The ‘Today’ show's Ann Curry talks with the actor about eco-friendly housing in the region, and the joys of being a dad

Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina, Brad Pitt sat down with the “Today” show's Ann Curry to discuss the devastation in New Orleans, environmentally friendly development, and his new role as a dad.

The rebuilding process in New Orleans has been slow, so has the clean-up. The need for affordable housing is chronic. Brad Pitt recently teamed up with the non-profit group Global Green to try to spur green-friendly building in the Crescent City. As he tells us, it is a need that is way overdue.

Brad Pitt: I'm baffled because the people here on the ground have not gotten the money yet. They have not received restitution.

Nearly a year after Katrina, Brad Pitt sees firsthand a city still ravaged.

Pitt: We can get in the car from this spot and we can drive for two hours, and you will see this. We will see more of this. And it's staggering. It's unsettling.

Ann Curry: By some estimates, something like half — 50 percent — of this city is still abandoned.

Pitt: Yeah, it's shocking. In one of our greatest cities. But you see it, it's house on top of house on top of car. And this is a story you'll find street after street.

Imagine going through the trauma of this, of watching everything you own be swept away, maybe loss of life, and then sitting in this limbo for a year. Wanting to get your life back. But not knowing whether it's even possible. Are there gonna be schools here? Are the hospitals gonna be up and running? Are your neighbors gonna be back here?

To this shattered city, Pitt is bringing a new idea called green design — that is, a way to rebuild using materials that are less harmful to the environment, and cheaper for people to live in.

Pitt: Right now 45 percent of our pollution comes from the creation of our buildings and the operation of our buildings, which is a staggering number.

Joining the non-profit group Global Green, Pitt announced an architectural competition to green design a 12-unit apartment complex. It drew 3,000 registrants from all over the world, now narrowed down to six finalists.

Curry: Not only are you talking about it, you also put some money into this project?

Pitt: Yeah, sure, I'm sponsoring this competition. I'm invested in this competition.

Curry: About $100,000?

Pitt: So far. But my goal is to see something tangible, to see something built that can become an example, a template ... a flagship for other people who are facing rebuilding.

The finalists suggested ways to build that could cut energy costs by as much as 90 percent, and to use materials that would decrease the risks of asthma and other health risks.

The excitement generated over plans for a single apartment complex is an indication of just how acutely help is needed. Saundra Reed is a community leader:

Saundra Reed: Everything, every single thing about our lives is impacted. Katrina is still raging for us every single day. In my neighborhood, which was 70 percent low- to moderate-income renters, they can't afford to come home because rent is so high.

Curry: What do you say to people who react by thinking, you know what, this type of housing is too far-fetched for people that needed houses yesterday?

Pitt: Absolutely. [We're concerned with] building quickly and building with as little labor force as possible. We are sitting here in the middle of New Orleans and they have a shortage of homes, rent rates are through the roof. A family living here is struggling with $100 a month in electricity bills, $200 dollars a month, and you can get that ... you can knock that down 90 percent, where it's $10, $20 dollars, and it is possible. And relatively easy as soon as we change our building practices.

Brad Pitt, who has been bringing attention to some of the world's most desperate places, is now trying to do something for New Orleans. And he is a man just getting started.

Curry: Something is happening to you to make you want to do this stuff because you're doing more and more.

Pitt: Man, I got kids now. And it really changes your perspective on the world. And, you know, I've had my day. I've had my day. I made some films and I've really had a very fortunate life. And it's time for me to share that a bit.

Curry: Angie says that the reason why she does so much humantarian work is because, having children, she feels a greater responsibility.

Pitt: It's true. It changes ... it completely changes your perspective. And certainly takes the focus off yourself, which I'm really grateful for.


Pitt: I'm really grateful to them.

Curry: You tell ...

Pitt: I'm so tired of thinking about myself. I'm kinda sick of myself.

I can't do justice to it anymore than any other parent can. You feel that you want to be there and you don't want to miss out on anything. And it's a true joy. And you want to be there for them if they need anything. It's a true joy.

Curry: Love.

Pitt: Yeah, it's ... oh, a very profound love. Yeah.

Curry: Wonderful.

Pitt: Best thing I ever did. You know, you can write a book, you can make a movie, you can draw, paint a painting, but having kids is really the most extraordinary thing I've ever taken on. And, man, if I can get a burp out of that [baby], that little thing, I'll feel such a sense of accomplishment.