BRAD INFLUENCE - by Lori Berger

Full lipped, taut chested, horny as hell in his boxer shorts, Brad Pitt has graduated from Levi boy to movie star without so much as a ripple in his easy-going attitude. This month he stars opposite Kim Basinger in the fittingly titled COOL WORLD. "Relax is my favourite word," he tells Lori Berger.

Brad Pitt attended last year's Oscars as Juliette Lewis's boyfriend. As the pair trotted down the red carpet, the press pounced on Pitt: "How does it feel to be on Beverly Hills 90210?" asked one journalist.

"I'm not on 90210," he said, laughing, and watched as the paparazzi scooted off in search of REAL celebrities. Pitt, being of wholly humble heart, got a kick out of that.
He met Lewis in 1989 on the set of an NBC made for TV movie Too Young To Die, a film in which he played a white-trash pimp who shoots Lewis full of drugs. It's probably the most unsavoury (and least handsome) character he's played. Prior to this, the dimpled one appeared as bimbos in both Dallas and thirtysomething (though in the latter he also had his moral angst to grind). But it was as the cameo role of JD - some say the initials stood for James Dean - in Thelma & Louise (a part which Pitt was offered after William Baldwin left the movie), that got him his first 15 minutes of fame. The clock still hasn't stopped ticking.

Pitt was born in Oklahoma and brought up in Misssouri. The son of a trucker father and teacher mother, he studied journalism and graphic design at university. He dropped out just before graduating and drove to Los Angeles where he decided to study acting. Though he supported himself driving strippers to their gigs and dressing up as a giant chicken to promote el Pollo Loco fast foods, Pitt still found time to read Herman Hesse and Dostoevsky.

Despite his current heart-throb status, he leads a fairly spartan life. Wherever he lays his hat he sleeps on the ground - he spent three months in Amsterdam earlier this year, and kitted his flat out with nothing but five cushions, two to sit on, three to kip on. At the time of writing, Pitt is living with his buddy, Buck Simmons, and three dogs - Pitt's bedroom consists of foam mat on the bathroom floor. Simmons landed himself a part in A River Runs Through It, Robert Redford's directorial debut and Pitt's next-but-one movie, on account of his fly-fishing skills, not his acting ability. For Pitt, who plays Paul, a talented fisherman with no social graces, it was the opposite. The heart-throb who once said, "Ain't it a drag being healthy?" was to be found building up his biceps casting lines from the roof of his Hollywood home. "I'd hook myself in the back of the head the whole time," he says, "once they had to dig the barb out with pliers."

This month Pitt can be seen alongside Kim Basinger and Gabriel Byrne in the Roger Rabbitesque, semi-animated Cool World. Pitt plays a cop whose mission is to prevent the cartoon characters and humans from getting physical with one another. An entire movie spent dancing and fighting opposite invisible characters was, says Pitt, a humbling experience. Rather like gng to the Oscars. Lori Berger talks to him:

What's the best thing about becoming a movie star?
Getting to travel and live in all these different places. I like to have a base camp, but I don't miss having permanent roots. I did five films back-to-back that's why I decided to take two months off and just travel. The job gives you freedom and I'm very grateful for that. The hours are never the same, the parts are never the same.

What's been the worst thing about it?
Once you start getting successful it's so easy to get sidetracked from yourself because suddenly you have people catering to you. You have all these people tellin' you you're great and wanting to get you things like a soda. God forbid you get up and get your own soda. I've got legs and arms. It's OK to have people around who are helping you get your shit together in acting terms, but it's easy to start expecting. It's like I said before, the danger is you start believin' you're worth your paycheck. People start believin' you're better than other people. If you want to be completely honest this is the wrong busines to be in. You just have to stay in control of your affairs and be responsible.

How are you irresponsible?
I'm talkin' about dealin' with people and dealin' with your affairs. Letting things ride and not facing things. When you screw up you have to admit when you do. The only reason I know this stuff is because I have gotten sidetracked. I've gone from this course over here and suddenly I'm way over there and then it takes me longer because I've got to walk back all the way over there where I was and then go back up. When can you really call yourself a man? I see 30 and 40-year-old guys living their lives like they lived in high school or college and that's a fear of mine. When I talk about responsibility I'm talkin' about the symbolic boy to man.

Where are you?
Young man.

What are you aiming for?
Goals are very personal, too personal to talk about.

Have there been big hurdles you've overcome to get where you are now?
Yes. But I won't tell you what they are. I feel that life is one big obstacle course.

When you're down what helps you come out of it?
Getting things back into perspective. And those are easy words to say right there. How do you get things back into perspective? You've got to clear your head. I feel like I'm constantly evaluating - almost to the point where it gets a little crazy. But if you're constantly evaluating yourself eventually things come back around to perspective. You see the ego gets in the way and the ego gets me down. It can really screw you up, things become personal, you can't have an honest relationship with people - all because of ego. There's no reason for that but it's stuck in us. I think there are individual ways to get around that ego and put things into perspective. How do I do it? It comes in any form at any time, I really can't label it.

Where does your introspection come from?
I don't know - it's a plague sometimes. It can drive you nuts sometimes. It's why certain people check out sometimes. I know no other way.

Do you ever feel you need to lighten up?
At times you can get manic, but you definitely have to relax. Relax is my favourite word. It's my dog Deacon's command to sit.

How do you relax?
I go away. I love drivin' through this country, we have beautiful country here. The Northwest is my favourite. I get outside. You know, you just feel silly talkin' about yoursel when there are so many bigger things goin' on. People are goin' to read this and I feel there's a responsibility that comes with it. 'Oh, he does that, that's cool, he does that, oh that's really cool, he's a cool guy'. I understand, but I can't help but feel without gettin' preachy that there's just bigger interests.

How do you spend your free time?
Like I said, I love to get away - that's what I do, and I love music. I think music is the greatest invention in the world. Getting away for me can be just drifting anywhere for a weekend, popping a tent up, making a fire and playing some good tunes. I'm apprehensive to talk about it because again it feeds into that romantic, on-the-road label. And for me those times are genuine and very personal. I don't want it to be confused with, 'Oh, he's a cool guy.'

Is it so bad, to be a cool guy?
It's OK for someone else to see your life and think, hey that's a cool person. And I don't like the word cool. But I have these nightmares about when I read these articles about young guys and they're calling themselves cool becuse their hobby is bungy jumping. They smoke a lot, collect Zippo lighters and wear a motorcycle jacket. I think a lot of these young guys would be better actors if they relied more on themselves and found what they had in themselves rather than what's on the outside. And I'm only saying that because I was guilty of it too when I first started. I'd prefer for people to just think I was honest.

Why do you have this "bad Brad" image?
Because that was the first part I played [in Thelma & Louise] that got attention.

Can you relate to that label at all?
Yes, but I can also relate to good guy. See, bad boy is a term like rebel, these cool terms that are romantic in the public's eye, kind of in a James Deanian way. I don't buy that.

What's your favourite Brad Pitt rumour?
My favourite is that I've been called 'the most frightened man in America". Robin Givens and I were really good friends and we were hangin' out right after all her troubles wnet down and there was a big picture of Mike Tyson somewhere and they were sayin' this about me. And there's one I just heard - that I moved to Hollywood because I had a nervous breakdown. You know, I just came back from there 'cause I wanted to spend some time there for a while and my manager got a call asking if I went there 'cause I had a nervous breakdown. That's a pretty good one too.

Do the rumours affect you?
No, I just find it more of a hassle. It used to affect me more. I can't say it doesn't have some effect because if there's people you respect and are important to you, you have to clean up the mess, be responsible and set them straight. I'm still learning on that one.

Do you care if people like you?
Well sure, I'd rather they like me than dislike me. It depends on who you're talkin' about. There's always going to be people who don't like you. That's another thing Iv'e been thinkin' about lately. People always get offended because all they're reading is the surface. There's a reason why people do what they do. That's why I love acting too because it's that kind of investigation.

If you weren't acting what would you be doing?
I don't know, something creative. Maybe an art director. I think it's very important that people stay creative. I know that comes in degrees with people, but even wallpapering your house, building a deck on the back, painting. I think thats very important.

Do you worry about being considered mainstream and is it better to be a little bit twisted?
I don't worry about that either way. I think both parts are important and so far we've done a good job dancing in both areas. But I don't think the twisted and ugly can be ignored or denied.

Are you apprehensive about how your next two movies [Cool World and A River Runs Through It] will further change things for you?
They'll change my life by giving me more opportunities. I'll get the chance to buy a big chunk of land and live there by myself if I really want to.

Have you changed since you moved to Los Angeles?
Well I hope everyone constantly changes. No, I haven't changed and become another person, but I've grown in all areas.

Do you have more or less freedom in your life right now?
There's both. There's more freedom because there's more opportunities and more time to explore, but there are certain freedoms that you lose too - a personal life, but I still have plenty of time for that.

Have there been changes for the worse?
Only momentarily, but in the long run if you can see what you've learned from it, it's actually been a blessing and a gift. Would you trade an experience when you were in complete misery at one time? Do you want everything to be peaches and fruitbaskets? Everyone thinks their own misery is the most miserable.

What bores you?

What brings on boredom for you?
Getting too comfortable situations. By comfortabe, I mean uncomfortable. Comfortable becomes uncomfortable.

When you start getting comfortable is it time to move on?
It's time to move up. I kick my ass and try to get my shit together. I loved Johnny Suede [Pitt's venture into the art film world] because he lies so much he doesn't even know he lies anymore. He believes he's this person and if he has all this, does this, dresses this way and has this look then he'll be something special. I love the end when his hair falls out and everything is gone. The movie actually ends with the begining - for him as a person. I thought that was fantastic.

At the beginning of Johnny Suede, your character has a fairly blinkered view of women. What are your own?
Women have the power to cry. It's good. Men get numb. When women cry they can definitely deflate my ego pretty quickly. If someone you care for is in complete misery it can't help but wrench your heart.

Do you think men should cry more?
Oh, no, I don't want to get into that. I think men should sit on the couch and watch football games. I don't want to touch that one. It's just the way things have been set up.

Do you prefer old-fashioned or more liberal women?
I don't mind either way. There's good and bad to both. People can get carried away in both areas. I definitely believe in women speaking about things they feel strongly about. But when it becomes a cause just for the sake of having a cause or to keep things interesting, then you lose what you're fighting for.

What's the best advice your parents ever gave you?
Two pieces of advice from my dad that came at the same time. First he said "You can never be anything more than number two in another person's eyes." And that sounds selfish but it's not necessarily bad and it's realistic. It refers to the thinking that another person can make you happy. The second one was "Always keep a spare roll of toilet paper in your car." And I'm happy to say both have served me well.

Would we find one in your car right now?
About one third of a roll.

Did your parents ever give you any advice on women?
Well that was my dad's advice on women and travelin'. He was dead serious and dead right.

How do you feel about the heart-throb status you've attained?
It's really superficial. I did this movie of the week about a year and a half ago that Juliette [Juliette Lewis of Cape Fear fame] and I met on and I played a white trash scum. I just can't give that kind of stuff much thought, it's nothing I care about. I remember when I was younger and I dreamt about hangin' out with certain people, you know fun fantasies, but it doens't amount to anything.

When you look in the mirror are you happy wih what you see?
When you see a person do you just concentrate on their looks? It's just a first impression, but then you talk to them and they're idiots. Within two seconds you see what they are and they become so unattractive it's nothing. Then there's someone who doesn't catch your eye immediately, but you talk to them and see this amazing person and they become the most beautiful thing in the world. Look at the greatest actors of our time, they're not what you would call beautiful sex symbols. People like Duvall, Malkovich, Walken...these guys are beautiful. I'll tell you who my favourite actress is, it's Dianne Wiest and you wouldn't call her a sex symbol. I hope she doesn't get offended, I'm using sex symbol in the most superficial terms. Dianne Wiest is to me the most beautiful woman on the screen. Look, if that was important you'd see a model on my arm every other week. That's not to say models can't be real people. It's important to clarify myself without offending anyone.

Is there anything you wish you could change about yourself?
Well, nothing I'm goin' to tell you. I think the goal is to get to the point where there's nothing you want to change. And I think you can get there.

Are you shy?
I would say more quiet than shy. I like to observe a situation first.

What do you want to try that you haven't done before?
Well, I'm not going to tell you that. A lot of stuff outside of acting. I'll tell you why, this town is all based around talk, I'd just rather see if I can do it or not. 'Cause half of it, I'll do and do it very well, and half of it I probably won't.

Is there anything you're obsessive about?
I get that perfectionist thing going every once in a while. That's when it's not fun anymore and you have to tell yourself to relax.

Do you want to be rich and famous?
That's funny 'cause when you're sittn' in Missouri that's a lot of what draws you here. I can't say I don't enjoy money because it offers opportunity. But it also makes me very angry because it keeps you, your friends and your family from doin' things thay want to do. And the system is built on money, so yeah I like it but it's just a result of what I'm trying to accomplish. It's nothin' to live for I'll tell you that much - it will drive you nuts.

Is this a turning point in your life?
The turning point is more about not turning in any one direction, but getting back on a clearer track.