SPRINGFIELD – Brad Pitt, the movie star, said there is no strange reason why he decided to have a premiere of his new movie here. He just wanted to raise some money for charities in his hometown.

`I’ve just been away for quite awhile, traveling a lot of places, and this is my home,” the actor said Thursday at a news conference. `I just felt like I wanted to get back and bring something home.”

Pitt made some rare public appearances here on Thursday. He held a news conference, spoke to a few more than 1,000 people who paid $40 to attend one of the four showings of Meet Joe Black at Campbell 16 Cine and appeared at an invitation-only reception at Twin Oaks Country Club for about 300 people who paid $150 each. In the film, Pitt plays Death himself who, wondering what life is really like, takes on a human form and falls in love with a beautiful young woman. The screenings raised about $66,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, Big Brothers-Big Sisters of the Ozarks, and the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield. The movie opened around the country on Friday after opening earlier in New York and Los Angeles.

Pitt also thrilled hundreds of fans who waited to see him outside the theater, not far from Kickapoo High School where Pitt was graduated, played tennis, sang in the school choir and appeared in minor roles in a play or two. He walked down the police line holding back the crowd outside the theater and smiled and waved.

`When you have a chance to get a glimpse of a famous person, you ought to take it,” said Blake Barbosa, who was waiting outside the theater with his girlfriend, Annie Gilmore.

At the news conference Pitt said that he’s no one special, just a guy who makes movies.

`I see a guy,” he said, laughing, when asked what appears to him in the mirror each morning. `My dad’s better looking than me.”

During the often-playful news conference, he was quick to agree that his younger brother, Doug, who runs a computer company here, may be a bigger Springfield celebrity than he is.

He traded inside jokes on everything from Branson to cashew chicken, a culinary concoction invented in Springfield that blends Asian and Midwestern cooking styles.

`Best cashew chicken I ever had,” he insisted.

`Redneck! Hick!,” he said, breaking up when asked if people in Hollywood call him a hillbilly because he comes from the Ozarks.

Always diplomatic, he declined to name his favorite Springfield restaurant, shouting, ``Mom, where do we go?” to his mother, Jane, who replied from the back of the room with equal diplomacy, ``We go to the one that’s closest.”

Here are some other excerpts from his news conference with local reporters.

Q. How is Springfield behind the West Coast?

A. Things start on east coast or west coast, in New York or Los Angeles, and kind of trickle their way in. In a large city, you find more variety of music, you find more books. I’m interested in the arts, so I find there’s more expression. But there’s also more whack-a-doos, so there’s a trade-off.

Q. How do you like the California lifestyle?

A. Lifestyle’s what you choose. I have a good corps of close friends out there. We just hang out and do what we did here. We barbecue. We go on road trips. It hasn’t changed in that way.

Q. How do you like working with Anthony Hopkins (one of his co-stars in Meet Joe Black)?

A. This man is all right. He’s a heavyweight. He’s Holyfield. He’s probably one of our greatest actors of our times. He’s Brando, he’s Olivier, he’s all that.

Q. Why was your first broadcast interview on “Oprah”?

A. Oprah is a very intelligent woman. She usually stays above the level that these things usually sink to. And she was very good to my mom.

Q. What are your goals for the next 10 years?

A. Keep breathing. Stay alive. Good movies wouldn’t be bad.

Q. What is your fondest memory of high school?

A. I couldn’t say.

Q. Who was your favorite teacher?

A. Oh, I can’t do that.

Q. Will you ever return to college (University of Missouri) and get your degree?

A. No. Why? At the time, I was two weeks to graduation and I had to finish some papers and it just hit me - my friends were going off and they had their jobs lined up and a lot of them were getting married. My course of study didn’t feel right, didn’t quite fit as well. And I loved movies and it just hit me at that time - ‘Well, I can go to it. I’ll go to it. I’ll give that a try.’ So once that was in my mind, I was done with college. It was films. It wasn’t about acting per se – just a love of movies.

Q. Is Jennifer (Aniston, his current romantic interest) taking you off the market for good?

A. We’ll see.