Brad Pitt, life after the wedding
LOS ANGELES—The husband of the newly minted Honorary Dame of the British Empire strode into a New York restaurant and immediately apologized for being late.
Brad Pitt kept a hat and tinted glasses on as he sat down for our latest encounter at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Grill. The place was lined with paintings by De Niro’s father.
“That was just cool,” Brad said of the recent family outing in Buckingham Palace. After Queen Elizabeth II honored Angelina Jolie in a private audience, Brad and the six Jolie-Pitt children—Maddox, 13; Pax, 10; Zahara, 9; Shiloh, 8, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 6—were introduced to the monarch.
“It was a lovely day for our family,” said Brad, looking tanned and relaxed. “We were offered the opportunity to meet afterwards and bring the kids in.”
Grinning, the famous father added, “And to see the kids
—I have never seen them that still and respectful in my whole life. To see them bow and say ‘Your Majesty’ and curtsy, was an absolute delight and just a lovely day for us.”
Congratulated on another milestone, their recent wedding and how their fans waited a long time for that, Brad quipped, “Yeah, us, too.”
Asked what had changed since that big day in a chateau in the South of France, the actor joked, “I feel like a married man. Yes, I do.”
Depth of commitment
Then he said, “We have six kids. We felt so beyond that (marriage) but our kids were asking, so we thought it would be a lovely thing to do with our family. It was all that. But I was surprised afterwards. It was more than just a ceremony. I was surprised at furthering the depth of commitment.”
After a few days, the newlyweds went back to work in Malta (which subs for France) where they are filming “By the Sea,” their first film together since “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Sparks flew between the two gorgeous actors on the set of the 2005 film.
Angelina writes and directs “By the Sea,” which is set in the mid-1970s and also stars Melanie Laurent.
“She’s tough as nails, you know that,” Brad dished with a smile on his boss-director on the Malta set. “There’s no hiding that. She wrote this beautiful, intimate, elegant European story about a couple dealing with grief. I am surprised what a challenging piece it is. I watch her set the shots and I am immensely proud. She knows what she’s doing, She’s got this; she’s good.”
“And there are several couples in it,” he continued. “There’s a couple who is just starting out (Melanie and another actor). There’s our couple who is 14 years in and is at that stage where (the questions are): What is the next step, what do you do, having been through all your baggage and what’s left, where does it go from here?
“And then there are these beautiful older men who run the café. It all takes place in a hotel room and in a café. As I said, it was really challenging. They (older men) are deeper into life, have experienced life, lost their wives and have a particular wisdom. It’s haunting. It’s really quite beautiful and elegant.”
Brad revealed that another family member is part of the film crew. “Maddox is 13 and he’s a PA (production assistant) on our film now.”
On why they chose to live part of the year in the South of France, Brad replied, “The first idea was to get our kids to a place [that was] outside of all that (points at the window overlooking Greenwich Street where the paparazzi have somehow suddenly showed up), that they can just be kids and explore.
“We also wanted everyone to learn another language. The kids started with French and they are all speaking French, so they expand their world view. And we wanted a European base, because we also want to be able to get to Africa and Asia. The idea was to get a European base to travel to some of the other areas. And we want the kids to see where Angie has to work.”
The proud papa pointed out, “As they travel the world and see how different people live and the conditions that people are challenged with, they are getting it and they will get it.”
On why they specifically chose the South of France, now even more memorable to them since their very private August wedding in a chateau, Brad explained, “We go by feeling, by instinct and it just felt right. My writer/director put a lot of French in the film we are doing now.”
Breaking into a smile, Brad pointed out, “Writer/director being my wife.”
As to his fluency in French, he said, “I think it’s coming but I am determined to learn it.”
Asked about turning 50 last December and how it was being 12 years older than his wife, Brad playfully protested, “Eleven and a half, all right? Let’s get the record straight.”
Then he said, “We’re probably the same age, maturity-wise. That’s the way it works. But it doesn’t feel any different, does it? It’s great. I will take wisdom over youth any day.”
Mr. and Mrs. Pitt’s World War II films may end up competing against each other in this awards season—“Fury,” which Brad stars in and produces, and “Unbroken,” which Angelina directs.
“I often end up (competing) with my friends,” Brad remarked. “It’s great when my friends make it there. I feel the same (about ‘Unbroken’). She made an incredible movie. It’s big and her film is about the triumph of the human spirit against tremendous odds. I see the films as distinctly different.”
In director David Ayer’s “Fury,” as the Allies make their final push in the European theater, a five-man crew in a tank—Brad (Don “Wardaddy” Collier), Shia LaBeouf (Boyd “Bible” Swan), Logan Lerman (Norman Ellison), Michael Peña (Trini “Gordo” Garcia) and Jon Bernthal (Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis)—goes on a crucial mission behind enemy lines. Brad likes to call this crew “a family.”
Day in the life
“I see ours more of a day in the life of a family, three and a half years into war,” he said. “They have been through Africa, France, Belgium and now they are in Germany.
“It’s about where we seem to deal with the psychic damage. By the way, there’s a great book, ‘On Killing,’ by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. It really helped my approach, going into the film.”
He said about “Unbroken”: “Hers is (based on a biography of) Louis Zamperini, this boy who came from nothing and went against really great odds. It’s a triumph of the human spirit. It’s very inspiring in that way.”
“But we are not pitted against each other,” Brad declared. He gallantly added about his wife’s film, “I hope it gets everything. There are amazing performances by Jack O’Connell (as Zamperini) and Miyavi, who is an amazing Japanese musician. Miyavi turns in his first role and it’s pitch-perfect. It’s worth seeing.”
Angelina told us in an earlier interview that while she was shooting “Unbroken” in Australia, he was filming “Fury” in the United Kingdom. The separation and making WWII films inspired them to write love letters to each other by hand, she recalled.
Brad, reminded about the handwritten notes, said, “Normally, we never work at the same time. Schedule-wise, we got it all wrong and we found ourselves having to work at the same time. But it was a unique experience for us to be both studying the war—she working in the Pacific theater and ours in the European theater.
“Of course, we got e-mail and Skype but we thought it might be interesting to just write letters as they had done at that time. They were gone for great amounts of time without communication with their loved ones. We did that and I will tell you what’s amazing—we have lost that form of communication. You do communicate in a different way. It was an interesting and lovely surprise.”
“Fury” features an extended dinner scene in which the “dysfunctional family” of five spends time in the home of a couple of surviving German women in a bombed-out town. This gentle episode erupts into an explosive “family” situation.
“Dave has this uncanny knack of putting us in a situation and learning our strengths and weaknesses and then pushing up against those to get a response from us in the scene,” Brad said of this scene. “That was near the end of the film. We had been together three months training into the film so we were a very tight group.
“When I look at the film, I see a dysfunctional family. I see a wartime scenario of dealing with all the traumas of war and all the psychological baggage that comes with the horrors of war. That scene took two days—it was like with a pack of wolves. From ‘Wardaddy’s’ point of view, he is the tank commander, the leader so he can’t show his weakness. So where does he release?
“The idea behind the scene is that he is looking for some semblance of quiet, peace and humanity. He brings the young boy (Logan’s Norman) along as well. Then his ‘family’ comes in and they won’t let him have it. So when we were in the takes, they were on me. They didn’t make it easy.
“And that was our relationship throughout the film. Meaning we would do the same on their takes. If it was Shia’s take, we would all come at him. Everyone had their turn throughout the film. That day, that scene was my turn.”
Brad pointed out, “During the (shooting of the) dinner scene, by the way—that was my (50th) birthday.”
As for the dinners in the Jolie-Pitt household, Brad said, “We always try to have dinner together. It’s our time to talk about the day and what everyone is feeling. But yeah, everyone has had that one dysfunctional holiday dinner with their family and maybe not to that degree as in the movie. And I am not going to sell out my family but everyone has had it.
“They are usually nice,” Brad emphasized about family dinners in his house. “We talk about everything—it goes wherever it goes. Some dinners involve talking about why people die and what you want to get out of this life. Other dinners involve singing Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Balls in Your Mouth’ song. So it can be anything.”
On the boot camp in preparation for the film, Brad said, “I walked in with (the thought), we always talk about respect for our soldiers and our young men and women and what we ask them to do and that’s absolutely goddamned right. But I have such a deeper understanding and appreciation of their preparation, mentally and physically.
“We are actors. We are tourists in their world for a short amount of time but to see the depth, mentally and physically, of what they go through, to understand what is being asked of them and what they are putting on the line for us—I just have to say that I have immense respect for them returning to civil society. It’s not an easy thing, even with all of their limbs. I am just quite moved.”
On being cooped up in the tank for weeks of filming, Brad said, “It’s actually quite peaceful in the tank. It’s like when you put your head underwater in a swimming pool. Even though there are five of us crammed in this tin can and it stinks, you get used to that pretty quickly. By the third day, that doesn’t really mean anything.
“There’s nothing ergonomical in a tank but you find your little place between the bolt and the turret ring and a little place to put your coffee. It becomes a home and these guys, they lived in it for months at a time and they did everything there. I don’t have to go into detail. When I mean everything, they did everything in there.
“But the tank has this strange, almost womb-like [quality]. There were some days when I would go in in the morning and I wouldn’t come out until the end of the day. I had lunch brought up there. I loved my tank.”
The dad volunteered, “By the way, Maddox knows more about tanks. I went to him when we first started, to understand more.”
Playing the leader made Brad discover “that I don’t suck at it. This one was a particular training in leadership. The tank commander is responsible for his guys, their morale. It was a really interesting study in leadership.
“Like as a father, sometimes you let them have their room and sometimes you have to put the clamps on. It’s all that. You have to know when they need to vent, when they need to get in line and get in order. I was the oldest one of the bunch, too. So they were looking at me for some kind of guidance.”
Brad does not want to be a director like his missus, who has already lined up her next project, “Africa.” “I don’t have any aspirations to direct,” he claimed. “It’s so time-consuming. I have aspirations to do some other things—in design work.”
Brad, who won an Oscar for being a co-producer of last year’s Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave,” explained why being a producer was fulfilling: “At the end of the year, there’s this batch of movies that either spoke to us or didn’t. To be able to contribute to culture in that way is a real privilege to me and something I don’t take lightly. So I am very specific about the stories that I put out.”
As to what he attributed his growth as an actor to, Brad answered, “Craft. With time you get to develop it. There are guys who are smart and make their way through it. Shia and Logan are certainly among them.
Since Bernthal played Shane Walsh in the first two seasons of “The Walking Dead,” the talk veered toward “World War Z 2.” “Jon and I certainly had a laugh over our tolerance for zombies,” Brad said. “Yes, there is one in the works and we will see if we’ll figure it out.”
“I love those boys,” he said of Jon, Shia, Michael and Logan. “I love Bernthal—he’s that guy on set that has everyone’s back. He’s a beautiful guy and I hope he gets immense opportunities.”
Looking forward, Brad said, “I am pretty clear about how I want to live my life and what I want for my kids, my family and my wife. That determines everything. I have never been one of those guys who think about the five-year-plan and the 10-year-plan. I have always gone by instinct…That’s been my guide.”
He has a few more specific goals, though: “It’s just improving on themes, film, fatherhood, as a husband, partner. We spend so much of our life trying to shake our own personal haunts. I like that about getting older. I still have design aspirations and things that I want to mess around with.”
(E-mail the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)
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