Brad Pitt Tries to Find the Music in Each Day
Interview by Lynn Hirschberg
Photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth
Styled by Sara Moonves
The past year has been quite busy for Brad Pitt. After starring in Bullet Train, popping up in Sandra Bullock’s The Lost City, and executive producing the critically acclaimed Women Talking and She Said, he capped off 2022 with the release of Babylon, Damien Chazelle’s frantic, more-than-three-hour ode to 1920s Hollywood. In it, Pitt stars as Jack Conrad, a suave, if somewhat messy, Hollywood luminary grappling with his fading star power. Even before its December release, the ambitious film, over a decade in the making, received nine Critics Choice Award and five Golden Globe nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Pitt. For W’s annual Best Performances issue, the 59-year-old Oscar winner reflects on his extraordinary career so far.
How did Babylon come to you?
I’d been following Damien since Whiplash. The script came, and it was 180 pages. I said, “This thing is a masterwork. But what’s going to get cut?” Because it’s really hard just to get 120 pages in there. And he said, “Nothing. I’m going to pace it a minute a page. I’m gonna have it moving.” We talked about GoodFellas and Casino and some of the other Scorsese pics. And sure enough, he did it.
You play a movie star at the end of the silent era of filmmaking. There’s a certain melancholy to the character.
Sadly enough, that melancholy may be my natural mode of being. Some congenital melancholy. But no, I think there’s a weariness that takes over with the character as he moves on. There’s a world-weariness that I can certainly relate to a little bit. At this time, more of us are trying to tear each other down than help each other up. I get a little weary.
The last time I saw you, you told me that dance was going to be in your future.
Did I? [Laughs] I’m sure I was joking, but dance has become a part of my future. Or my present.
In the movie, or in other things, too?
Just in life. I found myself enjoying a bit of a dance lately.
Do you have a go-to song?
Not really. Oh, I have a guilty pleasure. What’s the Spanish version of Jon Secada’s thing from the ’90s? I can’t do it justice.
Hell, no. I’m not going to sing. [Laughs] This is why I became an actor.
There’s so much physical energy in this film. You must have done some kind of dance training.
No, you know Damien’s films; there’s a rhythm—a syncopation—to the scenes. The way he puts it together and doles out the information. There’s always this kind of movement that I think comes from his early days as a jazz drummer. I find that I’m looking for that in life, you know? We all need to find the music in the day.
What was your first love scene?
It would have been in the show Dallas. I had to roll around in the hay in a barn. I don’t think I had a line. I was just rolling and frolicking.
And then there was the famous scene in Thelma & Louise.
Yeah, that was my entry into the big leagues, I guess. Geena [Davis] was so sweet and kind and delicate. That love scene, I think, went on for two days of shooting. She took care of me.
Did you know when you read the script that the film would have such an impact?
I just thought, I’m the guy for this. But they went through a couple of other actors. I didn’t get the part at first, and then it came back around and I didn’t get it again, and I went, “Huh. All right. Moving on.” And then it came back around again. I feel like it was three times.
That film holds up really well.
That’s really Geena and Susan.
Have you ever crashed a wedding or a party?
I have crashed a wedding party. It was on the set of Mr. & Mrs. [Smith]. We were filming down in this Deco building downtown, and up in the penthouse above, we kept seeing people going up and down. It was a wedding party, so I crashed it. And they were okay with it. [Laughs]
Have you ever been starstruck?
In the early days, sure. I remember moving out here [to Los Angeles], and the first week I went to a Fishbone concert in the valley. I saw John Cusack, and that was the first I had ever seen a man or woman who actually worked in film. It was really strange, being in the same room with someone who you watched on the screen.
What are some of your pet peeves?
You know what my pet peeve—my Larry David moment—is? It’s when people are in the passing lane and they’re going as slow as everyone in the regular lanes. They block the whole thing, and you can’t get around. I gotta move. And when I feel trapped, I go all Larry David on ’em.
What do you do?
I try to be nicer these days. [Laughs] I might flick a bright. See if that gets anything. I might, like, move over into the rearview mirror a couple of times, see if that does anything.
Your not-so-secret skill is sculpture.
It’s something I had always wanted to try and always talked about. I’ve done some strange stuff over the years, always building toward this. Like, I took a mold of an entire tree that was wider than my arms, and I took a mold of a World War II tank. I had these ideas that I wanted to explore. I did these things, and I was laying track. [Laughs] I was moving this way, but I didn’t know how to go about it. And then I met my now dear friend Thomas Houseago. After our first meeting, I wrote to him and said, “Hey, you know, how do you feel about me coming into your studio for two weeks? Won’t be in your way; I just want to watch—I want to see how it’s done.” He said, “Sure.” I got the building next door, and I’m still there, years now.