The year of Brad Pitt continued on Wednesday night as Pitt received the Maltin Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, CA. Held at the historic Arlington Theatre, the event attracted hundreds of fans, both inside the theatre and outside, where fans lined up for hours for a glimpse of the movie star. Inside the theatre, legendary film critic and historian, Leonard Maltin, for whom the award is named, moderated a discussion with the 56-year old Oscar-winning producer and Best Supporting Actor nominee this year for Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood. Maltin guided Pitt through a tour of his life and career, which started in southern Missouri before heading out to California. Extra work led to an audition for Thelma & Louise in 1991, and the rest, as they say, his movie star history.
Maltin asked Pitt about his experiences shooting specific films, and showed several clips from Pitt’s enormous filmography, including Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ad Astra, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Thelma & Louise, Seven, Moneyball, Inglourious Basterds, Burn After Reading, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Snatch. After the 90-minute chat, director and three-time Pitt collaborator David Fincher presented Pitt with his award. The star graciously accepted and told the gathered crowd that even though the award makes him feel old, he feels blessed for everyone who helped him along the way get to where he is now. He thanked several friends who were in the audience, telling the crowd that he’s been “hanging out” in the Santa Barbara area since 1999 and many of the friends there go back with him as many as 30 years.
Pitt continued, saying “Wow, it’s things like this and nights like these that tell me I’m old. I’ve been around a while and I’ve been doing this for a bit … I can’t do night shoots anymore, and I’ll gladly hand a stunt over to a stunt man. I no longer remember the first rule of Fight Club. But it’s also nights like this where I get to look back and feel really, really blessed. I feel so fortunate to all the amazing people I’ve been able to work with who have taught me so much and who’ve touched my life. From editors and composers and amazing directors who have sent me on a trajectory that has meant so much to me… I feel really blessed to be here and I feel grateful for this.”
The adoring crowd of all ages loved every minute of it, and, from the looks of it, so did Pitt.
Some highlights of the evening:
After seeing the clip of Thelma & Louise, his first major film role, Pitt commented, “My voice was so high! My ass must have been clenched so tight, being the first one.”
When Maltin asked about his iconic role in Fight Club and whether he had read the book first, Pitt said he had, but, beyond that, “We were having so much goddamned fun, I don’t remember any research.”
Pitt said he always loved movies, having grown up in the ‘70s on such films as The French Connection, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, which inspired him so much that he went to school for journalism. “Film wasn’t an option at Mizzou.” So, when he got the chance to not only meet Robert Redford, but be directed by him in The River Runs Through It, Pitt says it was humbling and “It was an honor.” He also agrees that Redford is vastly underrated as an actor, perhaps a similarity to Pitt himself.
One of the best moments of the night was when Maltin asked Pitt to talk about any of the movies that he’d passed on. Pitt seemed very zen about the whole thing, saying he truly believes if he didn’t get something, then it wasn’t his to begin with, but he did break down and admit to one role that he did pass on that may have been a mistake: The Matrix. This elicited a huge reaction from the audience.
Regarding his role in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, Pitt claims his unintelligible dialogue was inspired by Benicio Del Toro’s character and line delivery in The Usual Suspects.
It seems that one of the ways Brad Pitt gets roles is by calling up the directors of films he likes and telling them, “If you’ve got anything I’d be good for, let me know.” He recounted this is how he got at least two roles, in Ritchie’s Snatch and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (“I made them keep the whole title, so I have to say the whole thing every time, it’s in my contract”).
In fact, Pitt is all about the love of fellow artists and wants to do what he can to help them. When he got into producing, he said he saw that there was a tremendous gap in the industry, where only exorbitant budget films or miniscule budget films were getting made. He set out to help the group of movies between them that had great stories to tell.
He also called out Sam Rockwell, one of his co-stars of Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as an actor who’s killing it and has had a great year, as Pitt rolled off all of Rockwell’s credits from the year. It’s clear that Pitt loves other actors and watches everything.
He similarly loved working with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, saying “he is as good as gold. He doesn’t hold back, he does not protect.”
Pitt recalls what it’s like to be on a Quentin Tarantino set. “He has such reverence for filming, but he makes a party of it. If he’s in the middle of a good story, the take will wait.”