Brad Pitt


The sun is setting over LA and the paparazzi outside my Hollywood hotel have been waiting since early morning.

I occasionally go to the window and rustle the curtains just to tease them a little but in fact their lenses are trained several floors above my room where, in the penthouse suite, Brad and Angelina are possibly making mad passionate love and/or having a good laugh about Jennifer Aniston‘s catty outburst, which that very week has been wall-to-wall tabloid news.

I try to get the low-down from the Mexican room service guy who somewhat makes up for the fact that coffee and a sandwich cost 60 quid by telling me that Brad had oatmeal and orange juice and left a good tip. I was hoping for something a little wilder, that perhaps he walked in on Angelina wearing a “Rachel” wig or that Brad was morosely drinking himself to sleep having raided the minibar, but even with a big tip the most he would tell me is that Brad is “a little smaller than you’d expect”, which I would have known anyway. Midgets rule Tinseltown.

The next day, having conquered my own minibar demons, I make my way towards the iconic Warner Brothers Lot, where Brad and the rest of the cast of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — a brilliant adaptation of an F Scott Fitzgerald short story — are waiting for the world’s press. LA, I notice on the way, is hideous, like a huge car park, divided up by palm tree lined highways. It could be the most soulless place on earth but it’s here that what Susan Sarandon calls “the dream factories” are to be found; the big Hollywood studios. Actually “factory” is a fairly apt description because without their stars and sets, the vast, warehouse-like spaces that most movies are shot in look more like timber yards or aircraft hangars. In the middle of one such cavernous lot Brad, Cate Blanchett and the others are waiting to answer questions from the assembled press.

A better description of him than “small” would be “compact”. In a grey waistcoat and fitted trousers he looks trim and lean with a flop of blond hair hovering above those pale blue eyes. Sitting bolt upright on his chair he seems intense, articulate and very serious. The fact his name has always been a byword for “handsome” is something of a mystery to me. In fact, nothing about him seems very movie star-ish. I have seen third-rate stage actors with haughtier body language.

Cate Blanchett on the other hand is every inch the diva. She seems to exist in a different light to everyone else — her skin is so translucently perfect that to make her seem like her actual age of 39 the make-up artist for Benjamin Button told me they had to “draw” CGI pores onto her. She purrs and oozes and laughs at herself with the self-confidence of someone who has it all and knows it. At one point she catches herself, saying, “Oh, listen to me going on and on as if everything I say is so fascinating and important.” But in fact it was; we listened rapt to every word.

Generally, however, the set-up of the press conference seemed designed to militate against anything terribly fascinating or important being said. Someone from the studio was on hand to break questions into bite-size pieces to feed to Brad, Cate and their co-stars.

The problem with Ireland being counted as part of the “rest of the world” (so far as the dream factories are concerned anyway) is that for an audience with Hollywood royalty we must often sit with European and Asian journalists, who aren’t embarrassed to ask things like “if you could be an animal, what would it be?” (As one Japanese hackette once asked a very confused Daniel Craig while I sat to her left with my mouth open). On this occasion a German lady seemed determined to expound at length to Brad and Cate on what she thought of the film (her opinions seemed very similar to what was written in the press notes). They listened politely while the rest of us stared at her back and willed her to have a heart attack.

Despite this deadly combination of stage management and Euro-hackery Brad did come out with a few nuggets. He told me that the film — in which he plays a man who ages in reverse, starting out as a wizened infant and ending as a senile young boy — had given him some interesting insights into his own ageing process. “Once you hit 40 you really have to examine the math of it all,” he said (he turned 45 a few days after we had met). “I’ll trade wisdom for youth any day.”

Of course, everyone in the room wanted to know how he was feeling about Jennifer Aniston — who had just told a magazine that Angelina was “not cool” for saying that she, Angie, had fallen in love with Pitt while they were filming Mr and Mrs Smith and Aniston was still married to the future Mr Jolie. Perhaps sensing this, Brad emphasised his more domestic side — the implication being that he was first and foremost a father and husband and not merely a hunk being torn limb from limb in a Hollywood cat fight. “I had a whole other life and probably got to experience more than I should have,” he said cryptically, perhaps referring to his partying bachelor days. “And it kind of ran its course, hit a dead end.” Fatherhood, he added, “is a natural direction and one I felt I would go in, but not until it felt right with Angie.”

It’s a relief to hear her finally mentioned, but then you’d expect Pitt to have some idea of what we’re after. He majored in journalism at the University of Missouri after all, though he did leave early to go to LA to make his fortune. His southern Baptist parents may have despaired of his recklessness but this, of course, turned out to be a move that would eventually make him one of the most famous men in the world.

Financing himself with part-time work as a deliveryman and chauffeur he eventually hacked his way on to the set of Dallas, among other shows. His big break came in Thelma and Louise when, as the grifter with the rippling torso, he caused a million hot flushes. From there his ascent up Hollywood’s greasy pole was spectacular as he mixed reliably bankable movies (Legends of the Fall, Interview with the Vampire) with quasi-indie fare (Snatch). He also forged a close relationship with David Fincher (Fight Club and Se7en), with whom he also teams up on Benjamin Button.

As all this was happening, of course, he was becoming a synonym for sexy and Brad had leading ladies falling at his feet. Juliette Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow were but precursors to the media feeding frenzy that would continually surround his union with Jennifer Aniston and the fallout as seemingly he dumped her for Angelina Jolie.

And it is to this subject that we are dying to turn our attention. I try, in a very tortured way, to relate the Angelina-Aniston throwdown back to “the project” by asking Brad if his role in the film had given him insights into the soap opera and “bubble of fame” he found himself at the centre of. He narrows those blue eyes at me and says that growing up he had always had a sense of what it was like to be an outsider — “I think all of us do” — even before he entered that biz they call show. Sensing that there might be a moment of revelation on the cards, the German lady thought of something else she’d forgotten to say earlier and it was clear we would get no further comment on l’affaire d’Aniston.

Before we leave though, I am going to get a little more Brad time. He stops the press conference to hold up a Dictaphone — which I realise with shock and awe is mine — and asks, “Whose is this?” I meekly raise my hand and Brad cheerfully tells me in front of everyone that he’s “just going to flip over the tape as it seems to have stopped” and checks if this is OK with me. It’s highly surreal. I feel my own hot flush — my tape recorder has been blessed by Brad on the Warner Lot — it’s probably worth millions now. And at the same time I have the curious feeling of room full of journalists willing me to have a heart attack.


~ by Donal Lynch on February 11, 2009.

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