination, his major in college, growing up as a film buff, his first impression of a professional film set, his unsuccessful first attempt at getting a SAG card, when he felt like he was actually a professional working actor, the filmmakers that have made the greatest impact on him, one of the film roles that he passed on, and a common theme in many of his roles.
“I swear to God, I had to hide a tear,” Brad Pitt says, looking over at Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio, remembering the first time Tarantino played him the José Feliciano cover of “California Dreamin’” on the set of “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” “Look,” Pitt continues. “I’m not ashamed to say it. I got a little misty.”
We’ve settled onto a couple of sofas inside a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont because … where else would we meet to talk about Tarantino’s wistful elegy to a bygone Hollywood? As the song declares, it’s a winter’s day, though the (palm tree) leaves are green, not brown, and the sun setting just beyond the swimming pool is making the sky periwinkle blue, not a dismal gray.
But otherwise, yeah, we’re California dreamin’, sitting back, talking about a movie that earned 10 Oscar nominations — three for Tarantino as a director, writer and producer, and acting nods for DiCaprio and Pitt — and also considering the good fortune that has graced their lives over the last few decades.
“You know, when I first moved out here, it was the summer of ’86 and I didn’t know [expletive]-all about Los Angeles, other than what I’d seen on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and ‘Dragnet,’” Pitt says. “I landed in Burbank at a house I could crash at for a month or so. It was just me and a maid from Thailand who couldn’t speak English. Man, I was just so up for the adventure, and so excited when I’d drive by a studio where they make movies. It meant the world to me.”
• x003 LA Times