Fresh off his Golden Globes win for his role in Quenin Tarantino’s film. Once Upon a time in Hollywood, iconic America actor Brad Pitt sat down with New Europe’s Federico Grandesso while the latter was in Venice to promote the science fiction film Ad Astra, his most, and a collaboration with director James Gray.
NEW EUROPE (NE): What’s your feeling about the major success of Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?
BRAD PITT (BP): Well, that the movie was well-received by the critics and audiences alike, and has made a huge earning at the US box office, was expected. I think it’s great. It’s big for a Quentin film that it could still land like that. I think it was the only original content released over last summer that is neither a sequel nor based on a comic book or something like that. So, it’s no small feat. It says a lot that the studios can still gamble on films like his. I’m really pleased for it because the film was well-suited to my taste, of course.
NE: What about a possible Oscar nomination for your role in Once Upon a Time…?
BP: It’s possible because I think Cliff (Booth) is a character that Quentin wrote who has this quality of a real guy with an easy-peasy kind of approach to whatever is thrown his way. He just figures out what’s going on in the universe – or whatever you want to call it – but he remains unstained and it’s alright in the end. I think it’s something that we all can relate to. I’m sure this is something that most of us are struggling for in our own lives.
You might say he’s an all-American hero kind of a guy, or a kind of character with Mitchum-esque qualities, but then again, with Quentin being so steeped in film lore, I don’t think there’s any confusion how the character came to be like that. But I think there’s an extra element to it that it’s more than just a guy who beat up the other guy. It’s more about how you’re handling the situation. It’s more about the approach. I hope it is. I hope you can see that there’s another layer on top of this approach, which is about accepting an ease with the world.
NE: You were involved in two ambitious, big-budget releases recently. How did you feel about that?
BP: I feel very fortunate I’m getting away with it. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to get involved in films and get them pushed. They’re a gamble, I mean, as I said there’s a reason why studios cannot make these kinds of film anymore. It takes some really big guts for a studio to gamble like that because they’re so expensive. That’s why they prefer making something that is a safe bet. It’s not just that a project cost $200 million. It’s not merely about the amount of money. But still, even a $40 million movie is going to cost you another $40 million in advertising in prints to push it all the way. So, it’s that added cost. It’s why we’re seeing the more gutsy material being made by streaming services – they don’t have to fight the battle of that kind of extra expense. The fact that a big studio film like that is still getting done again is exciting to see, but now we’re coming to an era where to watch a film as part of a big cinematic communal experience is becoming less and less common. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just economics.
NE: Ad Astra director James Gray highly praised your acting ability to perform alone on an isolated film set. How was it during the filming process?
BP: What’s funny, but what you don’t see, is that the film crew realised that we actually got ourselves into a little bit of a corner on the set because we needed to sketch out a person who has difficulty connecting with others, and yet he’s on his own. You need someone else there to show that it’s not connecting or something. So we really had to work it out. In actuality, it’s just a lot teamwork putting the film together. It’s certainly about the delicate balance of work, more than on any of the other films I’ve ever worked on. It’s really, really challenging. What is amazing about this film is the amount of work required in putting every single piece together during the editing process. Making sure none of the details are missed. We could’ve had a line of voice over put in the music cue, but we completely tipped things over with something like ‘too far this way’ or ‘not enough of this’. We had to pick it up again, back it up and readdress it. It’s like this way through the whole thing. The whole process was really delicate. And it was precisely conceived, I think, too, because we’re dealing with these issues of, I guess, masculine identity, and how the film is trying to understand and to illustrate where that went wrong and how such feelings can imprison an individual, where openness can save us from our own misunderstandings.
NE: How did your role in Ad Astra affect you personally since you are a father?
BP: Well, I think it’s true that in all of us, and certainly it’ll require an investigation that I would have to do, but as a storyteller we get to focus strictly on that. It certainly accelerated my growth on the subject of the film. You know, when I think of my dad who was working 8 to 6 every day and on Saturdays for all his life to have what he has today, I understood he wouldn’t have as much opportunity to do other things because he had to focus on work all day. And then as you grow older, you have the determination to get yourself into a different life from what you had when you were a child. My life story is 100% of that. This is why I took the path of being an actor and started to stop picking up nice things that aren’t even mine but more on things that represent how I feel and believe.
It was kind of my personal call to the situation. My dad always said that he wanted to give us a better life and he did that despite the hardship he had to endure. I feel I have the same moral responsibility for my kids and I think maybe the subject of this film is what I could give them, and I hope in the future they’ll have a better life than what I have.