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Throwback to an interview with Brad Pitt on personal and professional matters, by Khalid Mohamed

Born William Bradley Pitt on December 18, 1963, – which makes him 57-years-old now, his production company won the Best Film Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” . Five years later he grabbed the Best Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”.

Brad Pitt first caught the global audience’s attention as an itinerant hitchhiker in the road film “Thelma and Louise” (1991). Followed such high-profile successes as “A River Runs Through It” (1992) and “Legends of the Fall” (1994), and the horror film “Interview with the Vampire” (1994).

He belted out critically acclaimed performances in the crime thriller “Seven” (1995) and the science fiction film “12 Monkeys” (1995), the latter earning him an Academy Award nomination.

Pitt starred in “Fight Club” (1999) and the heist film “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), as well as its sequels, “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007). His greatest commercial successes have been “Oceans Eleven”, “Troy” (2004), “Mr and Mrs Smith (2005), “World War Z” (2013), and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019).

Pitts other Academy Award nominated performances were in “ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) and “Moneyball” (2011).

He produced “The Departed” (2006) and “12 Years a Slave” (2013), both of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and also “The Tree of Life” (2011), “Moneyball”, and “The Big Short” (2015), all of which were nominated for Best Picture. Alongside George Clooney, Pitt is one of two actors to have won Academy Awards for both Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture.

As a public figure, Pitt has been cited as one of the most powerful and influential people in the American entertainment industry. For many years, he was cited as the world’s most attractive man by various media outlets, and his personal life has been the subject of wide publicity. He is divorced from actors Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. Pitt has six adopted children with Jolie, three of internationally.

And when I had asked him about his split from Jennifer Aniston, he had retorted incredulously, “What? You mean people in India know about Jennifer and me separating?”

That was Brad Pitt, circa 2004, quite amazed that the public curiosity was majorly high on his private life Their marriage as it turned out had lasted all of five years (2000-2005). Rumours were abuzz on the Internet that the Adonis-like actor was serious about his friendship with Angelina Jolie.

Brad Pitt turned red with embarrassment, requesting that our interview should not focus on his Jennifer-Angelina dilemma. Ever so politely, he said, “The situation is a bit delicate right now. Jennifer is extremely sensitive.”

I had been invited to a press conference in New York with the unit of “Troy”. Inevitably, the recorded conversations on video, had to be essentially about the period film which also featured Peter O’Toole and Julie Christie in the supporting ensemble.

Waving the ‘only questions on Troy’ stricture aside, Pitt stated, “You’ve come all the way from India. So go ahead ask me anything but about you know what.”

Fair enough. He hadn’t visited India till then – his first visit was to be a couple of years later for the shoot of A Mighty Heart starring Angelina Jolie. In the event, the face-to-face with Brad Pitt went like this. Excerpts.

On India and Bollywood

My friends keep telling me it’s my kind of place, somewhere I could melt in the crowds, be myself. When I was acting in “Seven Years in Tibet”, I boned up on some eastern philosophy and spiritualism. I’m no expert on spiritualism but I do believe that Asia has something very valuable to offer all of us caught in the everyday grind of living, our lifestyles are overwhelmingly goal driven and materialistic which is a pity.

Bollywood sounds fascinating, but for quite a while “Monsoon Wedding” was the only film I’ve seen from India. I’m told it isn’t a typical Bollywood film which is conventionally packed with songs, dances, passion and high drama. Actually, I’d love to do a Bollywood movie, dance like crazy, fight, cry and laugh.But I’m a limited actor, I wouldn’t be able to sing my own songs.

I’d feel terribly awkward with a ghost voice singing while I try to move my lips, presumably in sync. Amazing! I don’t know how your actors can carry that off, sounds incredibly difficult. A while ago, Shekhar Kapur did talk to me about doing an international film, more Hollywood than Bollywood, but nothing happened after that. He’s an interesting guy, full of ideas.

From what I understand, Bollywood heroes are larger-than-life, fiercely protective about their principles and ideals which is pretty close to the character of Achilles I played in "Troy".

On his best performances

That’s not for me to say. We make more bad movies than good ones, which is because there are more bad intentions than good ones. If cash earnings are the primary intention, then chances are that the movie will turn out to be plain lousy. I’ve been fortunate to be in films which were made with the intention of telling stories of substance rather than making big bucks. Which is why I absolutely loved my walk-on parts in “Full Frontal” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”. I’ve been guided and influenced constantly by my directors, so I cannot select any performance as my best…or for that matter as my worst.

On male nudity

I’ve done lovemaking scenes long enough not to get embarrassed by them. It’s nothing like what you see on the screen. There you are feeling hot, sweaty and dirty under the lights, the guys with the boom mike are hovering over your face and the camera’s travelling all around your bum as if it was the Grand Canyon.

On good looks

Me, good looking? Thanks. Much has been made about my looks though I’m not the sort who feels great on seeing his mug in the mirror. Like it or not, a lot of emphasis is placed on good looks in films. I’d be a liar if I were to say that this factor hasn’t helped me. On the contrary, it has opened many doors for me.

As for being taken seriously, an actor has to deal his pack of cards right. He cannot keep throwing the card of the joker at the audience. I think I’ve dealt the right cards, I feel immensely gratified that I’ve been accepted and also regarded with a sufficient amount of seriousness…or gravitas.

On being given titles like the Sexiest Man in the World

Such titles are fine by me, as long as I don’t actually start believing that they’re true.

On middle age

I’m really enjoying my age. I see it as a badge of honour. I’ve made it so far without losing my sanity. I’d also like to believe that wisdom comes with age and I have no hesitation in trading off youthful experiences for wisdom.

On prime influences

There are some people I admire tremendously. Like Chris Rock (musician-comedian) who kills me with his humour. And Frank Gehry, the architect whose buildings like the California Aerospace Museum and an art museum in Bilbao, Spain, are wondrous, truly wondrous.

On the three films he’d carry to a desert island

"Apocalypse Now", a Marx Brothers comedy….and an XXX-rated movie.

Khalid Mohamed is a well known film critic, screenwriter and film director.

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