Mad For Brad
(US magazine, June 1991)
Meet Brad Pitt the Next Big Thing. A scene-stealing turn as a seductive hitchhiker in Thelma & Louise has all of Hollywood wondering Who is that guy.
Brad Pitt is lean, all legs and lips and liquid movement. You know that feeling when they take your picture and you aren’t ready? he says in a sexy southern accent enhanced by too many cigarettes. When this whole thing started, I felt that way. I wasn’t, like, uh planted. Right?
What the star of Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise and the upcoming Johnny Suede, The Favour and Cool World modestly refers to as this whole thing is what everyone else in Hollywood is eager to get in on his imminent stardom.
Long before his arresting performance in Thelma & Louise, in which he plays a sexy hitchhiker with the hots for Geena Davis, Pitt was taking private meetings with Robert Redford, and publicists were climbing over each other trying to represent him. How hot was this kid? Gossip columnist Liz Smith reported that he and Davis were (stop the presses) rumored to be having an affair on the set. Ready or not, Pitt was now a player in the Star Game.
Those in the know predict he will play the game well. There are stars that aren’t great actors, says Thelma & Louise casting director Lou Di Giaimo, who auditioned nearly 400 hopefuls before casting Pitt. But when I met Brad, I thought, He’s going to be a star and he can act. His career is going to be capital B-I-G.
He’s already a head-turner. Sitting in the dining room of a West Hollywood hotel, Pitt garners looks galore, but he doesn’t seem to notice. Then again, maybe he’s just used to it.
This is my third interview, he says, after ordering iced coffee. I just had a bad one. This reporter, the first thing he asks me is how did I get my washboard stomach! Can you believe that? Like he was personally interested. Pitt lights a cigarette and leans back, shaking his head. Man, the next time I don’t click with someone, I’m just going to say, Thanks for your time, and leave.
Though he’s still cutting his perfect teeth when it comes to publicity, there is one thing Pitt has learned right from the get-go. I’d prefer not to have my aged printed, he says, seeming a bit embarrassed. It’s not a vanity thing. I just don’t think people should know certain things because it’ll go against my characters.
Born twentysomething years ago in Oklahoma, William Bradley Pitt spent his youth in Springfield, Missouri, where his father owns a trucking company.
Growing up I was like an insider, he recalls, inside of everything, like the cool stuff at school but was always looking out. Because it wasn’t quite enough or something. Pitt pauses. Insider looking out, he echoes, hitting the table. That’s perfect. That sums it all up.
Pitt looks pleased by this bit of self-revelation, and lights up another cigarette. A waiter comes by to replace the ashtray with a clean one. You know, you might want to leave it there, Pitt says, apologetically. I’m only going to dirty it up. The waiter swaps them anyway and leaves just as another person approaches the table.
Excuse me, are you Harry? the woman asks.
No, answers Pitt, genially, but I’ll be Harry.
A cross between Norma Desmond and Baby Jane, the garishly painted, 50-ish woman seats herself at the table, explaining, I thought you were Harry Connick Jnr.
Are you serious? Pitt says. Hey, is that guy cool, or what?
Well, she continues, he reminds me of Frank Sinatra, and I had a date with Frank Sinatra. I’m a singer myself.
By now Pitt should be hearing Twilight Zone music, but having surmised that this strange creature is no real threat, he is genuinely engaged. Yeah? he says. Did Frank have bad breath? Or did you like him?
Reaching into her purse, the woman pulls out a small photo album and hands it to Pitt. I call this Super Stars and Super Cars, she says. By the way, my name is Christia, Pitt introduces himself and, though she has never heard of him, Christia looks awed when she says, You’re a star, aren’t you?
Naw, says the star, thumbing through the photos. Who’s in this shot with you?
Christia chastises him, That’s the king of Las Vegas, silly! That’s Wayne Newton!
Speaking of which, says Pitt, have you seen Tom Jones? He’s so cool.
No, but I’ve got Engelbert! Christia grabs the book excitedly and shows off a picture of Engelbert Humperdinck with his arm wrapped around her.
Wow, says Pitt.
Turning to the last page, Christia points to a beautiful mansion. That’s the house I want to buy when my singing career takes off.
Pitt wishes her well and Christia goes back to her table. People come here with so many dreams, he says, watching her walk away. I think of why people want to be actors, put their face on a 40-foot screen so people can tell them if they liked them or not. And why? I think a lot of these people want some kind of understanding from a large group.
This actor’s odyssey to the big screen began when he left the University of Missouri in 1987, two credits shy of a degree in journalism. I came to LA to go to art school, he says. It wasn’t about acting. Pitt laughs. I don’t know why I say that ñ I never even visited the school, so it’s probably crap.
You won’t find his early work listed on his bio. Some of Pitt’s more illustrious rent checks came from chauffering Strip-O-Gram women and dressing up as the El Pollo Loco restaurant promotion chicken and flapping his arms.
At the same time, he studied with a coach, got an agent and, soon after, landed recurring roles on Another World and Dallas. Last year’s Fox series Glory Days was sure to catapult Pitt to Johnny Depp/Richard Grieco idolatory, until it was cancelled after six episodes.
The way Pitt sees it, it was meant to be that he should play J.D. in the female buddy picture Thelma & Louise. Actor Billy Baldwin, originally cast in the role, bowed out at the last minute to star in Backdraft. I could have walked in like an idiot, says the newcomer, but Geena and Susan (Sarandon) were really cool. They made me feel comfortable.
The camaraderie with his costars (both Davis and Pitt deny having an affair) helped Pitt brave the film’s explicit love scene. It’s rough-and-tumble roll in the hay, especially for Davis character, who experiences her first orgasm. Let me tell you, it was really romantic for all 30 of us in the room, he says facetiously. It’s a long day when you’re running around with a patch over your personals. We were all fighting over what music to break the tension. Geena wanted Prince and I wanted Johnny Lee Hooker and some sexy blues ñ we played it all. Actually, it was a great day.
As the initials J.D. would suggest, Pitt looks not unlike James Dean, but don’t tell him that. James Dean? says Pitt, disgusted. That’s crap. And it amazes me all these actors that try to impersonate James Dean instead of finding out who they are. They ride around on the Harleys trying to Mickey Rourke and they won’t bathe. They’re just trying to live this dream. Why would you want to pattern your life after someone who wasn’t a survivor?
Pitt’s refreshing philosophy might sound well rehearsed, but today he seems sincere. In fact part of his charm is the he polices his own posturing. (At one point, a he postscripts a two-cigarette speech on human nature with, This could be more bulls—.)
Love is another topic with posture potential. It’s great if you can accept it, says Pitt. Catching himself, he adds with a wink, You better watch me on this subject. I’ll get a little grand on ya.
Although he once dated actress Robin Givens, the actor keeps his more recent romance a secret. We’re kinda off right now, he says, of the unnamed actress. I love here, but we’re not ready to be together completely. But it will be terrific if the quest goes that way.
Now living alone in West Hollywood, Pitt keeps a low profile. My buddies kind of abuse me because I don’t leave the house much, he says. You know when you reach a point where you just have fun in a box by yourself?
Maybe he’s taking his work home with him. Pitt’s current project is the dark semi-animated Cool World, in which he plays a detective who is alone and has checked out cuz life got kinda rough. The film, which costars Kim Basinger, is directed by Ralph Bakshi, best known for his animated Fritz the Cat. When Brad walked into the audition, says Bakshi, he was a cross between a young Alan Ladd and James Dean. Brad could walk across a floor and be sensual without trying. The two got along so well during filming, they have since decided to do the Chet Baker story together, with Brad playing the tormented trumpeter.
Right now the only think tormenting Pitt is the need for more nicotine. He leaves to buy some more smokes and stops by a table before returning. I said good-by to Christia, he says, sitting down again. I wished her luck with her singing career. Pitt looks perplexed as he lights up a cigarette. You know, it just dawned on me that she didn’t have any pictures of Super Cars in that book, he says, watching a lazy swirl of smoke. The world’s wild, isn’t it?