Subject: Brad Pitt, 46-year old American actor and producer
Positive Buzzwords: Versatility, charm, box-office appeal
Negative Buzzwords: “In development,” goatee
Date of Assessment: October 29, 2010
The Case: Never content to rely upon his own pretty face, Brad Pitt has surprised the lot of us by persisting through two decades as a leading man and, arguably, emerging stronger than ever. Of course, there are those who currently believe that Pitt’s career is all washed up; this is a claim that can either be refuted or supported with a mere glance at the sheer number of “in development” projects listed on IMDb, which is admittedly a rather astonishing number (28, to be precise) and leaves little comparison even to the rest of the Hollywood heavyweights. Clearly, Pitt still possesses the box-office clout to reel in the highest Tarantino audience to date for Inglourious Basterds, but so many of his other queued-up projects (with the exception of Moneyball, which also languished for quite some time) have yet to go anywhere. Perhaps the recession is to blame, for Pitt resides at the high end of the salary range, but it’s still a troubling matter. Surely, Pitt’s participation in Megamind and Happy Feet 2 doesn’t indicate that big-budgets are now necessarily confined to kiddie animation flicks, correct?
On a positive note, Pitt has the luxury of rolling with the ebbs and the flows of his career; timewise, he’s got gender on his side, which is always a plus for any aging actor on the big screen. In addition, not many actors can measure up to Pitt’s comparative acting range. Clearly, anyone who doubts this fact hasn’t watched the “What’s in the fuckin’ box?!” moment at the end of Se7en, during which Pitt’s character realizes the truth of his wife’s fate while struggling (and failing) not to give the killer exactly what he wants. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s move backwards just a bit, shall we?
For all practical purposes, Pitt was an unknown quantity until his Thelma & Louise role, which established his physical prowess with the ladies and also led to an immediate future of “heartthrob” roles: Interview with the Vampire, Legends of the Fall, Meet Joe Black, and Troy. Somehow though, Pitt has largely evaded a fate as a typecast piece of man candy (thanks in part to an early appearance as Stoner Floyd of True Romance fame), which either means that he’s got a great agent or has figured out on his own how to diversify the resumé. Hence Pitt’s selection of genre pics (Se7en, Sleepers, Sleepers, and Snatch), all of which are counterbalanced with big-budget turns with fellow A-listers (The Devil’s Own, The Mexican, and ensemble pieces such as Ocean’s Eleven). Hell, Pitt’s even done a bit of television work with style, including a notorious “Friends” episode called “The One With The Rumor.” Beyond that, there’s action Pitt (Mr. & Mrs. Smith); political Pitt (Babel); indie Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford); and long-winded epic Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). However, I will always maintain there isn’t any better Pitt character than those that fall under the “Crazy Brad Pitt” spectrum (Kalifornia, Twelve Monkeys, Fight Club, Burn After Reading, and Inglourious Basterds). Of course, Pitt’s always most enjoyable while hamming it up and bouncing off of more sedate presences, such as Morgan Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Frances McDormand, Kevin Spacey, and much of the Inglourious Basterds ensemble cast. Undeniably, Pitt fills a certain niche as a leading man; it’s just a matter of keeping the faucet flowing while also keeping studio financiers happy.
On a more behind-the-scenes sort of note, Pitt’s actually much smarter than people generally would believe and often has a hand in refining a script to fine-tune his own characters yet avoids rewriting the entire storyline to suit his egotistical visions (and thus destroying an iconic character, much in the manner that Christian Bale was rumoured to have forced McG into crushing the mythical legend of John Connor in Terminator: Salvation). At the same time, Pitt’s also not pretentious enough to broadcast his own presumed brilliance to the world (unlike, say, James Franco who dashes about with a penis on his nose whilst claiming the lofty status of an academic douchebag). Instead, Pitt has maintained a reputation as a laid-back leading man and (on an even more unheard of note) dares to show up on set without an entourage. Oddly enough, he also maintains a bit of distance from the masses despite his own tabloid ubiquity; perhaps he’s unwittingly done so through his own lack of social media prowess; hence, he’s not always shoving himself in our faces and can still maintain some “old-school” Hollywood glamour.
Prognosis: Pitt’s got the stature, talent, and looks to make it as long, far, and wide as Robert Redford. However, Hollywood’s recently grown stingy with its cash flow and willingness to fund A-list projects. Of the aforementioned “in development” movies, many of these projects have been on that list for years. With just a few projects that have actually moved into development — The Tree of Life, World War Z — Pitt can hopefully keep things rolling until the economy improves and Hollywood regains a few brains. One can only hope.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.