Brad Pitt talks hon­estly about his art, his regrets and the fu­ture.

A RAW CON­VER­SA­TION WITH BRAD PITT

GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS MICHAEL PATERNITI PHO­TOG­RA­PHY RYAN MCGIN­LEY

BRAD PITT IS MAK­ING MACHA GREEN TEA ON A COOL MORN­ING IN HIS OLD CRAFTS­MAN IN THE HOL­LY­WOOD HILLS,

where he’s lived since 1994. There have been other prop­er­ties in other places – in­clud­ing a château in France and homes in New Or­leans and New York City – but this has al­ways been his kids’ “child­hood home”. And even though they’re not here now, he’s de­cided it’s im­por­tant that he is. To­day the place is silent, ex­cept for the snor­ing of his bull­dog, Jac­ques. Pitt wears a flan­nel shirt and skinny jeans that hang loose on his frame. In­vis­i­ble to the eye is that sculpted bulk we’ve seen on film for a quar­ter-cen­tury. He looks like an LA dad on a juice cleanse, gear­ing up to do house projects. On the counter sit some plated good­ies from Star­bucks, which he doesn’t touch, and some cof­fee, which he does. Pitt, who ex­udes lik­a­bil­ity, gen­eral de­cency and a sense of hu­mour (dark and a lit­tle cock­eyed), says he’s re­ally got­ten into mak­ing matcha lately, some­thing a friend in­tro­duced him to. He loves the whole rit­ual of it. He de­lib­er­ately sprin­kles some green pow­der in a cup with a sifter, then pours in the boil­ing wa­ter, whisk­ing with a bam­boo brush, un­til the liq­uid is a har­le­quin froth. “You’re gonna love this,” he says, hand­ing over a cup. Seren­ity, bal­ance, or­der – that’s the vibe, at least, that’s what you think you’re feel­ing in the kitchen of Brad Pitt’s per­fectly con­structed, awe­somely dec­o­rated abode. Out­side, chil­dren’s bikes are lined up in the rack; a blown-up dragon floatie bobs on the pool through the win­dow. From the side­board, with its ex­quis­ite in­lay, to the vase on the man­tel, the house ex­udes care and in­ten­tion. And it car­ries its own sto­ries, not just about when the Jolie-pitts were a happy fam­ily, but also from back in the day, when Jimi Hen­drix crashed here. It’s said he wrote ‘May This Be Love’ out in the grotto, with its wa­ter­fall (“Wa­ter­fall / Noth­ing can harm me at all…”). “I don’t know if it’s true,” says Pitt, “but a hip­pie came by and said he used to drop acid with Jim back there, so I run with the story.” Pitt is the first to ac­knowl­edge that it’s been chaos th­ese past six months, dur­ing what he calls a “weird” time. In con­ver­sa­tion, he seems ab­so­lutely locked in one mo­ment and a lit­tle twitchy and for­lorn in the next, hav­ing been put on a jour­ney he didn’t in­tend to make but ad­mits was “self-in­flicted”. The un­for­tu­nate worst of it sur­faced in pub­lic this past Septem­ber. On a flight to Los An­ge­les aboard a pri­vate plane, there was a re­ported al­ter­ca­tion be­tween Pitt and one of his six chil­dren, 15-year-old Mad­dox. An anony­mous phone call was made to the au­thor­i­ties, which trig­gered an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion (ul­ti­mately closed with no charges). Five days later, his wife, An­gelina Jolie, filed for di­vorce. By then, ev­ery­thing in Pitt’s world was in freefall. It wasn’t just a pub­lic-re­la­tions cri­sis – there was a fa­ther sud­denly de­prived of his kids, a hus­band without wife. And here he is, alone, a 53-year-old hu­man fa­ther/for­mer hus­band smack in the mid­dle of an un­rav­elled life, fig­ur­ing out how to mend it back to­gether. Still, the en­ter­prise known as Brad Pitt in­ex­orably car­ries on. In Novem­ber, Al­lied came out, star­ring Pitt and Mar­ion Cotil­lard. At the pre­miere he was de­scribed as “gaunt”, and rumours of an af­fair with Cotil­lard, and an on-set en­counter be­tween her and Jolie, had been so vir­u­lent that Cotil­lard took to so­cial me­dia to deny them, un­der­scor­ing her love for her own part­ner, with whom she was preg­nant with their sec­ond child. Mean­while, Pitt’s pro­duc­tion com­pany, Plan B En­ter­tain­ment, found it­self win­ning a third Os­car for Best Pic­ture with Moon­light (Pitt spent the Os­cars cer­e­mony at a friend’s house). Net­flix has just re­leased War Ma­chine, a satire based on the in­ci­dents sur­round­ing the fir­ing of Gen­eral Stanley Mcchrys­tal. In the film, Pitt plays a gruff, as­cetic stand-in for Mcchrys­tal, Gen­eral Glen Mcma­hon, with big ges­tured comic panache and an un­know­ing­ness that seems to be a metaphor for the en­tire Amer­i­can war ef­fort. But on this over­cast spring morn­ing, catch­ing Pitt at this flex­ion point, I would say he seems more like one of those stripped-down Sa­muel Beck­ett char­ac­ters, in a blank land­scape, ask­ing big ques­tions of a fu­tile world. Even the gen­er­al­i­ties he em­ploys for pro­tec­tion seem meta­phoric. (He men­tioned his es­tranged wife’s name only once, when ref­er­enc­ing her Cam­bo­dia movie, First They Killed My Fa­ther, say­ing, “You should see Angie’s film.”) The lone­li­ness of this new life, he says, is mit­i­gated by Jac­ques, who spends most of the in­ter­view beached in a nar­colep­tic reverie at my feet, snor­ing and fart­ing. (“Did you ever have the un­cle that came over with em­phy­sema, and had to sleep in your room when you were six?” “That’s Jac­ques.”) On ask­ing Pitt what gives him the most com­fort th­ese days, he of­fers, “I get up ev­ery morn­ing and make a fire. When I go to bed, I make a fire – it makes me feel life. I just feel life in this house.”

GQ: Let’s go back to the start. What was it like grow­ing up where you did?

BRAD PITT: Well, it was Spring­field, Mis­souri, which is a big place now, but we grew up sur­rounded by corn­fields, which is weird be­cause we al­ways had canned veg­eta­bles. I never could fig­ure that one out. Any­way, about 10 min­utes out­side of town, you start get­ting into forests and rivers and the Ozark Moun­tains. Stun­ning coun­try.

Did you have a Huck Finn boy­hood? Half the time. Half the time, yeah. How so?

I grew up in caves. We had a lot of caves, fan­tas­tic cav­erns. And we grew up First Bap­tist, which is the cleaner, stricter, by-the-book Chris­tian­ity. Then, when I was in high school, my folks jumped to a more charis­matic move­ment, which got into speak­ing in tongues and rais­ing your hands and some goofy-ass shit.

So were you there for speak­ing in tongues?

Yeah, come on. I’m not even an ac­tor yet, but I know… I mean the peo­ple, I know they be­lieve it. I know they’re re­leas­ing some­thing. God, we’re com­pli­cated. We’re com­pli­cated crea­tures.

So act­ing came out of what you saw in th­ese re­vival meet­ings?

Well, peo­ple act out. But as a kid, I was cer­tainly drawn to sto­ries – be­yond the sto­ries that we were liv­ing and knew, sto­ries with dif­fer­ent points of view. And I found those sto­ries in film, es­pe­cially. Dif­fer­ent cul­tures and lives so for­eign to mine. I think that was one of the draws that pro­pelled me into film. I didn’t know how to ar­tic­u­late sto­ries. I’m cer­tainly not a good or­a­tor, sit­ting here telling a story, but I could foster them in film. I re­mem­ber go­ing to a few con­certs, even though we were told rock shows are the Devil, ba­si­cally. Our par­ents let us go, they weren’t neo about it. But I re­alised that the reverie and the joy and ex­u­ber­ance, even the ag­gres­sion, I was feel­ing at the rock show was the same thing at the re­vival. One is Jimmy Swag­gart and one is Jerry Lee Lewis, you know? One’s God and one’s Devil. But it’s the same thing. It felt like we were be­ing ma­nip­u­lated. What was clear to me was, ‘You don’t know what you’re talk­ing about.’

And it didn’t fuck you up?

No, it didn’t fuck me up – it just led to some eat­ing ques­tions at a young age.

The best ac­tors blur into their char­ac­ters, but given how well the world knows you, it seems you have a much harder time blur­ring th­ese days?

I have so much at­tached to this fa­cade.

But then, in War Ma­chine, you find the lit­tle ges­ture that makes the Glen Mcma­hon char­ac­ter ours. Like the way he runs, which is hi­lar­i­ous.

The run to me was im­por­tant be­cause it was about the delu­sion of your own gran­deur, not know­ing what you re­ally look like. All pen­cil legs, you know. Not be­ing able to con­nect re­al­ity to

“I EN­JOY WINE BUT I HAD TO STEP AWAY. AND I COULD DRINK A RUS­SIAN UN­DER THE TA­BLE WITH HIS OWN VODKA. I WAS A PRO.”

this fa­cade of gran­deur.

The other equally dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tic is Glen’s voice. Where did it come from?

You know, it’s a lit­tle bit of a cliché, but I just en­joyed it too much: There’s, you know, of course, Pat­ton in it. But I could not get Ster­ling Hay­den out of my mind. I’m just fas­ci­nated with Ster­ling Hay­den, off-cam­era, be­tween films, and I couldn’t es­cape that. There’s even a lit­tle bit of Chris Far­ley in man­ner­isms. And then Kiefer Sutherland in Mon­sters vs Aliens, you know, do­ing the car­toon voice. It just wouldn’t go any­where else - it kept com­ing back there.

Have you ever felt the need to be more po­lit­i­cal?

I can help in other ways. I can help by get­ting movies out with cer­tain mes­sages. I’ve got to be moved by some­thing – I can’t fake it. I grew up with that Ozarkian mis­trust of pol­i­tics to be­gin with, so I just do bet­ter build­ing a house for some­one in New Or­leans or get­ting cer­tain movies to the screen that might not get made oth­er­wise.

You’re good at play­ing that kind of char­ac­ter, the one that doesn’t have a truly ac­cu­rate vi­sion of him­self.

It makes me laugh. Any of my foibles are born from my own hubris. Al­ways, al­ways. Any­time. I fa­mously step in shit – at least for me it seems pretty epic. I of­ten wind up with a smelly foot in my mouth. I of­ten say the wrong thing, of­ten in the wrong place and time. Of­ten. In my own pri­vate Idaho, it’s funny as shit. I don’t have that gift. I’m bet­ter speak­ing in some other art form. I’m try­ing to get bet­ter. I’m re­ally try­ing to get bet­ter. And the movie pokes at this, too, right – Amer­ica’s hubris? When I get in trou­ble it’s be­cause of my hubris. When Amer­ica gets in trou­ble it’s be­cause of our hubris. We think we know bet­ter, and this idea of Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism – I think we’re ex­cep­tional in many ways, I do, but we can’t force it on oth­ers. We shouldn’t think we can. How do we show Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism? By ex­am­ple. It’s the same as be­ing a good fa­ther. By ex­em­pli­fy­ing our tenets and our be­liefs, free­dom and choice and not clos­ing bor­ders and be­ing pro­tec­tion­ists. But that’s an­other is­sue. You want me to tell you some­thing re­ally sad? I thought this was so sad. We were look­ing at – let me say, a cer­tain war film that was look­ing to pro­mote it­self. The Euro­pean posters had the Amer­i­can flag in the back­ground, and it came back from the mar­ket­ing de­part­ment: ‘Re­move the flag. It’s not a good sell here.’ I was, like, ‘Man, that’s Amer­ica. That’s what we’ve done to our brand.’

You’ve played char­ac­ters in pain. What is pain, emo­tional and phys­i­cal?

Yeah, I’m kind of done play­ing those. I think it was more pain tourism. It was still an avoid­ance in some way. I’ve never heard any­one laugh big­ger than an African mother who’s lost nine fam­ily mem­bers. What is that? I just got R&B for the first time. R&B comes from great pain, but it’s a cel­e­bra­tion. To me, it’s em­brac­ing what’s left. It’s that African woman be­ing able to laugh much more bois­ter­ously than I’ve ever been able to.

When did you have that rev­e­la­tion? What have you been lis­ten­ing to?

I’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Frank Ocean. I find this young man so spe­cial. Talk about get­ting to the raw truth. He’s painfully hon­est. He’s very, very spe­cial. I can’t find a bad one. And of great irony to me, Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear [Gaye’s touch­stone al­bum about di­vorce]. And that kind of sent me down a road.

In­tense.

But beau­ti­ful – and quite

hon­est… You know, I just started ther­apy. I love it, I love it. I went through two ther­a­pists to get to the right one.

Do you think if the past six months hadn’t hap­pened you’d be in this place even­tu­ally? That it would have caught up with you?

I think it would have come knock­ing, no mat­ter what.

Peo­ple call it a midlife cri­sis, but this isn’t the same.

No, this isn’t that. I in­ter­pret a midlife cri­sis as a fear of grow­ing old and fear of dy­ing, you know, go­ing out and buy­ing a Lam­borgh­ini... Ac­tu­ally – they’ve been look­ing pretty good to me lately.

There might be a few Lam­borgh­i­nis in your fu­ture?

I do have a Ford GT! I re­mem­ber a few spots along the road where I’ve be­come ab­so­lutely tired of my­self. And this is a big one. Th­ese mo­ments have al­ways been a huge gen­er­a­tor for change. And I’m quite grate­ful for it. But me, per­son­ally, I can’t re­mem­ber a day since I got out of col­lege when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or some­thing. Some­thing. And you re­alise that a lot of it is, um – cig­a­rettes, you know, paci­fiers. And I’m run­ning from feel­ings. I’m re­ally, re­ally happy to be done with all of that. I mean I stopped ev­ery­thing ex­cept boozing when I started my fam­ily. But even this last year, you know – things I wasn’t deal­ing with. I was boozing too much. It’s just be­come a prob­lem. And I’m re­ally happy it’s been half a year now, which is bit­ter­sweet, but I’ve got my feel­ings in my fin­ger­tips again. I think that’s part of the hu­man chal­lenge – you ei­ther deny them all of your life, or you an­swer them and evolve.

Was it hard to stop smok­ing pot?

No. Back in my stoner days, I wanted to smoke a joint with Jack and Snoop and Wil­lie. You know, when you’re a stoner, you get th­ese re­ally stupid ideas. Well, I don’t want to in­dict the oth­ers, but I haven’t made it to Wil­lie yet.

I’m sure he’s out there on a bus some­where wait­ing for you. How about al­co­hol – you don’t miss it?

I mean, we have a win­ery. I en­joy wine very, very much, but I just ran it to the ground. I had to step away for a minute. And truth­fully I could drink a Rus­sian un­der the ta­ble with his own vodka. I was a pro­fes­sional. I was good.

So how do you just drop it like that?

Don’t want to live that way any­more.

What do you re­place it with?

Cran­berry juice and fizzy wa­ter. I’ve got the clean­est uri­nary tract in all of LA – I guar­an­tee you. But the ter­ri­ble thing is, I tend to run things into the ground. That’s why I’ve got to make some­thing so calami­tous. I’ve got to run it off a cliff.

Do you think that’s a thing?

I do it with ev­ery­thing, yeah. I ex­haust it, and then I walk away. I’ve al­ways looked at things in sea­sons, com­part­men­talised them, I guess, sea­sons or semesters or tenures or…

Re­ally? So, this is the sea­son of ‘me get­ting my drink on’…

Yeah, it’s that stupid. ‘This is my Sid and Nancy sea­son’. I re­mem­ber that one when I first got out to L.A. It got ti­tled af­ter­wards.

So then, you stop your­self, but how do you – I don’t know why this comes to mind but I think of a house – how do you ren­o­vate your­self?

You start by removing all the decor and dec­o­ra­tions, I think. You get down to the struc­ture. Wow, we are in some big metaphor here now.

Metaphors are my life.

You strip down to the foun­da­tion and break out the mor­tar. I don’t know. For me this pe­riod has re­ally been about look­ing at my weak­nesses and fail­ures and own­ing my side of the street. I’m an ass­hole when it comes to this need for jus­tice. I don’t know where it comes from, this hol­low quest for jus­tice for some per­ceived slight. I can drill on that for days and years. It’s done me no good what­so­ever. It’s such a silly idea, the idea that the world is fair. And this is com­ing from a guy who hit the lottery, I’m well aware of that. I hit the lottery, and I still would waste my time on those hol­low pur­suits. That’s the thing about be­com­ing un-numb. You have to stare down ev­ery­thing that mat­ters to you. That’s it – sit­ting with those hor­ri­ble feel­ings, and need­ing to un­der­stand them, and putting them into place. In the end, you find, I am those things I don’t like. That is a part of me. I can’t deny that. I have to ac­cept that. And in fact, I have to em­brace that. I need to face that and take care of that. Be­cause by deny­ing it, I deny my­self. I am those mis­takes. For me ev­ery mis­step has been a step to­ward epiphany, un­der­stand­ing, some kind of joy. Yeah, the avoid­ance of pain is a real mis­take. It’s the real miss­ing out on life. It’s those

very things that shape us, those very things that of­fer growth, that make the world a bet­ter place, oddly enough, iron­i­cally. That make us bet­ter.

Would there be art without it? Would there be any of this im­mense beauty that sur­rounds us?

Yeah – im­mense beauty, im­mense beauty. And by the way, there’s no love without loss. It’s a pack­age deal.

Can you de­scribe where you’ve been liv­ing? Have you been in this house since Septem­ber?

It was too sad to be here at first, so I went and stayed on a friend’s floor, a lit­tle bun­ga­low in Santa Mon­ica. I crashed over here a lit­tle bit, my friend [David] Fincher lives right here. He’s al­ways go­ing to have an open door for me, and I was do­ing a lot of stuff on the West­side, so I stayed at my friend’s house on the floor for a month and a half – un­til I was out there one morn­ing, 5:30, and this sur­veil­lance van pulls up. They don’t know that I’m up be­hind a wall, and they pull up – and it’s a long story – but it was some­thing more than TMZ, be­cause they got into my friend’s com­puter. The stuff they can do th­ese days.... So I got a lit­tle para­noid be­ing there. I de­cided I had to pick up and come here.

How are your days dif­fer­ent now?

This house was al­ways chaotic and crazy, voices and bangs com­ing from ev­ery­where, and then, as you see, there are days like this – very, very solemn. I don’t know. I think ev­ery­one’s cre­ative in some way. If I’m not cre­at­ing some­thing, do­ing some­thing, putting it out there, then I’ll just be cre­at­ing sce­nar­ios of fiery demise in my mind. You know, a hor­ri­ble end. And so I’ve been go­ing to a friend’s sculpt­ing stu­dio, spend­ing a lot of time over there. My friend [Thomas House­ago] is a se­ri­ous sculptor. They’ve been kind. I’ve lit­er­ally been squat­ting in there for a month now. I’m tak­ing a shit on their sanc­tity.

So you’re mak­ing stuff?

Yeah, I’m mak­ing stuff. It’s some­thing I’ve wanted to do for 10 years.

Like what? What are you work­ing with at the mo­ment?

I’m mak­ing ev­ery­thing. I’m work­ing with clay, plas­ter, rebar, wood. Just try­ing to learn the ma­te­ri­als. You know, I sur­prise my­self. But it’s a very, very lonely oc­cu­pa­tion. There’s a lot of man­ual labour, which is good for me right now. A lot of lug­ging clay around, chop­ping and mov­ing and clean­ing up af­ter your­self. But I sur­prise my­self. Yes­ter­day I wasn’t set­tled. I had a lotta chaotic thoughts – try­ing to make sense of where we are at this time – and the thing I was do­ing wasn’t con­trolled and bal­anced and per­fect. It came out chaotic. I find ver­nac­u­lar in what you can make, rather than giv­ing a speech. I find voice there, that I need.

All the bad stuff – do you use it to tell your story?

It just keeps knock­ing. I’m 53 and I’m just get­ting into it. Th­ese are things I thought I was man­ag­ing very well. I re­mem­ber lit­er­ally hav­ing this thought a year, a year and a half ago, some­one was go­ing through some scan­dal. Some­thing crossed my path that was a big scan­dal – and I went, ‘Thank God I’m never go­ing to have to be a part of one of those again.’ I live my life, I have my fam­ily, I do my thing, I don’t do any­thing il­le­gal, I don’t cross any­one’s path. What’s the David Foster Wal­lace quote? Truth will set you free, but not un­til it’s done with you first.

Is the sculpt­ing a Sisyphean thing – rolling the rock up the hill, ac­tion oblit­er­at­ing all thoughts?

[Jac­ques in­ter­rupts] I know you’ve been lonely. I know you’ve been lonely… I find it the op­po­site. Well, I guess so, in that there’s a task at hand. You have to wrap your stuff up at night and bring or­der back to your chaos for the next day. I find it a great op­por­tu­nity for the in­tro­spec­tion. Now you have to be real care­ful not to go too far that way and get cut off in that way. I’m re­ally good at cut­ting my­self off, and it’s been a prob­lem. I need to be more ac­ces­si­ble, es­pe­cially to the ones I love.

When you go dark, do you re­treat, dis­con­nect?

I don’t know how to an­swer that. I cer­tainly shield. Shield, shield, shield. Mask, es­cape. Now I think – that’s just me. You were talk­ing about the Glen char­ac­ter in War Ma­chine and the idea of delu­sion, that we have to cre­ate our own mytholo­gies, our own sto­ries, to ex­plain the things we’re not proud of. At a real cost to our­selves.

How do you not de­lude your­self? I worry about that…

You don’t have to worry about it. Delu­sion is not go­ing to let you go. You’re go­ing to get smacked in the face. We, as hu­mans, con­struct such mouse­trap mind games to get away from it all. You know, we’re al­most too smart for our­selves.

OK. But if you had a slideshow of all your worst mo­ments as a hu­man, you wouldn’t want any­one to see that slideshow. The way you have had to live for years, that slideshow has been pub­lic.

But so lit­tle of it is ac­cu­rate, and I avoid so much of it. I just let it go. It’s al­ways been a long-run game for me. As far as out there, I hope my in­ten­tions and work will speak for them­selves. But, yes, at the same time, it is a drag to have cer­tain things drug out in pub­lic and misconstrued. I worry about it more for my kids, be­ing sub­jected to it, and their friends get­ting ideas from it. And of course it’s not done with any kind of del­i­cacy or in­sight – it’s done to sell. And so you know the most sen­sa­tional sells, and that’s what they’ll be sub­jected to, and that pains me. I worry more in my cur­rent sit­u­a­tion about the slideshow my kids have. I want to make sure it’s well-bal­anced.

How do you make sense of the past six months and keep go­ing?

Fam­ily first. Peo­ple on their deathbeds don’t talk about what they ob­tained or were awarded. They talk about their loved ones or their regrets – that seems to be the menu. I say that as some­one who’s let the work take me away. Kids are so del­i­cate. They ab­sorb ev­ery­thing. They need to have their hand held and things ex­plained. They need to be lis­tened to. When I get in that busy work mode, I’m not hear­ing. I want to be bet­ter at that. When you be­gin mak­ing a fam­ily, I think you hope to cre­ate an­other fam­ily that is some ideal mix of the best of what you had and what you feel you didn’t have. I try to put th­ese things in front of them, hop­ing they’ll ab­sorb it and that it will mean some­thing to them later. Even in this place, they won’t give a shit about that lit­tle bust over there or that light. They won’t give a shit about that in­lay, but some­where down the road it will mean some­thing – I hope that it will soak in. It’s a dif­fer­ent world, too. We know more, we’re more fo­cused on psy­chol­ogy. I come from a place where, you know, it’s strength if we get a bruise or cut or ail­ment we don’t dis­cuss it, we just deal with it. We just go on. The down­side of that is it’s the same with our emo­tion. I’m per­son­ally very re­tarded when it comes to tak­ing in­ven­tory of my emo­tions. I’m much bet­ter at cov­er­ing up. I grew up with a fa­ther-knows­best/war men­tal­ity – the fa­ther is all-pow­er­ful, su­per strong – in­stead of re­ally know­ing the man and his own self-doubt and strug­gles. And it’s hit me smack in the face with our di­vorce – I gotta be more. I gotta be more for them. I have to show them. And I haven’t been great at it.

Do you know, specif­i­cally, lo­gis­ti­cally when you have the kids?

Yeah. We’re work­ing at that now.

It must be much harder when vis­i­ta­tion is un­cer­tain?

It was all that for a while. I was re­ally on my back and chained to a sys­tem when Child Ser­vices

“THINGS GET DRAGGED OUT IN PUB­LIC AND MISCONSTRUED. I WORRY ABOUT MY KIDS BE­ING SUB­JECTED TO IT AND THEIR FRIENDS GET­TING IDEAS FROM IT.”

was called. And you know, af­ter that, we’ve been able to work to­gether to sort this out. We’re both do­ing our best. I heard one lawyer say, ‘No one wins in court – it’s just a mat­ter of who gets hurt worse.’ And it seems to be true, you spend a year just fo­cused on build­ing a case to prove your point and why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and it’s just an in­vest­ment in vit­ri­olic ha­tred. I just refuse. And for­tu­nately my part­ner in this agrees. It’s just very, very jar­ring for the kids, to sud­denly have their fam­ily ripped apart.

That’s what I was go­ing to ask…

If any­one can make sense of it, we have to with great care and del­i­cacy, build­ing ev­ery­thing around that.

How do you tell your kids?

Well, there’s a lot to tell them be­cause there’s un­der­stand­ing the fu­ture, there’s un­der­stand­ing the im­me­di­ate mo­ment and why we’re at this point, and then it brings up a lot of is­sues from the past that we haven’t talked about. So our fo­cus is that ev­ery­one comes out stronger and bet­ter peo­ple – there is no other out­come.

And the fact that you guys are point­ing to­ward that – that clearly doesn’t al­ways hap­pen. If you ended up in court, it would be a spec­tac­u­lar night­mare.

Spec­tac­u­lar. I see it ev­ery­where. Such an­i­mos­ity and bit­terly ded­i­cat­ing years to de­stroy­ing each other. You’ll be in court and it’ll be all about af­fairs and it’ll be ev­ery­thing that doesn’t mat­ter. It’s just aw­ful, it looks aw­ful. One of my favourite movies when it came out was There Will Be Blood, and I couldn’t fig­ure out why I loved this movie, I just loved this movie, be­sides the ob­vi­ous tal­ent of Paul T. [writer/di­rec­tor Paul Thomas An­der­son] and, you know, Daniel Day [-Lewis]. But the next morn­ing I woke up, and I went, ‘Oh, my God, this whole movie is ded­i­cated to this man and his ha­tred’. It’s so au­da­cious to make a movie about it, and in life I find it just so sick­en­ing. I see it hap­pen to friends – I see where the one spouse lit­er­ally can’t tell their own part in it, and is still com­pet­ing with the other in some way and wants to de­stroy them and needs vin­di­ca­tion by de­struc­tion, and just wast­ing years on that ha­tred. I don’t want to live that way.

What in the past week has given you im­mense joy? Can you feel that right now?

It’s an elu­sive thing. It’s been a more painful week than nor­mal – just cer­tain things have come up – but I see joy out the win­dow, and I can see the sil­hou­ette of palms and an ex­pres­sion on one of my kids’ faces, a part­ing smile, or find­ing some, you know, mo­ment of bliss with the clay. You know, it’s ev­ery­where, it’s got to be found. It’s the laugh­ter of the African mother in my ex­pe­ri­ence – it’s got to come from the blues, to get R&B. That’ll be in my book.

Are you go­ing to write a book?

No – I find writ­ing too ar­du­ous.

But do you worry about the nar­ra­tive oth­ers have writ­ten for you?

What did Churchill say? His­tory will be kind to me – I know be­cause I’ll write it my­self. I don’t re­ally care about pro­tect­ing the nar­ra­tive. That’s when I get a bit pes­simistic, I get in my oh-it-all­goes-away-any­way kind of think­ing. But I know the peo­ple who love me know me. And that’s enough for me.

Do you re­mem­ber your dreams?

Yeah. A few months ago I was hav­ing fright­en­ing dreams and I’d con­sciously lie awake try­ing to ask, ‘What can I get out of this? What can I learn from this?’ Those ceased. And now I have been hav­ing mo­ments of joy, and you wake and re­alise it’s just a dream, and I get a bit de­pressed for the mo­ment. Just the mo­ment, just glimpse mo­ments of joy be­cause I know I’m just in the mid­dle of this thing now and I’m not at the be­gin­ning of it or at the end of it, just where this chap­ter is right now, just smack-dab in the mid­dle. It’s fuck­ing in the mid­dle of it and, you know, I just don’t want to dodge any of it. I just want to stand there, shirt open, and take my hits and see, and see.

There’s ob­vi­ously in­cred­i­ble grief. This is like a death.

Yeah.

There’s a process.

Yeah, I think for ev­ery­one, for the kids, for me, ab­so­lutely.

So is there an urge to try to…?

The first urge is to cling on.

Then?

And then you’ve got a cliché – ‘If you love some­one, set them free’. Now I know what it means, by feel­ing it. It means to love without own­er­ship. It means ex­pect­ing noth­ing in re­turn. But it sounds good writ­ten. It sounds good when Sting sings it. It doesn’t mean fuck-all to me un­til, you know…

…Un­til you can em­body it.

Un­til you live it. That’s why I never un­der­stood grow­ing up with Chris­tian­ity – ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ – it’s all about ‘don’ts’, and I was like how the fuck do you know who you are and what works for you if you don’t find out where the edge is, where’s your line? You’ve got to step over it to know where it is.

For the photo shoot you went to three na­tional parks in a week. It sounds like a boon­dog­gle.

What’s the def­i­ni­tion of a boon­dog­gle?

I think of it as a sort of ridicu­lous ad­ven­ture.

Sounds very Ozarkian. Like some­thing I should know but I don’t. Yeah, it was great. Ryan [Mcgin­ley, the pho­tog­ra­pher] had us jump­ing in the Ever­glades, you know, like ga­tors. I fig­ured, well, if they do it on Naked and Afraid, I can do it. But they had the old wran­gler, he’s got his snake pole and it’s got this grab­ber, like some­thing grandma would use to pick some­thing off the top shelf, but fine. He took a walk-through, and if he didn’t get eaten, then re­port­edly I wouldn’t get eaten. At least that was the logic be­hind it all, but he said to me, ‘When you get to be my age, never pass up a bath­room. Never trust a fart. And never waste a boner.’

Whoa. Then, White Sands [desert, New Mex­ico].

I’ve never seen any­thing like it. I mean the dunes are so sculp­tural and mod­ern and sim­ple and vast and just in­cred­i­ble shapes. To see them white and re­flect­ing – the sky’s darker than that ground. It’s an odd, beau­ti­ful place.

And then the third?

We did Carls­bad Cav­erns [New Mex­ico]. If we’re go­ing to do a celebrity shoot, let’s make some­thing, work with an artist, see what we come up with. It’s al­ways more in­ter­est­ing.

Af­ter all this, do you feel con­strained as an ac­tor at all?

No, I don’t re­ally think of my­self much as an ac­tor any­more. It takes up so lit­tle of my year and my fo­cus. Film feels like a cheap pass, as a way to get at those hard feel­ings. It doesn’t work any­more, es­pe­cially be­ing a dad.

On the pie chart, what is act­ing?

Act­ing would be very small slice.

Do you see your­self as hav­ing been suc­cess­ful?

I wish I could change my name.

Come out as a new per­son?

Like P. Diddy. I can be Puffy now or – what is Snoop? Lion? I just felt like Brad was a mis­nomer, and now I just feel like fuck­ing Brad.

What other name would you have put on your­self?

Noth­ing. When out­side suc­cess comes, the thing I’ve en­joyed the most is when there’s a per­sonal dis­cov­ery in it. But when I find it rep­e­ti­tious or painfully bor­ing, it’s ab­so­lute death to me.

When you’re talk­ing, you kind of rub your thumb against your fin­gers quite a lot – it’s just an ob­ser­va­tion.

I don’t know. I’m tac­tile – I’m a tac­tile in­di­vid­ual. I like to feel things up.

Yeah, in high school he was the boy voted most likely to…

To feel you up. I don’t know, I guess it’s back to feel­ing. I think I spent a lot of time avoid­ing feel­ings and build­ing struc­tures, you know, around feel­ings. And now I have no time left for that.

When is the act­ing still ex­cit­ing?

I would say more in comedic stuff, where you’re tak­ing gam­bles. I can turn out the hits over and over and I just – my favourite movie is the worstper­form­ing film of any­thing I’ve done, The As­sas­si­na­tion of Jesse James. If I be­lieve some­thing is wor­thy, then I know it will be wor­thy in time to come. And there are times I get re­ally cyn­i­cal, you know. I spend a lot of time on de­sign and even this sculp­ture folly I’m on, I have days when – it all ends up in the dirt any­ways; what’s the point? So I go through that cy­cle, too. What’s the point?

Oh man, that’s a big ques­tion.

I know what the point is – it’s com­mu­ni­cat­ing, it’s con­nect­ing. I be­lieve we’re all cells in one body; we’re all part of the same con­struct. Although a few of us are can­cer­ous. It’s help­ing oth­ers. Yeah, we help each other, that’s it.

So what’s on the agenda later?

I’m anx­ious to get to the stu­dio. I think it was Pi­casso who talked about the mo­ment of look­ing at the sub­ject, and paint hit­ting can­vas, and that is where art hap­pens. For me I’m hav­ing a mo­ment of get­ting to feel emo­tion at my fin­ger­tips. But to get that emo­tion to clay – I just haven’t cracked the sur­face. And I don’t know what’s com­ing. Right now I know the man­ual labour is good for me, get­ting to know the ex­pan­sive­ness and lim­i­ta­tions of the ma­te­ri­als. I’ve got to start from the bot­tom, I’ve got to sweep my floor, I’ve got to wrap up my shit at night, you know?

A metaphor again. But it works.

Right now, I’ve got to ham­mer my own nails.

War Horse is on Net­flix now

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