TRUE CONFESSIONS - by
Behold Brad Pitt in his baggy khaki pants, dark sunglasses and loose beige
shirt stretching lazily in the hot sun of a cracked parking lot in Hollywood.
Let us take note of his tanned chiselled features, quite memorable abdominals
and countrified charm.
Now let us wonder why he seems so content. He is sitting due west of the back
entrance of Musso & Frank’s restaurant in what we’ll charitably
refer as an open-air smoker’s lounge—some dusty green plastic lawn
chairs flanked by a couple of stringy potted plants. He drags on a Camel, occasionally
flicking the ashes into a butt-filled canister, and takes in the landscape before
him: a few dozen empty cars, three sweating valets and several crumbling Hollywood
apartments. “Ahhhhh. This is nice,” Pitt says with a sigh, even
though every time slightest breeze picks up, the unmistakable fragrance of rotting
garbage fills the air.
The 31-year-old rubs his bristly goatee, which he’s been cultivating
for next week’s pickup shots of Seven, a genuinely creepy psychological
thriller directed by David Fincher (Alien 3). Pitt portrays David Mills, a youthful
know-it-all cop who teams up with a lonely-guy homicide vet played by Academy
nominee Morgan Freeman to solve a series of murders based on the seven deadly
sins. And though Freeman will undoubtedly bring his very serious reputation
to the mix, it is the anticipation of seeing Pitt in almost anything that will
draw in much of the female population.
From the onset of his career, certain industry types have nattered about Pitt’s
moviestar glamour, about his possession of that certain X-factor that would
make him more bankable than colleagues with better training or wider range.
And in point of fact, these showbiz handicappers might for once be onto something.
The lines he drawled in Thelma & Louise couldn’t have amounted to
more than a slim pile of script pages, but whenever his blue-eyed grifter popped
into the frame, it was hard to look anywhere else. Since then, Pitt has perfected
the art of screen entrances, unselfconsciously easing himself into epics like
Legends of the Fall, where, buckskin-clad and flowy-locked, he established himself
as the center of attention by simply galloping into view on horseback. It’s
a scene-stealing ability that Seven producer Arnold Kopelson attributes to Pitt’s
natural charisma, not to mention his sheer good looks. Says Kopelson: “I
must emphasize that I am purely heterosexual. I die for women! But when he first
came into my office and his hair was still long and he was wearing an open shirt,
I looked at him and could not get over the beauty of this guy. He is extremely
In 1986, Pitt left his hometown of Springfield, Mo., and chugged to Los Angeles
in a beater Datsun, hoping to get into the movies. As it happens, his initial
swipes at acting indicated a solid future as a flyweight TV idol. Back then,
Pitt could be spotted in wee roles as a naughty boyfriend on shows like Dallas
and Thirtysomething or as a pillowy-lipped newspaper journalist on the short-lived
Fox series Glory Days. His feature-film debut, 1989’s Cutting Class, is,
by Pitt’s own description, a “bad, bad teen-age horror film that
would barely make it on late-night cable.” What he remembers most about
his early work is his “gut reaction” to being groomed as that year’s
delectable cutie-boy. “It just felt like a lie,” he says. “I’d
go to bed at night and not be able to sleep because it wasn’t…it
wasn’t…it wasn’t true.” Then, along came Ridley Scott’s
Thelma & Louise, Pitt’s first chance to show what he could do with
the kind of charismatic outsiders he’d make his mark with.
What finally put him over the top was his headliner status in A River Runs
Through It, Interview With the Vampire and Legends of the Fall, meandering epics
that were too hollow to totally enjoy. The irony is that Pitt has always been
far more fun to watch in independent films or when he takes on eccentric supporting
roles. Consider the sweetly witless Floyd in True Romance, where Pitt vividly
fleshed out his pothead character without ever rising from the living-room sofa;
Johnny Suede gave him the opportunity to make light of his growing status as
an industry glamour puss; and for those who doubted that Pitt could pull off
an unredeemable creep, there was his mush-mouthed psycho in Kalifornia.
How audiences will respond to Pitt’s against-the-grain performance in
the upcoming Twelve Monkeys is anyone’s guess. In it, the actor inverts
two attributes that we’ve most come to associate with him: his syrupy
speech patterns and relaxed body language. N this fututistic thriller, Pitt’s
walleyed mental patients bursts with energy, speed-rapping and twitching in
a way we never thought possible. According to Monkeys director Terry Gilliam,
this frenzied performance was driven by many things, including the fact that
Pitt had just been knighted “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine.
“[Brad] found that appalling and was running as far away from that as
possible,” says Gilliam. “It was like they were dismissing him as
a male bimbo, as just a bit of beefcake. And it made him so determined to never
be accused of that again.” Which probably goes a long way toward explaining
why the actor has just agreed to spend five months bunking in a tent in the
Himalayas to play a fugitive mountaineer in Seven Years in Tibet. (Or maybe
it was the $8 million paycheck.)
In the past, Pitt has been known to baffle tablefulls of journalists by admonishing
them not to delve into his private life and then not having much to say about
his projects, either. But during the two interview sessions conducted for this
piece, Pitt is remarkably chatty, tearing into every conceivable topic, from
Bruce Willis’ gift of a paper shredder (“he said, ‘You’re
gonna need this, kid’”) to his love of pay-per-view’s Ultimate
Fighting Challenge. “It’s about matching up different styles of
fighters to see who is the ultimate fighting champion,” he explains excitedly.
“The only rules are: No biting, no eye gouging. A shot to the nuts is
perfectly legal!” In fact, the only time he seems skittish is when it
comes to Gwyneth Paltrow, his 22-year-old girlfriend, who appears as his wife
in Seven. Even then, he speaks of her often and animatedly—he just never
utters her name aloud. Instead, Pitt refers to Paltrow as “my girlfriend,”
“she,” “my…you know…” or merely flutters
his hand. At one point, Pitt stares down at his banged-up laced boots and announces
that “she” thinks they are “dorky.” Then he goes on
to explain how he and “[hand flutter]” are planning on cleaning
his closet next weekend.
The second conversation occurs in a back booth at Musso & Frank’s,
where Pitt can he found holed up with a copy of Psychology Today and a soft
drink purchased from somewhere else. “Mountain Dew,” he announces,
holding the dented can aloft. “This is kinda the crack cocaine of soda
pops. It is outstanding!” With this as his bubbly aperitif, Pitt then
digs into a well-rounded bachelor meal of iced coffee, fried eggs, mashed potatoes,
salad without dressing and a couple of bottles of Guinness Beer. After the feast
is consumed, Pitt examines the tabletop wreckage and makes a prediction that
is difficult to refute. “My stomach is going to have something to say
about this later,” he groans, patting his white T-shirted midsection.
Our first meeting was different, if only because Pitt was hard to find. As
his fame has risen, so has his popularity with wall-climbing fans, camera-lugging
paparazzi and the tabloid press. Most of these encounters seem minor, pesky
intrusions that come with being a celebrity. But in April, a professional lensman
snapped photographs of Pitt and Paltrow frolicking in their birthdays suits
while on vacation in St. Bart’s. The full-color shots were printed in
publications and on the Internet around the world. And the man who once invited
reporters into his L.A. home now has representatives leave complicated last-minute
instructions about when to meet Pitt and where—in this case, his manager’s
orangey-colored house located deep in the Hollywood Hills. Pushing past two
wriggling honey-hued mutts, Pitt works his way out to a shaded brick patio.
“Sorry about this Mission: Impossible thing,” he apologizes earnestly.
“I guess that’s just the way it’s got to be right now.”
Okay Brad. Give me the spin on ‘Seven.’
It’s a buddy picture! It’s a road picture! It’s, uh, I hate
categorizing. [pauses] It’s a very straightforward film. But it’s
very intelligent. It’s more reminiscent of something that I would have
enjoyed in the ‘70s. [The full-bodied thrum of the Gipsy Kings suddenly
blares from inside the house]. Is this going to screw you up? [He leaps up,
then pauses in the doorway. “Hey!” he calls out. Striking the pose
of a romantic balladeer, with his right hand outstretched while his left palm
rests flat on his abdomen, Pitt closes his eyes and briefly lip-syncs a tune.
Then he disappears into the house to lower the music. A few seconds later, he
returns and begins feeding pretzels to his manager’s dogs.] There you
go, babe. That’s Lulu, a junkyard dog. Saved from the chopping block.
I got one from the pound.
You have three dogs, right? What are their names?
Ah, no names, no names. Protect the innocent. [Pause] One of my dogs, she thinks
she’s human, right? She’s very emotional. She has these ‘Nam
flashbacks from when she was at the pound and goes cuckoo. And you have to be
really delicate with her. But if I don’t give her attention when she demands
it, she gets pissed off. And this cute little dog will go to the foot of my
desk and lay a steamy pile like you have never seen before. It looks like a
horrendous birthing. So I guess I pissed her off last night. I want to invite
robin Leach over for Lifestyles of the Rich and Cheesy and get a big close-up
of this pile [laughs].
Next question! While filming ‘Seven,’ you had an accident that
was described as everything from a flesh wound to an amputation. Care to set
the record straight?
It happened during a scene where I’m chasing the bad guy and traffic
is jammed so I’m running across the hoods of cars. In the rain. [Laughs]
I was trying to do-your-own-stunt thing. You know, that Joe Mannix approach?
And I bit it. Hard. Basically, it was a matter of me trying to be cool and failing
miserably. I slipped and went right through a car window. I wore a cast for
the rest of the film. I did a lot of “pocket” acting. That means
[he jumps up and turns sideways] you turn this way to the camera. Or you stow
the cast in your pocket. You do a lot of this [puts left hand in pocket and
gesticulates with the right].
What were you thinking as you went crashing through glass?
My first thought, being the sick, twisted actor that I am, was like: Oh, cool.
I hope they got that! I was basically sitting back there, with the speakers
and my legs coming out like I was in a bathtub. So I crawled out of the window,
and it was there I gt hurt, actually—I put my hand down on broken glass.
Then I proceeded to chase the bad guy. And I was thinking, all the cooler right?
[he shares a high five, then yells, “Tips, tips!” Taking his index
and middle finger, he drags them over my corresponding fingertips.] Then as
I’m running down the street, I’m realizing, wow, there seems to
be a large hole in my hand and blood seems to be coming out. I saw some bones
and things that you are not supposed to see. Things meant to be in the interior
of your hand.
I didn’t think much of it. I mean, I cu all these fingers here [points
to a bumpy white scar that traverse most of the fingers of his left hand]. But
I figured, you cut yourself, you heal. That’s basically what happens when
you’re grown up, right? Then I showed [director] David Fincher, and I
saw him just go white. So it put us out for a while. And that night it’s
on Hard Copy with a shot of some random ambulance pulling in, and from the way
they’re talking, it sounds like I cut my hand off. [Pause] The Hard Coppers.
[Disgustedly] They’re wicked.
Have you developed an extra sense that alerts you to their presence?
No! How can you know? They’re carrying 300-millimeter lenses so it looks
like they’re right across the street, like they’re right next to
you. The problem is that the laws have not kept up with technology. And if someone
prints something that is untrue—“Brad Pitt smells bad”—I
have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars proving that they were out to
damage me. And that’s almost impossible. I understand where I’m
sitting, and I expect every bit of it. But I wonder where the line is.
How do you find out when an incident in your life has become a segment of ‘Hard
You find out. There it is, on the tube. And worst of all, it’s not interesting.
[Deep booming voice] “Brad Pitt was walking down the street today.”
[Mock amazement] Noooo! [Theatrically] “Why is Brad Pitt hitting the streets?”
What? What? I’m just walking down the street.
What do you make of all this? You know, I don’t know what to make of
it. But if you wonder why certain people seem so controlling, it’s because,
Jesus, they’re trying to protect themselves.
Do you feel self-conscious about enforcing this type of control? Truthfully,
I don’t pay much attention.
C’mon, Brad. Even your parents have an unlisted telephone number. They
were forced to get one. [Laughs] Oh, my poor, poor mom, she takes it so seriously.
[High sweet voice] “Look what they’re saying about my son!”
And I tell her: “Mom, it’s just goin’ to happen. Just let
it go.” I mean, with anything, there’s good and bad, and there’s
adjustments to be made. It’s that simple. So they made an adjustment.
Not that long ago, you had tall trees planted in front of your house. Why?
Actually, I had a tour bus coming by every Sunday. I started lofting eggs at
it. [Laughs] I thought that was fair. It’s kinda a cat-and-mouse game.
[Pause] You know, I’ve always taken everything pretty lightly, until we
had these nude photos come out. Since then, I’ve always been wondering
about rights of privacy. They could shoot through my keyhole and right up my
crack, and I wouldn’t even know it.
This seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss the, uh, St. Bart’s
photos. I think you know which ones I mean.
It was horrendous. We had been working very hard, so we went on one of the
greatest vacations I’d ever had. A fantastic, fantastic trip…You
know, I took all the precautions I could. We were in the most private place
we could find. I mean, this man literally had to scale a mountain with his telescope
on his back and end up on private property to get us like he did [laughs].
OK. So you come home and then…?
And I remember we were at my girlfriend’s apartment and we were getting
ready to have breakfast with her father, who was on his way over. And we get
this phone call from my best friend in the world, who is also my manager. But
she wasn’t even able to tell me. She told my [hand flutters]—
Gwyneth? Why not you? Because she knew I’d bounce off the roof and fall
back down and bounce back up again. My jaw just went [slaps the table]…
And we didn’t know what the photos were. And then, ding-dong! [nervous
laugh] Who has to tell her father?
So what did Gwyneth tell him?
No, no. It was my responsibility. He was cool about it. He said: “Was
anybody hurt? Anybody get sick? Well, then, OK.” This was after a good
long period of silence, with his head buried in his palms. [Pause] He warned
me before we left. And he was right,
What specific events were documented?
Well, there are some magical poses! We were sort of operating under the Adam
and Eve philosophy. And we’d just go about our day…and…[laughs].
Anyway we were having breakfast, and for some odd reason the one exact moment
this guy caught me I was doing an imitation of Jame Crumb from The Silence of
the Lambs. You know the scene? It’s where he tucks his package between
his legs and puts his arms out and says how he’d like to copulate with
himself. So there I am, in this…pose. It was enough to make me want to
bury my head in the sand.
Now, now. What you were doing was merely the ofr-your-eyes-only dance that
every man performs for his woman to make her laugh. This is my feeling!
[Laughs] The old package tuck. It was funny as s--- at the time. How do you
explain that? It’s unexplainable. Oh, well. And the scary thing is, I
do it so well [pained laugh].
What bothered you the most about this intrusion?
Listen, ultimately it doesn’t bother me. I mean, it all ends up in the
litter box anyway. It does bother me that they take pictures of these private
special moments—something that’s kinda sacred—and flash seminaked
pictures of my girlfriend. I find that does not sit well with me. I see how
it hurts her, you know? She wouldn’t be going through this if she wasn’t
dating me. [Shrugs] but who really cares? I have one of the greatest jobs in
the world, we see the country, our families are taken care of, what? I mean,
there’s a trade-off. [Grins] If it means I do a beaver shot so my kids
will go to a good school? So be it.
All this from a man who began his career as an El Pollo Loco chicken. Tell
us: What does the world look like from inside a yellow fluffy suit?
[Laughs] Oh God. You’re doing this [waves energetically], and you’re
getting back this [raises his middle finger]. I do admit that a few times I
did this [grabs crotch]. I didn’t last very long at that job. A few days.
Your giant chicken days were officially over when you got your SAG card. Retrace
the experience of landing your first acting job.
The very first part I got was Dallas. At the time, I was living at an apartment
in North Hollywood with eight guys, a two-bedroom apartment. Two guys in the
back room, two guys in the front room, four guys crashed out in the main room.
No furniture. We had all our little corners, with our little books stacked,
our little clothes folded, our little sheets. A little cockroach motel by the
bed as a safety measure. We shared an answering machine. I got the part. I made
a phone call to the folks. And basically just sat there and smiled.
Then you show up on the ‘Dallas’ set. What was that like?
It was exciting-scary. That thrill. If I remember correctly, they kinda left
me on my own. Like “OK, do your job…” And I was like [nervous
stutter], “but-but-but. Wait a sec. I just for here from Missouri, see?
You don’t understand” [laughs].
Then you drive home from your first day of work and…
There was that excitement, that lightness, just driving around in the car,
looking at the city a little differently. And it’s becoming your city
a little bit. [Pause] You know what? It’s not a bad thing that it’s
changed in a sense. It’s still exciting when you read something that completely
moves you. Or you get an opportunity to try something different. It’s
just that as you get older, other things become more important. Like your family,
your friends. Or maybe you just realize what’s most important. Because,
uh…[moans] God, I sound dumb. Like a self-help book.
C’mon. What’s wrong with getting sentimental about your family?
I’m very fortunate that way. It makes you feel like you have a base.
It makes things much easier. As much as you hate to go crawling back home with
your tail between your legs, at least you’ve got something to go back
How often do you go back to Missouri?
A few times a year. I’m starting to realize it’s almost another
Locate the hillbilly that still lives inside of you.
It’s a simple outlook. You don’t complain. If you complain, you
get nowhere. You know, you can buy fireworks there 365 days of the year. The
pie is good—fresher, straightforward. Kraft macaroni-and-cheese is still
very big in my family and is still delicious. [Thoughtful pause] I can run a
mean trotline. That’s part of being a hillbilly! You run a line across
a cove, with corks like every 15 feet, then you bait it and keep checking it
all night long. It’s a blast! [Pitt excuses himself and disappears into
the house. When he returns, he stands in front of the table, holding a half-empty
container of chartreuse Gatorade in front of his stomach. “Does it seem
like this whole thing could fit?” he asks. “This blows my mind.
Where does it go?” Then he sits back down.]
When you were growing up, did people make fun of your last name?
No, actually! And I’m really open for that. It rhymes with some great
four letters. [Laughs] S---! I can go further. I knew this guy named Cash Register.
For real. His parents must have really not wanted kids. There’s a little
bit of anger there. [Laughs] I have to be careful what I name my boys.
So you want a family?
Ah, yes. Very much so. But not right away.
Describe a rule from childhood that still applies.
The best piece of advice I think I’ve ever gotten was from my dad. In
our family, the rule was, never keep a soda can between your legs when you’re
in the car. My father told us this wicked story about a man who was driving
with a can between his legs and got into a bad car wreck. And pfffttttt! He
lost his Johnson. To this day, I cannot drive with a can between my legs. And
I warn all my friends, too. I say “Don’t do that, man.” And
they say, “Why?” And I say: “Because you could lose your uh-uh
that way. I mean, seriously, man.”
Did your father provide you with career advice?
The other day I was on the phone with him, and he goes: “What’s
wrong with you? What’s wrong?” And I said: “Ah, you know.
Just crap piling up.” And he goes, “Well, you picked a crap job.”
[Laughs] I liked that.
Let’s move on to ‘Twelve Monkeys.’ Terry Gilliam has said
that you lobbied heavily for the part.
Yeah. It was something that I normally wouldn’t have been chosen for.
And I understand that. People don’t know what you’re capable of
until you prove it. So I met with him several times to try to get him to take
a chance on me. And he did. And that was very cool of him, because he isn’t
into the name game. It’s like, “I don’t care who you are,
cheesy movie guy.” He wants what’s best. So he took a chance with
me, and I appreciate that.
Let’s talk about the prank you initiated on the set of ‘Twelve
Monkeys’ on April Fool’s Day.
It had been a tough week, and it was one of those days where everyone was feeling
the brunt of that. So Terry and I staged this little fake brawl—with pushing,
shoving. I was surprised how much Terry got into it. [Laughs] Kinda scared me
for a second. We started going at it, and you could just see everyone creep
off. The circle surrounding us was getting wider and wider. And then this grizzly
old man, the focus puller, jumped in and tried to break us up. It was like “F---
you!” “Well, f--- you!” “April Fooools’, suckers!”
You are known for being very critical of your own work. Do you control this
emotion, or does it control you?
I think it’s measured, I really do. I have ideas, expectations, a vision
of what could be. You want to give the best that you can, take it as far as
you can take it. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think the upside of
that is that you are constantly re-evaluating. But I mean, What? Are you going
to be a genius every other minute of your life? No! You’re going to be
a loser, a moron, every other minute of your life. Some days you can get by,
some days you’re hurting the story. If it really hurts the story, then
I’m going to go to the director and say: “That’s dog s---,
man. We gotta do it again.”
This one-more-take compulsion is one of the parallels that people have drawn
between you and the James Le Gros character in ‘Living in Oblivion.’
How did you react when you discovered that people believed that Le Gros was
People are going to say what they’re going to say. [Director] Tom DiCillo
has flat-out told people that this was offered to me, that this was a chance
for me to make fun of stuff. But [the film] started right after Interview, and
the thought of getting in front of a camera again just made me want to pluck
out my eyes with forks. [Pause] It sucks, it sucks. But what are going to do?
People are going to make their assumptions. You know, the build you up, then
look for things to…you know…Hey, I’m a nice guy, you know?
Twice this week you made the 11 o’clock news in New York.
Ah, are you going to be the harbinger of bad news? [Unhappily] Lay it on me.
One item informed us you were cast in ‘Sleepers’ with Robert De
That’s not bad news, is it? I’m doing a small part as a young lawyer
in this [Barry] Levinson film in which De Niro is also doing a small part. [Laughs]
I think I have one scene with De Niro. It’s a part that deals with revenge.
[Pause] OK, give me the bad news.
It’s not even news. A late-breaking report that informed us that Gwyneth
is not pregnant.
[Snorts] There are these people so hurting for something that they’ll
take a photo of my hand on her stomach, and from there they’ll create
a story that she’s pregnant. That’s what they did. Someone just
told me that there was this [report] that I was donating my sperm to Melissa
Etheridge and Julie [Cypher, her girlfriend]. [Laughs] I just got this visual
of me showing up at their door once a week with a Dixie cup, making my deposit.
Like I provide starter kits for other families! Then, last week, they printed
that Gwyneth had barred this from ever happening again. So I called Melissa
and said that I would no longer be showing up with my Dixie cup. [Shakes head]
It’s truly amazing.
Hey, you just said Gwyneth’s name! Is it time to talk about her?
I don’t want to, you know? Somehow or another, it always gets turned
into a cliché: dating the co-star. Again, I understand, it’s fine.
But I also understand that it will never be given understanding. I think I’ve
already talked about her too much.
As long as we’re on the subject of your admirers, let’s talk about
Courtney Love. She reportedly said she received a valentine from you.
Yeah, well, I have no idea what that was about. Maybe she was referring to
someone else. I’ve, uh, hung out with Courtney only once and talked to
her a few times on the phone. Listen, she’s got a genius going on that
you cannot argue with. I enjoy her very much. But once again, this was someone
assuming something. God forbid, people will be friends, you know? [Pause] I
just hope that [Love’s daughter Frances Bean] gets the best, you know?
When fans approach you, what do you think they expect from you?
Are we talking about the boyfriends? Or the girlfriends? [Laughs] I don’t
think they expect me to get on horseback and do a couple of loops. They expect
a little time, a little respect. That’s fair enough. Sometimes they expect
a kiss. Sometimes people show up at my home and I don’t know what they
expect me to do. Invite them in for coffee? I don’t get that, I really
don’t. I do get the occasional letter from some guy in Canada describing
how he’d like to bounce his balls off my forehead or something. [Laughs]
Other than that, people are pretty cool.
Given your experience of the last several years, tell us: What is the ideal
amount of time to be a teen idol? Seven minutes. It’s a little bit more
than five minutes but a lot less than ten.