Brad Pitt Magazine Covers & Scans

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Post by vanity-insecurity on Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:21 pm

W Magazine



Complete Interview:
Brad Pitt
With
a critically acclaimed new film—and a personal life that’s almost
single-handedly keeping the tabloids in business—Brad Pitt is mastering
the art of superstardom.
By Kevin West
Photographs by Chuck Close
February 2009

To be Brad Pitt is to know the bowels of hotels: the hidden mazes of
back entrances, subterranean passages and service elevators daily
trudged by housekeepers and room service waiters—and sometimes
traveled by a VIP guest who needs secret conveyance to his suite. Thirty
minutes before Pitt is scheduled to arrive at the Roosevelt Hotel in
Hollywood on a Friday afternoon in December, his private security detail
is scouting a route through the basement and issuing brisk instructions
to hotel staff. In an earlier era, the mood of tense anticipation would
have suggested the arrival of a political candidate, or perhaps a
kingpin in illicit commodities, but today’s advance preparations
are just for a 45-year-old actor, albeit one whose fame calls for an
impervious security bubble to thwart overeager fans and aggressive
photographers. Intensifying the situation is the fact that, a few days
earlier, Pitt said on television that he “hates” the
paparazzi—an arguably gratuitous comment, since, who didn’t
already know that? “Now,” he announces when he blows through
the door of the 12th-floor suite, motorcycle helmet in hand and aviator
glasses still on his face, “they’re out for me.”

Pitt flashes the half-cocked grin he has deployed playing
good-natured bad boys since 1991’s Thelma & Louise, shucks off
his leather motorcycle jacket to reveal a gray cashmere V-neck sweater
and quickly walks the perimeter of the suite, glancing into the kitchen
and bedroom and pausing briefly at each window to assess the scene below
on Hollywood Boulevard. This isn’t the display of anxiety by a
hunted man, though. It’s more like the adrenaline of a high-stakes
player who knows he’s ahead in the game.

Before settling in to discuss The Curious Case of Benjamin
Button
­—his new film about a man who, thanks to the magic of
Hollywood makeup and computer-generated effects, ages
backward—Pitt orders
a large pot of coffee (“I’m in

the penthouse, I think,” he tells the room service operator).
When it arrives, he pours himself a cup and is ready to talk. In a
jocular mood, Pitt says that while Benjamin Button has been on the
“periphery” of his attention for almost a decade, he
hesitated to commit for years in part because the role required latex
jowls and bald caps. “I had sworn off all
prosthetics—really,” he says with a laugh, joking that
earlier experiences with glue-on beards (think Legends of the Fall)
taught him to insert a “quality of life” clause banning
elaborate makeup into his contract. “Life is too short.”


Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Pitt proves to be
unfailingly gracious, good-humored and game for all questions, including
those about his life with Angelina Jolie and their brood of six, whom he
refers to as “this cuckoo’s nest that we got going on over
there.” He even responds to the latest installment of the
Brad-Jen-Angelina saga. In November Jennifer Aniston told a journalist
that an earlier comment from Jolie—that she and Pitt fell in love
on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and so the film “might mean
something more than we’d earlier allowed ourselves to
believe”—was “uncool,” because Aniston and Pitt
were still married during filming.
“Listen, man, Jen is a
sweetheart,” Pitt says, as if to settle this thing once and for
all. “I think she got dragged into that one, and then
there’s a second round to all of that Angie versus Jen. It’s
so created.” Of his current relationship with Aniston, he says,
“We still check in with each other. She was a big part of my life,
and me hers. I don’t see how there cannot be [that]. That’s
life, man. That’s life.”


A few sentences into the next topic, though, Pitt circles back to
defend Jolie’s honor. “What people don’t understand is
that we filmed [Mr. & Mrs. Smith] for a year,” he explains.
“We were still filming after Jen and I split up. Even then it
doesn’t mean that there was some kind of dastardly affair. There
wasn’t. I’m very proud of the way that it was handled. It
was respectful. [The film] will mean something to our kids. It will,
that’s all.”

Pitt’s love life aside, a perhaps unintentionally revealing
remark comes in his offhand response to a question about being in
Chicago’s Grant Park on election night for President-elect
Obama’s acceptance speech. As it happened, Pitt found himself in
the city to tape a segment for Oprah and couldn’t resist the
opportunity to see history in the making. “It was just total
jubilation,” recalls Pitt, animated by the memory. “It was
the best rock concert that I’ve ever been to. Really. I could just
feel it in the air. All the boulevards were closed afterward, and so we
walked a half hour to the hotel. Everyone was just on a high.”
Asked how he was able to walk undisturbed through the crowded streets
(accompanied by Benjamin Button director David Fincher, one of the
film’s makeup artists and Pitt’s assistant), the actor
replies in an aw-shucks manner that evokes his small-town Missouri
upbringing, “Man, nobody cared about us at that moment.”


He pauses, then tosses off a telling bit of glib self-analysis:
“By nature, I keep moving, man. My theory is, be the shark.
You’ve just got to keep moving. You can’t stop.”

It’s a deft summary of Pitt’s two-decade career. As an
actor, he’s blessed with an unusual physical
agility—there’s no one whose moves the camera loves
more—and he’s likewise proved to be exceptionally adept at
navigating the challenges of his public life. Pitt has developed a
protean fame that encompasses hits and misses (1998’s Meet Joe
Black
), wealth and kudos, love and divorce. At present, he may be at his
apogee, thanks in no small part to his relationship with Jolie. At the
time of Thelma & Louise, Pitt’s appeal boiled down to
washboard abs and a tan. Now he’s famous as a family man and known
for his cultured knowledge of architecture and, more recently,
contemporary art. He and Jolie have also successfully spun the crass
commercial potential of their earlier notoriety into public goodwill, as
when they sold baby pictures of their twins for $14 million and funneled
the money into charity projects around the globe. Perhaps even more
surprising is that Pitt­—along with Jolie and his friends
George Clooney and Edward Norton, and following in the footsteps of Paul
Newman and Robert Redford­—has created a paradigm of
Hollywood stardom that turns from self-indulgence toward good works.
In the late Nineties he was something of a slacker, “spending
too much time smoking things I shouldn’t be,” Pitt recalls.
“I was asking, What’s it about? It couldn’t just be
wanting a successful movie or something. Then I got more engaged,
started studying more and [my] interests blossomed.”

In addition to his passionate advocacy for affordable
housing—his Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans is building
homes for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and the program may
expand to low-income neighborhoods nationwide—Pitt also
contributed $100,000 last year to California’s “No on Prop
8” campaign, which sought unsuccessfully to block a ballot
proposition banning gay marriage. A de facto spokesman for the cause, he
has said that he and Jolie will not wed until marriage rights are
available to all.

“People who are against gay marriage do not understand the
very freedoms that they themselves are enjoying,” he argues.
“What if someone said, ‘Sorry, no Christianity here? No
Judaism. Certainly no Mormons.’ No one would stand for that, and I
wouldn’t allow anyone to say that either. I’d fight them in
the same way.”

One could say that Pitt has stayed ahead of the fickle
public’s inevitable boredom precisely because he “keeps
moving,” continually adopting new stances before the public eye.
Less of an enigma than Jolie—who was recently described in a
front-page New York Times article as “expertly walk[ing] a line
between known entity and complete mystery”—Pitt nonetheless
still fascinates. Even at 45, he generates the heat of a teen pop
sensation.

“There’s no getting around the fact that the public
interest in him goes far beyond explanation,” acknowledges
Fincher, who also directed Pitt in 1995’s Seven and 1999’s
Fight Club. “But for the first time in our working relationship, I
see someone comfortable with that nuttiness. He’s no longer trying
to control it. He’s a man at peace with who he is, and that makes
it possible to give a performance like Benjamin Button.”

The role, perhaps Pitt’s most ambitious yet, required him to
do one thing that doesn’t come easily for the actor, notes
Fincher: to hold still. Pitt’s Benjamin Button is an emotionally
passive observer of his own life, a character broadly akin to Forrest
Gump who bears witness to the world as it shuffles him along. He’s
equally constrained by the limits of the flesh, from his early
decrepitude of old age to his final frailty of childhood. Not until
perhaps halfway through the 160-minute epic, when Button has arrived at
Pitt’s approximate age, do viewers finally get the heartthrob
shots they’ve been waiting for: Pitt tearing down a bayou highway
on a motorcycle, lounging on a Caribbean yacht and rumpling the sheets
with costar Cate Blanchett.
“Brad was initially like, ‘I don’t want to make a
movie where I don’t do anything,’” recalls Fincher,
who likens Pitt’s onscreen fluidity to that of Redford and James
Stewart. “This is a much stiller performance than he’s been
asked to give. When we first worked together, he’d want to know,
How does my character affect this scene? He wanted to have things to
do.”

Pitt acknowledges that he had time to mature into the role during
Benjamin Button’s decade-long gestation—it went through
several script overhauls and a host of directors. He recalls worrying
that the central love story between his character and Blanchett’s
might become “the ballad of codependency,” a tortured
romance that he didn’t care to step into. In the end, however,
after hashing out the project with Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth,
he viewed it as a more adult romance, in which both parties accept the
consequences of their decisions.

“It’s not a classic love story in the sense of
‘And they live happily ever after,’” Pitt explains.
“It’s two individuals who want to be with the other one
instead of needing the other one to complete them. It was very important
to us that each one was responsible for their choices.”

The film, which is based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story,
shuttles between locations and time periods with stunning
verisimilitude, and Pitt’s elaborate makeup provides its own
dramatic storyline. Daily makeup sessions lasted five to six hours.

“I got to help design [the looks] a little bit,” recalls
Pitt. “I’d go, ‘I don’t really like what’s
happening here with the jowls. Let’s kick these back a little
bit.’ I’m sure that time will not be that graceful with
me.”

The heavy mask didn’t smother Pitt’s spark, says costar
Tilda Swinton, who plays Button’s first love interest when he
reaches the age—with the mind of a teenager and the body of a
retiree—to leave home and become a merchant marine. “I had
the problematic task of delivering the line, ‘So you’re a
seaman?’” she writes by e-mail. “Even inside high-end
Hollywood latex, I saw Brad’s eyes light up. The game was
on.”

During a particularly long shoot for a voiceover montage, their
gamesmanship took, as Swinton puts it, “diabolically obscene
turns,” such as when she arranged a prop carrot and two potatoes
into a “vast vegetable genitalia,” and Pitt dared her to
leave it in the shot. “Not a soul noticed,” adds Swinton.
Sadly, the sculpture didn’t make final print; Swinton and Pitt
later confessed to Fincher, which Swinton says she now regrets.
With Benjamin Button, Pitt scratches the surface of a dark Hollywood
taboo: the inevitable aging of a hugely profitable star. Pitt admits
that his own mortality frightens him—“I’m scared to
death of death,” he says—and he also acknowledges that
becoming a father inspired him to give up a deadly 20-year habit.
“I quit smoking,” he says when asked how family life has
changed him. “That was the only thing that got me to quit. That
was it. Done.”

As if to publicize a private epiphany about arriving at the brink of
middle age, Pitt requested that artist Chuck Close, known for his
superdetailed daguerreotype portraits that reveal every skin flaw, shoot
the pictures accompanying this story. Pitt has always been a master of
using press images to convey messages about his life, as when he and
photographer Steven Klein created a provocative shoot in this magazine
that depicted him and Jolie as a Fifties-era married couple with
kids—before they had publicly acknowledged their love affair.
Close suggests that the actor, who showed “no vanity” during
the sitting, is once again playing with public perception.

“You can’t be the fair-haired young boy forever,”
says Close. “At some point he’ll have to become some sort of
character actor. Maybe a photograph of him with his crow’s-feet
and furrowed brow is good for him. It humanizes him. It makes him less
of a cinema god and more of a person.”

It’s a series of images that a publicist might have shot down,
just as a PR rep would likely have gone apoplectic about W’s
November cover shot of Jolie breast-feeding, which Pitt photographed.
But neither Jolie nor Pitt employs a media gatekeeper among their team
of handlers—although both do retain brass-knuckle legal counsel.
“A publicist isn’t going to know as much as I’m going
to know about what we want to do,” says Pitt. “It just
becomes more people to talk to. Man, we’ve got six kids. We
don’t have time for that. We’ve got to streamline. I make my
own decisions for myself anyway. I’ve never seen a publicist that
could protect me from things, protect anyone from what’s going on
out there.”

Besides, Pitt and Jolie apparently loved doing the photo spread that
accompanied Jolie’s cover, a surprisingly personal album of a
world-famous family at home in Provence, France. “We have fun
working together; these things bring you closer,” he says of the
experience. “And let me tell you, it’s really sexy to see
your loved one through the lens. I went much further [than the shot of
Jolie breast-feeding]. I didn’t show those.”
As he talks, Pitt occasionally breaks eye contact to stare out the
window. He seems to be gazing toward the Kodak Theatre down the street,
where in years past both he and Jolie have walked the red carpet at the
Academy Awards, and where they may find themselves again soon, if Oscar
buzz for their respective performances in The Curious Case of Benjamin
Button
and Changeling results in his-and-hers nominations. (Each
received a Golden Globe nod from the Hollywood Foreign Press
Association.) It turns out that he may also be looking elsewhere: The
view affords a glimpse of his house in the Hollywood Hills, one of the
“base camps” the brood inhabits in their gypsy travels
between L.A., New Orleans and France.

As he gets up to leave, Pitt says that the family is awaiting him at
home, where they’ll all have dinner together with Pitt’s
parents, who are visiting from Missouri. All he must do is evade the
paparazzi to get there—and he’s confident he knows how.
“This is my anonymity,” he says, brandishing the motorcycle
helmet in an upraised hand before he breezes out the door. “With
it, I’m just another a--hole on the streets.”
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Brad Pitt Stands By Gay Marriage


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