Looking handsome, as always, in jeans and a white t-shirt, having just changed from a grey suit he wore on the red carpet, Pitt, 48, wears his signature long hair touching his shoulders and looks happy to be on the Riviera, not too far from his home in southern France. He's at the famous Cannes film festival to promote Killing Them Softly, in which he stars in and produces. In a good mood, he jokes about not having had a lot of sleep, taking work shifts with his long-time partner and mother of his brood of six kids, Angelina Jolie.
Q: How are you?
I’m still up a bit since last night.
Q: Cannes does that to you doesn’t it?
Yeah it does.
Q: Has it been a long day for you already?
So yeah, up since last night. I’ll try to be as coherent as possible, if it makes no sense, rewind this. (laughter)
Q: It looks like it’s becoming a tradition for you, coming to Cannes. It’s almost every year now right?
I thought you were talking about staying out all night. (laughter) Yeah, I enjoy Cannes, I enjoy Cannes very much. It’s a place that has great appreciation for the filmmaker, as I do, it’s great being in competition with other filmmakers I admire, and we are on the Riviera for Christ’s sake.
Q: So we saw you last year. What changed since then?
Nothing, doing the same thing and I worked a lot last year, this year mom is working a lot and I get to be dad.
Q: How do you choose a project from the 1,000 scripts that you must get. How do you choose a project and why did you choose this one?
I choose it just by feel. That inexplicable feeling that feels like the next interesting thing to go through, something new, something to tackle, something different. Andrew Dominik has become a great friend of mine, and Jesse James remains one of my personal favourites and wanted to do something with Andrew again, and I’ll tell you what, I hate seeing Andrew struggle. I thought he made one of the best movies of certainly that I’ve been a part of and he was really struggling for a while, just to get something made. And so when he came up with this idea and I fit into it, I was thrilled with it. I knew immediately when we first sat down, he came over, told me the story, found this book, it was just at the collapse of the mortgage scandal, and I knew immediately. It’s just an inexplicable feeling.
Q: Women don’t exist in this movie. Why is that?
Well, they are always talking about women, all the characters are deeply affected by the women in their life, or the lack of women in their life and that inability leads to a great sadness in many of the characters.
Q: We remember when you got a life by these two women in Thelma and Louise, that was already some years ago. Did you think at that time that it could be the right decision that put you where you are now?
You are never really thinking that far in advance. I just love movies and wanted to be a part of movies, and there’s so much just trying to figure out who you are in the business and what you want to do with the opportunity, once you get the opportunity. Mainly, it’s chasing opportunity and to be fortunate enough to get that. Then what do you do with it once you get it? And that was the 90s for me.
Q: But do you think when you see one of your own movies like Thelma and Louise and you watch it…
First of all, I don’t. (laughter)
Q: Are there films that your kids can see?
Yeah, there’s some of them that I’ll proud that they will see one day. I hope they will be proud. But I don’t really focus on going back. I don’t really. I figure I will do that when I can’t do this anymore.
Q: Has living in France changed the way of cine-culture and changed the way you appreciate and watch movies?
No, I just find a parallel appreciation in France for filmmakers and that voice, at this specific point of view, and also, an appreciation for a quieter film and a more subtle film.
Q: Talking about money, at the end of the movie you say that this country is about business, so I would like to know, which other priorities are there for you when you choose to produce a movie?
I want to make a movie that says something about our time, the specifics about our time that’s relevant, not necessarily current events, but what and where we are as people. I want to work with filmmakers I respect, because it’s a collaborative sport, and ultimately, the final authorship or the true authorship is the director, so I want to make sure I’m in good hands that way, and I’m going to do something that takes me away from home, as much as a film can do. Those two things specifically.
Q: Would you say you’ve been saved at some point in your life by films? That a movie kind of saved you or gave you a different direction, and if so, what movie might that have been? Or movies in general? Maybe when you were desperate and young…
Yeah, I’m thinking back because it was more of an experience that you have at a younger age, but specifically, I can’t name any. I mean. I think films that showed me another culture that I wasn’t aware of that made me more curious about the world and made me want to get out and travel the world and meet people, people who react to things differently than I do and have a different point of view. I have a distinct memory of seeing Saturday Night Fever as a young kid. I had to sneak in because it was an R-Rated movie, and very strict there, I had to sneak in, what you do is, you buy a ticket for a PG movie, then you act like you are going to the bathroom or something, and then you sneak in while the guy has got his back turned, the ticket taker. And we got in.
Q: Did you want to be Travolta?
No, it was just this idea of this family, this New York family. I am from the Ozarks, we are more country and the idea of this boisterous, gregarious family that are hitting each other and yelling at each other and it seemed ferocious but there’s a lot of love in that and how they relate to each other. I just remember seeing this thing and being really affected by it.
Q: And when did you start thinking about acting, do you remember that? Was that something that came naturally for you?
Well I kind of lamented, it wasn’t on the list of career opportunities where I grew up in any way, and it wasn’t until… I’ve told this story a lot, it wasn’t till two weeks before graduation, and everyone was taking jobs, and I didn’t have a job lined up, nor was I ready to, and it just occurred to me, that I always lamented that it wasn’t an opportunity, but then it just occurred to me, I could go to the opportunity. So literally two weeks later, I had my car loaded up, and 300 dollars in my pocket.
Q: You were supposed to be a journalist, is that right?
I was in the J school, but I really was a bit feckless, (laughter) it was more about, unfortunately for me at that time it was more about getting out of class and of course now, I wish I had certainly studied more.
Q: What do you think about the message that a violent role like yours gives? Does it glorify the drug dealers? Does it send the wrong message?
It’s a violent world we live in, and I don’t know how you feel but I don’t agree with trying to hide that or cover it up. That being said, it’s also a metaphor for business, and business can be Darwinian, it can be very cut throat, and so the killings are very metaphorical in that way for me. But it’s not a nihilistic violence either. There is some care and thought for the other person to try and make it comfortable for them, try to make it easy on them, it’s just an unfortunate part of their business. And murder, or being murdered is a potential outcome in a life of crime, and that’s it. That’s just the rules. From the characters point of view.
Q: The economic downturn is the theme in the film. Is that something that concerns you personally? Do you see evidence of it? I mean walking around Cannes, there are more homeless people in the streets here this year. But you lead a very different life, is it a concern of yours?
Yeah absolutely, this film, I think why I was interested in it, and Andrew has a different experience coming off of Jesse James. For me, it was when the whole mortgage scandal started being uncovered and a lot of people were losing their homes, and it was really upsetting. It was due to deregulation, which created this epidemic or opportunity for greed, for just human nature, yes, but it’s also under the rules of capitalism it was okay. It brings up the question of then what is responsible capitalism. And beyond that still, there was criminal behaviour, and yet there have been no repercussions and it’s hard to make your peace with.
Q: So as a producer, you are very wise where you spend your money and we can see that. I’m wondering if at home, you are also that wise in terms of teaching your kids the value of money, of course you have a lot of money…
Sure, of course, one of the many things that we try to impart into your kids is to prepare them for life on their own and have respect for the world at large.
Q: But you give a lot of money to charity as well, so this is not only keeping the money, but giving it to people who really need it right?
Well, I’ve often said this. I really feel like I’ve hit the lottery, and the more I travel, the more I understand what opportunity I have, and most people don’t have that opportunity, and I believe that it is not, nothing more than luck and that you need to pass that.
Q: But it can’t be only luck. I mean, there must be something else?
Well, the fact is that wherever you are born, the latitude and longitudinal lines of where you are born, determines your opportunity in life. It’s not equal. We may have been created equal, but we are sure not born equal.
Q: Did you ever feel that when you earned your first big check, that you could have done the wrong thing - maybe you wouldn’t be wise? Maybe you would have spent it all?
Well that’s certainly another story, I may still do that. (laughter) I have a growing family. I don’t know.
Q: You are going to shoot two movies with Michael Fassbender, is that right?
Q: And I would like to know what you would feel about him, if you like him, and also Steve McQueen, you seem to work with a lot of Brits.
Steve McQueen is, he’s got an amazing feel, I love Steve McQueen. Hunger. He’s just got an amazing touch. And I feel like he’s one of those great painters that just paints a certain part but you get the whole profile, you get the whole figure. Anyway, I think it’s an important film and I think, we think we’ve dealt with slavery, but in real life, we really haven’t we really, in my country we really haven’t.
Q: But only as a producer would you…
I’m going to do a small cameo.
Q: Now that Angelina has made her debut as a director, with her film, is there something you would…
And writer. But no, I wouldn’t.
Q: Why not?
I got too many good friends that are doing it. I would be too obsessive, too much of a perfectionist. It’s just not a good idea.
Q: Hers was a movie about war, but it was a very family oriented movie in a way. Do you agree?
I don’t think of it in either terms. She’s a force and a distinct commentary about the visions and the lasting effects and the story was meant to pull people together. She always has purposes just beyond the story itself. She cares deeply about the country she goes to.
Q: Do you have approval for each others’ works?
Yeah sure, I mean, we help each more in like figuring it out, the cracking it. But yeah, absolutely, I want her approval, I want her to like the movie, I want her to be proud of her man.
Q: So the time coming up for you now, because you are always changing shifts, that you will be home for the next year?
Yeah, mom is working.
Q: Are you also looking forward to that at all? Is it also a holiday to be away from the whole chaos?
It’s all great. You get to be with the kids more.
Q: What sort of things do you do?
Just normal stuff. I mean, lunch is an adventure for us. (Laughter) /Viva Press