Money­ball star Brad Pitt is keen to get a few more runs on the board be­fore his shelf- life ex­pires, writes Neala John­son

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Older, wiser and still an A- list icon.

IF YOU are choos­ing a team of the coolest dudes on the planet, you will pick Brad Pitt first.

If you are choos­ing a team to play, err, an ac­tual sport, maybe you should pick that dweeby kid wear­ing glasses stand­ing next to him.

‘‘ It was high noon,’’ re­calls Pitt, set­ting the scene of his school­yard hu­mil­i­a­tion.

‘‘ I was in cen­tre­field and . . . I wasn’t born to be a base­ball player.

‘‘ I took a ball in the face. But then I still threw the guy out of sec­ond! But then the guy said, ‘ Ewww, you’re bleed­ing’ and I was off to emer­gency.’’

Lucky the guy can act. But, as he ap­proaches his 48th birth­day, Pitt ( pic­tured in scenes from the movie) may no longer be the first guy picked to take the field in the act­ing game ei­ther. Or so he says.

‘‘ We have a shelf- life, no ques­tion. And mine’s com­ing. But there’s a few more things I wanna do be­fore my shelf- life ex­pires.’’ Such as? ‘‘ I wanna get to play the grumpy old man who swears,’’ he says with a grin.

So what’s one of the world’s big­gest movie stars to do but make the very most of what­ever time he has left.

‘‘ A film is a big com­mit­ment as far as your time, your life,’’ Pitt says. ‘‘ I’ve found it’s gotta mean some­thing to me or what’s the point? I don’t know how much time I have left and I just want it to mat­ter.’’

He’s more ‘‘ clear’’ about act­ing than ever, even though it some­times feels like a chore.

‘‘ It’s like be­ing in the ring and you en­joy the fight, but you’re tak­ing punches.’’

It’s his kids with An­gelina Jolie – all six of them – that have brought this clar­ity about his pro­fes­sion.

‘‘ We have a shelf- life, no ques­tion. And mine’s com­ing’’

‘‘ I’m painfully aware my kids are gonna be see­ing these movies when they grow up,’’ he says.

‘‘ I think about movies that af­fected me when I was a kid, there were ones that left that in­deli­ble mark, told me some­thing . . . ’’

Is it about leav­ing a legacy?

‘‘ No it’s not. Well, maybe, maybe . . . It’s just im­por­tant that I leave some­thing they’re gonna be proud of. So maybe.’’

So, it’s not just the need to play ‘‘ hop­scotch’’ with his and Jolie’s sched­ules – ‘‘ so one of us is with the kids’’ – that goes into Pitt’s choice of roles these days. Ev­ery project needs to call to him on a deeper level.

Ex­cept maybe the one he’s shoot­ing now, World War Z: ‘‘ I’m be­ing chased by zom­bies, I kid you not. I love zom­bies, man. And my boys are gonna love it re­gard­less.’’

That’s why Pitt stuck with his next re­lease, Money­ball, through sev­eral un­cer­tain years. As the film’s even­tual di­rec­tor Ben­nett Miller says, Money­ball was ‘‘ a prob­lem that needed solv­ing’’.

A quick over­view of the story makes it clear why many doubted there was a film in it. And that’s be­fore you tell the fi­nanciers it’s set in the base­ball world – how do you sell that in ter­ri­to­ries that don’t give a toss about base­ball?

But, says Pitt, ‘‘ it’s authen­tic, it tells a spe­cial story’’.

That story is the real- life tale of Billy Beane who, as a kid, was ear­marked as a fu­ture base­ball star. But, at 30, he quit and moved into ad­min­is­tra­tion.

‘‘ This is un­heard of,’’ Pitt gushes, pick­ing up the tale. ‘‘ It’s ev­ery lit­tle boy’s dream to make it to ‘ The Show’.

‘‘ He had been groomed for this thing and dis­cov­ered along the way it was not what he re­ally wanted to do.’’

What Beane ended up do­ing was rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the busi­ness of base­ball in the US by us­ing ‘‘ saber­met­ric prin­ci­ples’’ to cal­cu­late the value of in­di­vid­ual play­ers in a new way to make his rel­a­tively poor team, the Oak­land As, com­pet­i­tive against the league’s big- money fran­chises.

‘‘ The beau­ti­ful thing is, in the process of that, these guys that were con­sid­ered has- beens or wash- outs got a shot to play and do their thing,’’ Pitt says.

So far, so full of graphs and math­e­mat­ics and .219 bat­ting av­er­ages. What­ever that means. But Pitt was hooked.

‘‘ I’m a sucker for a lit­tle guy go­ing up against a sys­tem,’’ he says. ‘‘ And this idea of value and the quiet vic­tory spoke to me. More than I un­der­stand, I’m sure, be­cause I got my teeth in it and re­ally couldn’t let it go.’’

Though he’s no stranger to $ 20 mil­lion pay­days, Pitt reck­ons he knows a thing or two about be­ing un­der­val­ued.

‘‘ I don’t know whether it was im­planted in me as a child but some­times I rage at in­jus­tice . . . even when it’s per­ceived in­jus­tice, there’s no real jus­tice there,’’ he says.

Yet he re­lated even more to Beane’s eter­nal ques­tion­ing of the ‘‘ sys­tem’’ – it re­minded him of his strong Chris­tian up­bring­ing.

‘‘ I had my prob­lems with it. It doesn’t work for me.

‘‘ I had a lot of ques­tions.

‘‘ But to get to that point where I ac­tu­ally ques­tioned some­thing that I’d based my life on – it wasn’t un­til I was 20 that I re­ally started sep­a­rat­ing from it, know­ing that the ideas didn’t make sense.

‘‘ I re­mem­ber this scary mo­ment where I didn’t have any­thing to pin my ex­is­tence on, to be com­forted by.

‘‘ At the same time, it didn’t work for me, man. I had to go up against this thing. My fam­ily ac­cepts me for who I am and they worry for me be­cause I’m gonna burn in an eter­nal pit of fire. But . . .’’

It’s fair to as­sume, then, that the Jolie- Pitt brood aren’t be­ing raised in the church. The eldest, Mad­dox, is 10 years old. Does Pitt dread hav­ing a house­hold full of teenagers?

‘‘ Man, I feel so rich be­cause of those lit­tle guys. I can’t imag­ine it not get­ting just bet­ter and bet­ter.’’

And be­sides, adds the avid mo­tor­cy­clist, ‘‘ I kinda like a lit­tle chaos.

‘‘ I kinda miss it when it’s quiet. When I get that first mo­ment of quiet I go, ‘ Oh man, this is great’. Then within 30 min­utes . . . I miss that crazy run­ning back and forth, and sounds em­a­nat­ing from the house, and some­one fight­ing, and some­one bang­ing into a wall and some­one call­ing for Dad.’’

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