A GOOD MOTHER

One of the best things I’ve done is en­sure my kids have

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - COVER STORY -

A glo­ri­ously frank Brad Pitt speaks his mind about the mother of his chil­dren, how his fam­ily has changed

him – and why, de­spite be­ing one of Hol­ly­wood’s hottest

lead­ing men, he’ll never be hip again. By Mar­tyn Palmer

I n his own colour­ful phrase, Brad Pitt has al­ways been ‘ an opin­ion­ated b******’, whether sup­port­ing gay mar­riage or blam­ing the re­ces­sion on ram­pant greed. Con­tro­ver­sially for one of Hol­ly­wood’s lead­ing lib­er­als, he doesn’t be­lieve US gun laws should be changed. ‘Amer­ica is a coun­try founded on guns,’ he says. ‘It’s in our DNA. It’s very strange but I feel bet­ter hav­ing a gun. I re­ally do. I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel the house is com­pletely safe, if I don’t have one hid­den some­where. That’s my think­ing, right or wrong.

‘I got my first BB gun [a type of air gun] when I was in nurs­ery school. I got my first shot­gun by first grade [aged six], I had shot a hand­gun by third grade [aged eight] and I grew up in a pretty sane en­vi­ron­ment. It’s just some­thing with us. To turn around and ask us to give up our guns... I don’t know, we’re too afraid that we’re go­ing to give up ours and the bad guys are still go­ing to get theirs. It’s just in our think­ing. I’m telling you, we don’t know Amer­ica with­out guns.’

As he ap­proaches the land­mark of his 50th birth­day next year, Pitt is a ‘force’ (a term he’ll use to de­scribe wife-to-be An­gelina Jolie) to be reck­oned with. His rep­u­ta­tion as a film pro­ducer ri­vals his finest act­ing per­for­mances.

Un­like the young ac­tor of the 1990s — too pretty and too fa­mous for his own good, ‘sit­ting on the couch, hold­ing a joint, hid­ing out’ — Pitt is now firmly in the driv­ing seat, an un­con­ven­tional Hol­ly­wood power player. This month, his most am­bi­tious pro­ject to date will be re­leased — World War Z, a block­buster zom­bie film that rep­re­sents his de­but as star and pro­ducer of a ma­jor ac­tion movie with a mas­sive (and re­port­edly mas­sively ex­ceeded) bud­get.

There is, he says as­suredly, no mid-life cri­sis loom­ing, even though his goa­tee has streaks of sil­ver. ‘I think if you get to this age with a fam­ily around you and you’re do­ing a job that you en­joy there’s a sense that you’re in the right place at the right time. Where I am now feels right.’

His pro­duc­tion com­pany, founded in 2002, is called Plan B — not to be con­fused with the rap­per of the same name. Does Pitt know him? ‘I’m afraid not,’’ he laughs laughs. ‘I’m 48 now and what­ever I get mu­sic-wise, I get from my kids and that’s it. I don’t think I’ll ever be hip again!’

But the truth is he makes very hip films. Plan B’s re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful ros­ter in­cludes The De­parted (a Best Pic­ture Os­car win­ner), A Mighty Heart (with Jolie as mur­dered jour­nal­ist Daniel Pearl’s widow), cult comic book adap­ta­tion Kick-Ass, Ter­rence Mal­ick’s The Tree Of Life (which won the cov­eted Palme d’Or in Cannes) and Money­ball, which gave Pitt his third Os­car nom­i­na­tion.

But it is his per­sonal life — and more par­tic­uarly that of his part­ner, An­gelina Jolie — that has been the sub­ject of in­tense me­dia fo­cus over the last month. In May, 37-year- old Jolie went pub­lic with the news that she’d had a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy af­ter dis­cov­er­ing she was a car­rier of the BRCA1 ‘can­cer gene’, in the hope of ex­pand­ing the dis­cus­sion of women’s health is­sues such as breast and ovar­ian can­cer.

In­deed, her ap­pear­ance on the red car­pet in Lon­don’s Le­ices­ter Square last Sun­day along­side Pitt in­evitably over­shad­owed the pre­miere of his labour of love, World War Z. But it’s clear where Pitt’s pri­or­i­ties are th­ese days and in the red­car­pet pic­tures he is beam­ing with re­lief, when he’s not af­fec­tion­ately kissing Jolie. ‘I’m very proud and I’m just re­lieved,’ he said on the night. ‘The big­gest fear as a fa­ther is keep­ing the fam­ily alive and safe and to­gether, and she did that.’

Twenty-six years on from the ‘feck­less’ ( his word) Mis­souri boy ar­riv­ing in LA with $300 in his jeans and a change of clothes stashed in the boot of his car, Pitt’s South­ern drawl re­mains as thick as syrup. There’s a lan­guid phys­i­cal­ity to his 5ft 11in frame con­tribut­ing to the unique on­screen alchemy that launched him as the ir­re­sistible grifter in Thelma & Louise back in 1991. A white shirt, un­der a grey, pin­stripe suit, is un­but­toned halfway down his chest. He still ex­udes movi­es­tar chic un­like any other ac­tor, and re­mains the in­de­pen­dent spirit I first met at the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val in 1997.

The bach­e­lor of 34 had been linked to sev­eral Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses in­clud­ing Gwyneth Pal­trow and Juli­ette Lewis. The ex­cite­ment around him was tan­gi­ble. When we next met in New York in 2004, he was happily mar­ried, or so it ap­peared, to Jennifer Anis­ton. Pitt told me then that he tried

I feel like I’ve won the lot­tery... Angie is a force – she cares deeply. Of course I want her ap­proval. I want her to be proud of

her man

not to take the me­dia spec­u­la­tion about their re­la­tion­ship too se­ri­ously.

Fast-for­ward to Cannes 2009 for Tarantino’s In­glou­ri­ous Bas­terds. Pitt was the most tetchy I’ve ever seen him. He had a hang­over that day: it showed. The pa­pers were stuffed with sto­ries that he and Jolie (whom he met while film­ing Mr & Mrs Smith, still mar­ried to Anis­ton) were about to split. ‘Yeah, we’re re­ally mis­er­able,’ he dead­panned. He clearly didn’t find the ru­mours funny.

Now, he and Jolie are en­gaged to be mar­ried. Their six chil­dren — a mini en­tourage with not a publi­cist in sight — flank their ev­ery move: Maddox, 11, adopted as a baby by Jolie in Cam­bo­dia be­fore she met Pitt; Ethiopian Za­hara Mar­ley, seven, adopted by them both from an or­phan­age; Shiloh, six, their first bi­o­log­i­cal daugh­ter; Pax, nine, adopted from an or­phan­age in Viet­nam; and bi­o­log­i­cal twins, Knox and Vivi­enne, aged four.

‘I spend a lot of time think­ing about how I’m rais­ing them — what do I want to im­part to them, the op­por­tu­ni­ties I need to give them. That takes up a lot of my day,’ says Pitt. ‘I think liv­ing in dif­fer­ent places is the best ed­u­ca­tion we’ve been able to give the kids. There are cer­tain con­fine­ments that come with our lives but that side is the pos­i­tive and it cer­tainly makes up for it.’ With homes in France, LA and New Or­leans, the fam­ily travel en masse to his or her film lo­ca­tions wher­ever they may be. ‘We’re so mo­bile. We carry our bags and pop them down in any cor­ner, any grass field, on any pic­nic bench. I like hav­ing a base camp, cer­tainly, but be­ing mo­bile you strip down the ac­cou­trements and just have what’s nec­es­sary, dis­card the rest. I like it that way.

‘Some­times I have more time with the kids and some­times the Em­pire [as Pitt dubs Plan B] re­quires more tend­ing. But the day al­ways starts with break­fast, all of us to­gether. It’s chaos and a joy. When they are young like this, it’s spe­cial, and I’m very aware they’ll be grown up be­fore we know it. I see it al­ready and I’m cling­ing on with my nails.’

Pitt says he al­ways craved a big, chaotic fam­ily. He tells me a story of watch­ing Satur­day Night Fever. ‘I have a vivid mem­ory of it. I had to sneak in be­cause it was an R-rated movie and cinemas were very strict back then. You had to buy a ticket for a PG movie, act like you were go­ing to the bath­room, and then while the ticket guy had his back turned, you’d sneak in.

‘It was this idea of a big, bois­ter­ous, gre­gar­i­ous, New York fam­ily that I liked, all hit­ting and yelling at each other. It seemed fe­ro­cious — but there was a lot of love in it. They re­lated to each other. I was re­ally af­fected by it.

‘I think it has to do with grow­ing up in a bit of a Chris­tian vac­uum. I was taught from one book [the Bi­ble] and one book only. It didn’t sit right. Then you hear things in songs and you start watch­ing films that of­fer a broader view of the world. It made me cu­ri­ous. It made me want to get out and travel. I al­ways had ques­tions.

‘I try to pass that love of sto­ries on to the kids. You know, at bed­time... when we were watch­ing the Olympics, sto­ries about the ath­letes. Or sto­ries in films. That’s what we talk about.’ The dis­cus­sions may be sur­pris­ingly adult. ‘I en­joy it when we sit down and share a film to­gether... though I’m push­ing the age of un­der­stand­ing.’

What was the last film they watched to­gether? ‘Apoca­lypto.’ Mel Gib­son’s 18-rated vi­o­lent epic about Mayan hu­man sac­ri­fice — re­ally? He laughs. ‘Yeah. The films are a lit­tle be­yond the grade but I’ll tell you it sparked some very in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion. But the Bat­man mas­sacre did make me think I can’t be com­pletely friv­o­lous about what I show my kids.’ The world got a hint of Pitt’s own up­bring­ing last July: his mother wrote to a pa­per telling Chris­tians not to vote for Obama be­cause he sup­ports ‘killing un­born ba­bies’ and same-sex mar­riage, as do her son and his fiancée.

Pitt con­firms re­ports that he and Jolie would pre­fer not to marry un­til same- sex mar­riage leg­is­la­tion is passed. He hopes the two events ‘come to­gether at the same time, very quickly’.

All in all, Pitt, as he ap­proaches 50, is pretty happy with his lot in life. ‘I re­ally feel like I’ve hit the lot­tery. The more I travel, the more I un­der­stand what op­por­tu­ni­ties I’ve had. Most peo­ple don’t have that. The lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tu­di­nal lines of where you are born de­ter­mine your op­por­tu­nity in life, and it’s not equal. We may have been cre­ated equal, but we’re not born equal. It’s a lot to do with luck and you have to pass that on.’

He and Jolie see them­selves as more than mere ac­tors. ‘We talk about work short term rather than a ma­jor game plan. It’s like, this in­ter­ests me — let’s set the divin­ing rod in that di­rec­tion and see what we can make out of it…’ That re­cently led Pitt to build new homes in flood-dam­aged New Or­leans. In film, he pre­dicts the cou­ple will work more be­hind the cam­era: he pro­duc­ing, Jolie di­rect­ing. Does he care what she thinks of his work? ‘Yes. One of the best things I’ve done is en­sure my kids have a good mother. Of course I want her ap­proval. Angie is a force — she cares deeply. I want her to be proud of her man.’

Jolie good show Left: Brad and An­gelina ar­riv­ing in Tokyo for the Ja­panese pre­miere of his 2011 film Money­ball with the Jolie-Pitt brood in tow

ChoChoppy ride Left­Left: Brad in a scene from his big-bud­get zom­zom­bie apoc­a­lypse mov­movie, World War Z. Main pic­ture: An­gelina and Brad at­tend­ing the Ber­lBer­lin pre­miere of the blocblock­buster this week

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