There are few in the movie game who can ‘out-Pitt’ Brad Pitt, but the film icon may well have met his match in the forthcoming Ad Astra.
In the James Gray-directed release, tipped to be one of the biggest of the year, the 55-year-old stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones, who plays his on-screen father. And if that wasn’t enough, consider Donald Sutherland strolling in stage-right too. It’s a stellar cast that can comfortably deal with the demands of telling the story of an Army Corps engineer who travels through the solar system to try to find why his father’s mission to Neptune in order — to find signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence — has disappeared off the radar… literally.
Pitt also works as producer on Ad Astra, taking the number of films he has overseen in such a capacity beyond the 30-mark. He is a man who clearly craves the added responsibility, the greater input, and the ability to work characters in ways his acting prowess implies he should thrive at.
Away from the big screen, and despite incredible wealth, Pitt remains a fierce critic of the financial system. The actor continues to lead a charge against the institutions, a fascination he first encountered when making the film The Big Short .
While his fight for equality and change in developing countries has seen brilliant ambassadorial work in Africa and beyond, Pitt appears to now be turning his attention back to his homeland in asking for fairness and equality in the way our lives evolve.
No doubt this year’s Ad Astra — Pitt’s first film since 2017’s satirical War Machine — will be a welcome diversion. The actor still retains his showpiece spark, and with appearances on The Jim Jefferies Show as the weatherman, plus the announcement of a sequel to zombie horror flick World War Z, it shows that while Pitt is happy to raise a voice to injustice, his work on the big screen must continue.
AD ASTRA MARKS A RETURN TO SCIENCE FICTION, A GENRE YOU’VE VISITED QUITE REGULARLY OVER THE YEARS. DOES BEING A FATHER INFLUENCE THOSE SORTS OF DECISIONS? PITT: It’s a constant evolution. That’s one of the great benefits of getting older. You learn so much more about being a father and being there for your kids and helping them grow and discover the world. And yes, the choices you make — right down to the lms scripts you accept — are part of that. Of course, the biggest thing about being a father isn’t the work, it’s the time away from work, but if having commitments means I get to travel, and the kids travel with me, then I love that. Venturing to unusual places exposes them to so many different cultures and experiences. Our children are really students of the world and I enjoy the role of guiding them as best as I can.
WHAT EXPERIENCES OF YOUR OWN CHILDHOOD DO YOU TAKE TOWARDS HAVING THOSE ROLES REVERSED, NOW BEING A PARENT YOURSELF? PITT: I remember my mother would spend a lot of time talking to and my siblings late at night before we went to sleep. Those were some of the most beautiful conversations I ever had in my life. They were very comforting in a deep sense of the term. I look at a family from a kid’s point of view. It should be a safe place where you can grow up and experience life and make mistakes and learn from them in a secure environment. That’s why I see fatherhood as a massive responsibility and privilege to be able to help get your kids ready for the outside world and try to see that they are as happy and secure as possible so that they can deal with all the problems life is going to throw at them.
ARE WE MORE OPEN WITH OUR CHILDREN THAN THE LAST GENERATION? PITT: I think so — we just didn’t talk a lot or feel encouraged to talk about feelings. You were expected to be strong and self-disciplined — you didn’t show weakness and you didn’t talk about problems or complain about feeling frustrated or sad. You kept that bottled up and I still have difficulty articulating and expressing myself although I’ve gotten better at it lately. I guess age is wearing down my protective armor! [Laughs]
DOES IT ANNOY YOU BEING PHOTOGRAPHED BY THE PAPARAZZI ALL OF THE TIME WHEN YOU’RE OUT AND ABOUT WITH YOUR FAMILY? PITT: We know there’s a bounty on our heads for photos and we’re hunted for that reason alone. So, it’s a constant in our lives and the main aggravation is that it distorts the kids view of their world even though the older ones don’t pay attention to the photographers anymore. The kids are used to being very mobile and traveling light. They think of it as a constant adventure.
YOU’VE SPOKEN OUT AGAINST RECENTLY ABOUT THE DISPARITY IN WEALTH AND THE STRUGGLES OF THOSE IN POVERTY — THIS REMAINS A SUBJECT CLOSE TO YOUR HEART? PITT: Well it’s in my body of work, in terms of the lm The Big Short, and like everything else you do in life, it sits there and comes back in parts and waves. When we did The Big Short it was all about putting together a script that explained the issues and components behind the global financial crisis of 2005. While that crisis has passed in the short-term, people are still living through its effects, and shouldn’t ever forget to appreciate the humour and absurdity of the way the crisis developed and who were some of the people involved, otherwise we’ll make the same mistakes again.
LOOKING BACK ON THAT, AND ALSO BRINGING IN YOUR CONTINUING MOVES INTO PRODUCING, WHAT WAS THE KEY TO CONVINCING PARAMOUNT TO JUMP ON BOARD WITH YOUR OWN PRODUCTION COMPANY, PLAN B? PITT: A lot of it came down to the casting. We called Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carrell — those were the three big names we wanted — and they all jumped in and gave great performances. It’s important to me to be able to keep helping to get these movies made and I’m very proud of everyone involved.
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO PRODUCE OR ACT? PITT: My first plan isn’t to act in a lm, it’s to produce it. For The Big Short, I wasn’t planning on acting in the lm when we first started working on it, but then I loved the idea of playing Ben, who scolded his proteges and told them that they should be aware of what they’re doing. He’s a voice of reason and he wanted them to think about the consequences of betting against their own economy.
SO THE SYSTEM IS STILL BROKEN? PITT: Oh yes, it will always be broken. That’s the trouble with the system — there are massive financial incentives for the people playing the markets even when the kinds of huge bets they’re making can lead to disaster. The guys involved aren’t evil —they’re exploiting the system the way it’s been created and just playing the game. None of the people I spoke to who made huge profits during the crisis ever said that they felt proud or happy about it. They’re in business to make money and some very smart guys were able to see in advance what was happening, and made money out of that.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO LIMIT DAMAGE IN FUTURE? PITT: The public deserves to be given more information and a chance to understand why they got duped and screwed and how this all happened. What really troubles me is that the crisis didn’t lead to regulations being tightened and measures enacted to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. And beyond that, there are so many other ways we can start leveling out the territory, but it is a long battle.