WASHINGTON – Brad Pitt leans back and relaxes in a Georgetown hotel chair a mile and a half from the White House, though he’s light-years away from worrying about presidential tweets.
It’s been three days since the 55-year-old actor told a French newspaper that President Donald Trump represented a “much bigger threat” on “more serious issues” than tariffs on the French vineyard Pitt owns with ex-wife Angelina Jolie.
No angry social-media missives have been thrown his way yet, though, and “truthfully, I don’t even think about it. It probably says I’m doing something wrong,” says Pitt, brandishing his signature grin.
This mind-set is in line with the overall Tao of Brad: The star of the space adventure “Ad Astra” (in theaters Friday) is self-effacing and thoughtful, kind and cool, philosophical yet also guarded.
In recent years in the public eye, Pitt has navigated a two-year divorce and got sober. He’s also found two of his most memorable characters onscreen: The enigmatic and easygoing 1960s stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” – which has Pitt in line for his fourth Oscar acting nomination – and stoic, introspective “Ad Astra” astronaut Roy McBride, who blasts off into the cosmos seeking his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones).
When Brad Pitt is on a panel with NASA officials, he’s the one with the questions.
“If we were going to make a trip to Mars, we would have to take off from the moon, because of the lack of gravity?” he hesitantly asked spacesuit engineer Lindsay Aitchison Monday afternoon, as part of a Washington Post Live event centered on Pitt’s latest film, “Ad Astra.” Joining them were the writer-director, James Gray; lunar scientist Sarah Noble; and panel moderator Ann Hornaday, chief film critic at The Post.
Aitchison’s affirmative response (“It’s helpful”), coupled with a distilled scientific explanation, was characteristic of much of her and Noble’s responses to Pitt’s earnest questions. He was soon outdone by an inquisitive Gray, who explained his granular knowledge of Neil Armstrong’s talk-show appearances by joking, “I don’t get out much.”
Gray’s commitment to portraying space with accuracy over allure is obvious throughout “Ad Astra.” The sci-fi thriller, set for a Friday release, takes place in the near future and centers on Maj. Roy McBride (Pitt), a skilled but emotionally worn astronaut recruited to determine and shut down the source of unbridled energy causing destructive power surges throughout the solar system. The source is believed to be near Neptune, which also happens to be the last known location of the Lima Project, a decades-old effort to discover extraterrestrial life commandeered by Roy’s father (Tommy Lee Jones).
Roy had long presumed his father to be dead, and the revelation that he might not be — and that the Lima Project might be causing the surges — leads Roy to embark on two journeys: the literal one to Neptune, and an equally harrowing exploration of solitude.
Brad Pitt has a great laugh: a sort of staccato, slow-rolling ah-huh-huh-huh that makes you think of surfers and cowboys and movie stars. He uses it more than once to excellent effect as Cliff Booth, the laconic stuntman-cum-sidekick who stumbles into the dark heart of the Manson family in Quentin Tarantino’s showbiz Babylon Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and not at all in the lonely-astronaut epic Ad Astra (out Sept. 20), though it often punctuates his conversation with EW about both those roles.
To say that one of the world’s most beloved and best-known celebrities is having a moment 30-plus years into his career feels, at this point, pretty much indisputable. But don’t call it a comeback, or a Brad-aissance; several times over the course of a friendly, sometimes philosophical interview he’ll insist that his only goal is “putting stories out into the world” — which in 2019 means not just starring in a pair of films that may well end up dominating the coming awards season but also continuing to head up Plan B Entertainment, the boutique production company responsible for a vanguard slate of films, including Vice, Moonlight, Beautiful Boy, and 12 Years a Slave.
That laugh comes tumbling out again when he’s asked to find the thread between Hollywood’s Cliff, a sort of beach-boy Lebowski with a singular gift for sudden violence, and Ad Astra’s Maj. Roy McBride, an almost pathologically contained spaceman on a solo mission to Mars. “Well, Cliff is by far a much easier way to live, and certainly I would say what we’re all striving for,” he says, chuckling. “But to get to Cliff’s peace of mind and acceptance in the day, you’d probably have to go through Roy’s dilemma to get there.”
TOKYO: Even though he was dressed ruggedly from head to toe — his newspaper boy hat down to the worn out shoes — Brad Pitt couldn’t get any dreamier at age 55.
To be sure, his entrance was still grand even with such a regular look, driving home the fact that we were about to have a chat Hollywood’s undisputed golden boy.
Doing press for his new movie “Ad Astra,” which he co-produces with 20th Century Fox, what we loved about interviewing Brad is how his gorgeous looks equally match his wit. He is profound and sensible at the same time, not only when choosing his movie projects but in his overall outlook in life.
We were lucky because even if he was absolutely jet-lagged from flying all around the world, his mood was also a hundred percent playful and engaged.
From the one-on-one interview to the red carpet, he was just —well — golden indeed. In fact, he even called out our name during the premiere. “MJ!” You can imagine just how giddy we were!
Fox 5’s entertainment reporter, Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) sat down with Brad Pitt to talk about Ad Astra, Fight Club, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (briefly), David Fincher, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and more. – September 17, 2019.
Actor Brad Pitt talks with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about masculinity, loneliness and his relationship with alcohol. – September 18, 2019.