A body like a Bruce Weber pin-up. A face like a good-natured James Dean. A smile that sweeps over you like a southern wind. The gods responsible for equipping Hollywood leading men have been more than kind to Brad Pitt. Even his name is perfect. Brad [‘Of course it’s real. Would anybody choose it?’]. It’s like Chuck or Chet. Abbreviated, straight from the hip. Full of mischievous, down-home charm.

As the enigmatic, hitchhiker JD who seduces Geena Davis in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, Brad takes a pretty boy cameo and turns in a white-hot performance. Not since a young Paul Newman in the movie Hud has anyone loitered as meaningfully as Brad. All pretty and shiny and untarnished on the surface, and just the right hint of menace and corruption bubbling beneath.

This Missouri boy has been waiting a long time for a role like JD. After doing time in TV series like Dallas and Thirtysomething [as well as a soso feature film Across the Tracks], Brad was more than ready for something substantial. A ‘girls on the run’ roller coaster of a road movie, Thelma & Louise is the story of two women’s drift on to the wrong side of the law.

Bored and frustrated diner waitress Louise [Susan Sarandon] and her best friend, aspiring Stepford wife Thelma [Geena Davis], plan an all-girl break in the mountains. Equipped with everything but their heated rollers, they take to the highways. But at a road-side bar they find themselves in serious trouble. They hit the road and in the process discover America, men [including JD] and themselves, not necessarily in that order.

The film’s edgy mix of grim realism and comic fantasy has dismayed some, delighted others. Brad is voluble on the movie’s appeal: ‘Women are gonna love Thelma & Louise; it presents powerful women and all the men fall a bit short. They prance around but mostly they just can’t cut it. They’re not the heroes.’

Acting has not been Brad’s lifetime obsession. Growing up in classic small-town America, with a trucker father and a teacher mother, it just didn’t feel like an option. Which might account for his half-hearted decision to major in journalism and graphic design at college. It was a choice that pleased everyone except Brad. ‘I just pointed the car west and drove till I got here.’

‘Here’, of course, is LA, where brad’s unique blend of southern gentleman and maverick ‘good ole boy’ is finally paying dividends. Including Thelma & Louise he has four releases scheduled this year. In the upcoming comedy The Favour he co-stars with Elizabeth McGovern and Ken Wahl, and in Cool World. ‘a sort of Roger Rabbit on acid’, he’s a cop who has to prevent the cartoon characters and humans, who include Kim Basinger and Gabriel Byrne, from getting it on.

But it won’t be until the as-yet-unscheduled release of Johnny Suede that the 25-year-old actor gets the sort of spotlight he deserves. Johnny, a ‘not too bright’ rock’n’roll singer with a six-inch pompadour, arrives in New York determined to be the next teen idol. ‘It has—I hate to make these comparisons—a sort of surreal Midnight Cowboy feel, y’know? Kinda twisted.’

While not exactly twisted, Brad is refreshingly irreverent. This is a southwestern boy who claims to prefer Elvis in ‘his Vegas fat stage’ and jokes about changing his name to Brad Turbo—‘Well you know there are guys out here with last names like Cruise…’ he eschews gyms and the body-beautiful culture that dominate LA life [‘ain’t it a drag being healthy?], preferring to ride his horse; and sometimes longs for overcast weather so he ‘doesn’t have to smile all day long’.

As he waits for what seems like inevitable stardom, Brad has pragmatically worked out a formula to deal with movieland and the publicity mill that threatens to grind his private life to pulp. ‘You do your work, meet up with the few good people you know and if all else fails’—he laughs—‘you get out of town.’'