Agony of ‘Devil’s Own,’ ecstasy of Gwyneth

In person, Brad Pitt has an easy charm-well, easy for him. The actor is in Argentina, filming the ‘40s-era “Seven Years in Tibet.” He spoke to Newsweek’s Jeff Giles in a trailer decorated with Tibetan rugs and pillows. “This is officially known as the Opium Den,” he said, lying on a couch and blasting the Dave Matthews Band. Some excerpts:

Newsweek: So how are you feeling?
Brad Pitt: Excellent. Tucked away. Hanging off the edge of the Third World. You want some agua minerale? You know Spanish?

NW: A little bit. How about you?
BP: Si.

NW: Should we do this in Spanish?
BP: No, that’s all I know: si.

NW: English it is. First question. You play a mountain climber. How scary is climbing?
BP: Good one! Scary, but it’s such a trip. We did a lot of little climbs outside LA, David Thewlis and I.

NW: What, off the Hollywood sign?
BP: [Laughs.] Yeah, off the capitol building! It was just to get to trust the ropes. Then we went to Italy and climbed the Dolomites. Never to be forgotten. Crazy. It can be addicting. You look at the mountain you’re gonna climb the next day, and then you can’t sleep all night. Just thoughts. Dreams of falling. You know what the worst part was? You get to the top? And you get those thoughts, you can’t help it: What if I jump?

NW: You’ve already shot the scene where Tibet surrenders to China. That must have been emotional for the Tibetans here.
BP: Oh, my God. Couldn’t believe it. And then they shot this scene where they’re saying, “Give the Dalai Lama the power!” Everybody goes into this chant, and it was like something was going down and God was shining through the clouds. It was heavy.

NW: I’m impressed by the variety of roles you’ve played lately.
BP: Cool. Excellent. Thank you.

NW: But it sounds like you weren’t having much fun before “Seven Years.”
BP: No, I had a couple of rough ones that were probably mistakes. You know, I fell in love and that was all I cared about. So I got a little lazy with my perspective but I wouldn’t trade it, you know?

NW: You made “The Devil’s Own” last year with Harrison Ford. Filming was tough, obviously.
BP: Maybe you know the story. We had no script. Well, we had a great script but it got tossed for various reasons. To have to make something up as you go along—Jesus, what pressure! It was ridiculous. It was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking—if you can even call it that—that I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know why anyone would want to continue making that movie. We had nothing. The movie was the complete victim of this drowning studio head [Mark Canton] who said, “I don’t care. We’re making it. I don’t care what you have. Shoot something.”

NW: Why didn’t you walk away?
BP: I tried to when there was a week before shooting and we had 20 pages of dogs—t. And this script that I had loved was gone. I guess people just had different visions and you can’t argue with that. But then I wanted out and the studio head said, “All right, we’ll let you out. But it’ll be $63 million for starters.” They sell movies to foreign territories on box-office names and they can sue on what they could have made if you’d stayed in the movie.

NW: You have an accent in “Devil’s Own.”
BP: That accent I was real happy with—the Belfast one. When we first started, I went to meet Harrison. We’d only met a couple of times. And he said, “What have you been doing?” Ah, I’ve bean warking on the ah-ccent. It’s bean coming alon’ vary good.” And he says, “Yeah? Let me hear some.” [Laughs.] He’s good that way.

NW: You’ve played different kinds of roles, but the stud thing won’t go away.
BP: How seriously can you take it? I have a sister and she had Andy Gibb’s poster on her wall when she was 12 and it was sweet and cute and that’s what it is.

NW: But you generally don’t pick roles that reinforce the stud thing.
BP: That’s because 1] It’s boring. 2] It’s stupid. 3] it’s death.

NW: The screaming teenage girls—you never really wanted all this.
BP: Well, yeah, but I asked for it, too, you know? See, the thing is, you want to get to where you have the pick of films you want to do. You want people to be entertained. You want your work to be respected. To accomplish all that, all this comes with it.

NW: If you can’t leave your barracks, what do you do these days?
BP: We’re pretty much working six days a week. And on the seventh he rested. We did get electronics cars, you know? You know those remote-control cars? Me and Thewlis and a bunch of us. It’s like “Road Warrior.” We started painting them ourselves. And we started adding implements, like Ben Hur style, on the wheels. Big steak forks. It’s a smashup derby, basically. A couple ankles have been scarred for life. Right now I got a potato masher on the front of mine and I’ve got a scoop on the back that’ll flip the other guy over if he tries to ram me from behind.

NW: So you have a special car? You don’t all share?
BP: Oh, no one touches someone else’s car. But one of mine got killed, so I had a mourning. Burned it on the fire. Then I started anew.

NW: Is it hard being away from Gwyneth?
BP: The distance? It’s a beast. When you’re truly committed to someone? A beast. But she’s been down here a lot. Living in the barracks, bringing in trunks of food. She’s totally amazing. I love that woman!

NW: Is there a right amount of movies to make a year?
BP: As few as possible.

NW: How are you at being alone? Can you go a while without talking to anybody?
BP: Yeah, I’m probably too good at that. But with my girl it’s changing a little bit. Maybe it’s just age. You want to make sure you’re there for your family and you know what’s going on and how they’re doing. Instead of just disappearing for a little while. When I was younger, I’d disappear in strange countries and turn up in odd places.

NW: You have a poetic speech about mountain climbing at the end of “Seven Years.”
BP: I’m leery of talking about this because of what I’m about to say, but it’s such a metaphor for life. I swear to God.

NW: What are you leery off?
BP: I’m leery of getting so deep in Newsweek.

NW: We’re in the Opium Den—you can get as deep as you want. Why’s mountain climbing like life?
BP: There’s the excitement. There’s the dread of the approach. There’s that first step where you’re unsure but you have to keep going. They’re the rhythms, where it’s like ballet; it’s like magic; you’re on a flow. You look out and you’re so tiny but you’re huge. And then you get to the top and you get the satisfaction. But sometimes it’s like, “All right, I did it. I just want to get down.” That glide down. Feels so good.

NW: Would you like to be less famous?
BP: Would I like to? I just think it’s inevitable. It’ll die out. New people are always coming up. It levels off, it dies off, then you do the comeback and they don’t care anymore.

NW: What sort of comeback will you make?
BP: Probably I’ll play some forlorn junkie rock star who dies in the end of an overdose.

NW: People want you for every movie now.
Well, they don’t always want you for the right reasons. And you get caught up in the offers. I’m not talking about the money. It’s the way they come at you. It’s very flattering. They dangle a lot of carrots. But you know where those carrots always end up.

NW: Ouch. Years ago, I asked you how famous you wanted to be, but you wouldn’t tell me.
BP: [Laughs.] S—t, I was just gonna ask you, What did I say?