The great curse of aging is that it affords you time to reflect on and regret the things you’ve done wrong. Or maybe this is a blessing, if you’re able to learn from past mistakes and evolve. Brad Pitt will celebrate his 56th birthday next week. In a rather candid interview with The New York Times, Pitt opened up about things he wished he’d done different, and the shift his career took after one particular film.
After a big 2019 that saw him star in both Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood and then James Gray’s interstellar drama, Ad Astra, Pitt still seems burdened by his missteps from years earlier. For instance, he can’t stand his performance in the second half of 12 Monkeys—a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. And he still thinks about a Coen brothers film called To the White Sea that got shut down. After that, Pitt laments, he did another project at the advice of others when a certain arthouse film appealed more to his sensibilities.
2004 marked a new dawn for Pitt. Since then, he’s worked more exclusively with stronger directors, and he’s delivered deeper, more affecting performances as a result.
Here’s what Pitt had to say about that turning point:
No, it wasn’t “Troy,” it was another thing. But that really made me think, I’m following my gut from here on out. I had to do “Troy” because — I guess I can say all this now — I pulled out of another movie and then had to do something for the studio. So I was put in “Troy.” It wasn’t painful, but I realized that the way that movie was being told was not how I wanted it to be. I made my own mistakes in it. What am I trying to say about “Troy”? I could not get out of the middle of the frame. It was driving me crazy. I’d become spoiled working with David Fincher. It’s no slight on Wolfgang Petersen. “Das Boot” is one of the all-time great films. But somewhere in it, “Troy” became a commercial kind of thing. Every shot was like, Here’s the hero! There was no mystery. So about that time I made a decision that I was only going to invest in quality stories, for lack of a better term. It was a distinct shift that led to the next decade of films.
It’s been plainly evident from his work over the past fifteen years that Pitt has interests exceeding those from earlier in his career, save for his films with David Fincher and a few others. And as a producer, he gets to explore those even further, backing better than fifty movies and series since 2006, including the Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave.
Earlier this week, Pitt’s Cliff Booth performance in Once Upon a Time earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. And in keeping with his philosophy, he’ll next be seen in Babylon, a Damien Chazelle project (also starring Emma Stone), which is slated for late 2021.