BRAD PITT UNVEILED - by Evan Serpick

Brad Pitt had one request for his first Rolling Stone cover: 'Don't shoot me without my shirt on.' Since lanching his career as sex object in Thelma & Louise, the budding actor wanted to be taken seriously. He had suggested former RS staff photographer Mark Seliger and photo editor Jodi Peckman join him on a road trip to Mexico for the shoot. 'He wanted it to be an event,' says Seliger. For three days, they roamed Mexicali, taking pictures in a brothel, in small villages and among kids playing soccer, several of which appeared with the story inside the magazine. On the final day of shooting, they went to a dried lake bed at dusk. 'The whole time he told us he wouldn't pose without his shirt,' Peckman recalls. 'I said, 'I want to get a headshot, but head shots really look better when you can see your neck, so can you take your T-shirt off?'' This explains why Pitt is still clutching his shirt in the cover shot - he didn't know it was in the frame.

Both Peckman and Seliger remember the excursion as one of their favorite shoots. 'It was amazing and surreal,' Seliger said recently. 'We were in the desert with the beautiful sunset, and we had Neil Young playing in the background. I felt we'd unveiled this new, giant film star.'

'There's always one last good interview that somebody gives, in between being brand-new and being a huge star,' says Chris Mundy, who wrote the cover story. 'This was that interview.'

Mundy's story began in a North London pub where a guarded Pitt told him, 'The truth is, I don't want people to know me.' But when the two boarded a train to Scotland, defenses came down. While Mundy's story portrayed Pitt as a complex young man, the cover painted a simpler picture. 'People were ripping it out and hanging it on their walls!' says Peckman.

Of course, it's possible Peckman thinks highly of the cover because it features her pants. After admiring the trousers all weekend, Pitt asked to try them on for the shoot. She never got them back. 'I saw him a few years later, and he was with Gwyneth Paltrow at the time,' she says. 'He turned to Gwyneth and said, 'This is Jodi, Mexico Jodi!' She screamed, 'I just got him to throw those pants out! He wore them for weeks, months - she couldn't wash them. He would never take them off, they were covered in holes.'