William Bradley “Brad” Pitt (born December 18, 1963) is an American actor and film producer, who first achieved stardom in several successful films in the mid-1990s. He has been cited as one of the world’s most attractive men and his off-screen life is widely reported. Pitt has received one Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.
Pitt began his career in television guest spots, including a recurring role on the CBS soap opera Dallas in 1987. He was cast in supporting roles in such standard teen-oriented films, slasher flicks, comedies and family-oriented sports dramas. He gained recognition as the cowboy hitchhiker who seduces Geena Davis’ character in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise. Pitt’s first leading role in a major film was in Interview with the Vampire (1994). He starred in the 1995 well-received crime and science fiction films Se7en and Twelve Monkeys, for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor. Pitt achieved fame as a result of his portrayal of Tyler Durden, a straight-shooting but charismatic mastermind individual in Fight Club (1999), and since then has established himself as an A-list actor. He has had his biggest commercial successes with Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Spy Game (2001), Troy (2004), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), the action-comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), and Burn After Reading (2008).
Following a high profile relationship with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and marriage to Jennifer Aniston, as of 2008, Pitt lives with actress Angelina Jolie, in a relationship that has attracted worldwide media attention. He and Jolie have three adopted children, Maddox, Pax, and Zahara, as well as three biological children, Shiloh, Knox, and Vivienne. Since his relationship with Jolie, Pitt has become increasingly involved in social issues, both in the United States and internationally.
Early life Pitt was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the son of Jane Etta (née Hillhouse), a high school counselor, and William Alvin Pitt, a truck company owner. Along with his siblings Doug and Julie Neal, he grew up in Springfield, Missouri, where the family moved soon after his birth. Growing up, he was raised as a conservative Southern Baptist, singing in the church choir.
Pitt attended Kickapoo High School, where he excelled; he was a member of the golf, tennis and swimming teams, as well as the Key and Forensics clubs. He also participated in school debates and musicals. Following his graduation, Pitt attended the University of Missouri in 1982, where he belonged to the Sigma Chi fraternity, where he frequently acted in several fraternity shows. He majored in journalism, with a focus on advertising. In 1985, two weeks prior to earning his degree, Pitt left the university and moved to Los Angeles, California to take acting lessons.[When asked why he left the university, Pitt responded: “I had this sinking feeling as graduation approached. I saw my friends getting jobs. I wasn’t ready to settle down. I loved films. They were a portal into different worlds for me, and Missouri wasn’t where movies were made. Then it hit me: If they didn’t come to me, I’d go to them.”
Once he moved to Los Angeles, he took a number of odd jobs, ranging from chauffeuring, being a delivery man,selling cigarettes, assisting a soap opera writer, and dressing up as an El Pollo Loco chicken, to pay for his acting classes. When asked about the pivotal influence in his decision in leaving Missouri for Los Angeles, Pitt said: “I wasn’t ready to call it quits as far as getting out into the world. It wasn’t leaving something behind, it was heading for something that was nascent and ill-defined. I did not know what it would be when I got to L.A., and to me not knowing that has always been the most exciting thing about making a trip.”
While struggling in Los Angeles, he began studying acting with the late renowned acting coach Roy London. In December 1987, Pitt started out in television guest spots, including a recurring role on the CBS primetime soap opera Dallas playing Randy, the boyfriend of Shalane McCall’s character, Charlie Wade. During an interview with People magazine, he revealed, while questioned about his scenes with McCall, “It was real sweaty-palms time for me. It was kind of wild, because I’d never even met her before.” His character spent five weeks in the show. In 1990, he co-starred in the short-lived television drama Glory Days. In 1988, Pitt received his first film role in The Dark Side of the Sun, where he played a young American taken by his family to the Adriatic to find a remedy for a skin condition. The movie was shot in Yugoslavia in the summer of 1988. However, with editing nearly complete, war broke out and much of the footage was lost; the film was released nine years later. Pitt was then cast in the television movie Too Young to Die?, about an abused teenager given the death penalty for murder. Pitt played the part of a drug addict, Billy Canton, who took advantage of a runaway played by Juliette Lewis. Entertainment Weekly wrote: “Pitt is a magnificent slimeball as her hoody boyfriend; looking and sounding like a malevolent John Cougar Mellencamp, he’s really scary.”
Pitt starred alongside Vera Martins, in which he plays Joe Maloney in Across the Tracks, which he portrayed a high school runner with a difficult criminal brother played by Ricky Schroder. Pitt attracted broader public attention from a supporting role in Thelma & Louise, where he played a small-time criminal drifter who befriends Thelma (Geena Davis). His love scene with Davis, which showed Pitt shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat, has been often cited as the moment that defined Pitt as a “sex symbol”.
After the success of Thelma & Louise, Pitt starred alongside Catherine Keener and Nick Cave in the low budget, Tom DiCillo-directed 1991 film Johnny Suede, as an awkward dreamer who aspired to be a big-haired rock star. After appearing in Cool World, Pitt starred in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It in 1992. In 1993, re-uniting with his Too Young to Die? co-star Juliette Lewis, they appeared in the film Kalifornia, a road movie in which he played a scruffy serial killer and Lewis playing Pitt’s ex-girlfriend. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone in his review of the film, called Pitt’s performance as “outstanding”. He also noted the performances by both Pitt and Lewis, with saying: “He and Lewis… play this flapdoodle with enough urgency to make the suspension of disbelief worthwhile.” That same year, he won a ShoWest Award as “Male Star of Tomorrow”.
Early critical success
Pitt’s career prospects began to improve after being cast as vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac in the movie adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel Interview with the Vampire. The role of the 18th-century vampire required Pitt to endure several hours of make-up being applied every day to achieve the characteristic white skin; Pitt wore a pair of green contact lenses and vampire fangs to complete the appearance.He was part of an ensemble cast that included Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, and Antonio Banderas.Although he won two MTV Movie Awards, Pitt’s performance was particularly criticized. Variety wrote: “Brad Pitt’s Louis is handsome and personable, but there is no depth to his melancholy, no pungency to his sense of loss. He also doesn’t seem to connect in a meaningful way with any of the other actors except, perhaps, to Slater’s interviewer.”
He then starred in Legends of the Fall (1994) and Se7en (1995). In Legends of the Fall, Pitt was part of an ensemble cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond, and Aidan Quinn. Although the film was met with mixed reviews, Roger Ebert in review of the film complimented the acting by the cast, “The movie is a showcase for acting, and in addition to Ormond and Hopkins, it also shows how strong Aidan Quinn and Brad Pitt are, in roles that have inescapable parallels to the Rock Hudson and James Dean characters in ‘Giant.'” For his performance in Legends of the Fall, Pitt earned his first Golden Globe Award nomination in the category for Best Performance, but lost to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump. In Se7en, Pitt starred alongside Morgan Freeman as the police detective David Mills who hunts a serial killer played by Kevin Spacey. Variety noted, “This is screen acting at its best. Pitt turns in a determined, energetic, creditable job as the eager young detective.”
Pitt next took the portrayal of Jeffrey Goines in the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys. The film was met with well received reviews and the film was successful at the box office. His character was particularly praised, as Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote: “Giving a startlingly frenzied performance, he electrifies Jeffrey with a weird magnetism that becomes important later in the film.” Pitt won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Pitt had a supporting role in the 1996 film Sleepers, the film is based on Lorenzo Carcaterra’s novel of the same name.The film starred Kevin Bacon and Robert DeNiro. The following year, he starred alongside Harrison Ford as the Irish Republican Army terrorist Rory Devany in The Devil’s Own (1997), the first of several films where Pitt used an Irish accent in his performance. That same year, he played the main role of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in the Jean Jacques Annaud film Seven Years in Tibet. Pitt trained for months for the role, which demanded a great deal of trekking and mountain climbing, by rock climbing in California and the Alps with his co-star, David Thewlis. Due to the themes of Tibetan nationalism in the film, the Chinese government banned Pitt and Thewlis from entering China for life. Pitt had the leading role in the film, Meet Joe Black (1998), where he played a personification of death inhabiting the body of a young man in order to learn what it is like to be human. The film re-united Pitt and actor Anthony Hopkins, with whom he had previously worked on Legends of the Fall.
In the 1999 film Fight Club, the most successful film of his career to date, he played Tyler Durden, who runs an underground fight club. The film is an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. The film was directed by David Fincher, who directed Se7en. During promotion of the film, he noted his interpretation of the film: “The fighting is not necessarily ‘take your aggressions out on someone else.’ The idea is just to get in there, have an experience, take a punch more importantly and see how you come out on the other end.” Fight Club premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. Upon the film’s release, it generated favorable reviews. His performance received positive reviews; In the Variety review of the film, critic David Rooney noted: “Pitt is cool, charismatic and more dynamically physical.” Peter Rainer of New York magazine wrote: “Brad Pitt jangles like a lethal jitterbug.”
Following the success of Fight Club, Pitt played the role of Mickey, an Irish Gypsy boxer in the gangster movie Snatch, alongside Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones and Benicio del Toro, directed by Guy Ritchie. Pitt created a barely-intelligible accent in the movie, that was criticized by critics. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “He [Pitt] is ideally cast as an Irishman whose accent is so thick even Brits can’t understand him. The picture also trades on our past associations with Pitt. For years Pitt was shackled by roles that called for brooding introspection, but recently he has found his calling in black comic outrageousness and flashy extroversion.”
Also in 2001, Pitt starred alongside Julia Roberts in the romantic comedy The Mexican. His next role was in the Cold War thriller Spy Game in which he starred alongside veteran actor Robert Redford, who played his mentor. Also in 2001, Pitt played the role of Rusty Ryan in the remake of the 1960s Rat Pack film of the same name, Ocean’s Eleven. He starred alongside George Clooney and Matt Damon. Roger Ebert, in review of Ocean’s Eleven noted, “Brad Pitt has a nice dialogue passage.”
He also made a guest appearance in season eight of Friends, playing the role of Will Colbert, a man who has a grudge against Rachel Green’s character. The following year, Pitt appeared on an episode of MTV’s Jackass, in which he and several cast members ran wild through the streets of Los Angeles in gorilla suits. In a later Jackass episode, Pitt took part in a staged abduction of himself. In 2003, he lent his voice on an episode of King of the Hill, where he played Boomhauer’s brother, Patch Boomhauer. Pitt’s next film role was in the 2003 animated DreamWorks movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, in which he provided the voice of the title-hero, Sinbad.
In 2004, he starred in two films, Ocean’s Twelve and the epic Troy, based on the Iliad, in which he portrayed hero Achilles. The success of Ocean’s Eleven led Pitt to return to the role in the 2004 sequel, Ocean’s Twelve. Paul Clinton of CNN wrote: “Clooney and Pitt have the best male chemistry since Paul Newman and Robert Redford.” The film was a big financial success, earning $125 million worldwide. Before filming began for Troy, Pitt spent six months, sword training, for the required role. During film production, he injured his Achilles tendon, delaying production for several weeks. San Francisco Chronicle, in review of Troy, noted that Pitt’s performance was “magnetic”. The film was an international success, grossing $364 million. In North America however, it earned considerably less, grossing less than $133 million.
Pitt starred in the 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The film, directed by Doug Liman, tells the story of a bored married couple who find out that they are both secret assassins. Pitt starred as John Smith alongside Angelina Jolie. The film was well-received and was generally lauded for the chemistry between the two leads. The Star Tribune noted, “While the story feels haphazard, the movie gets by on gregarious charm, galloping energy and the stars’ thermonuclear screen chemistry.” The movie earned $478 million worldwide, one of the biggest hits of 2005.
Pitt appeared in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s critically acclaimed 2006 film Babel, starring alongside Cate Blanchett. Pitt’s performance in the film was well received by critics, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer added that his performance was “credible” and gives the film “visibility”. Pitt called the film “one of the best decisions of my film career”. The film was screened at a special presentation at the 31st annual Toronto International Film Festival in 2006. Babel garnered a total of seven Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, one of which was a Golden Globe Award nomination for Pitt as Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
In 2007, Pitt reprised his role as Rusty Ryan in the third Ocean’s film Ocean’s Thirteen. The sequel, while not as lucrative as the first two, earned $36 million at the international box-office. He produced and starred in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik, though production of the film began in 2005, the film was not released until late 2007. During promotion of the film, he noted of his portrayal of the character: “It is — everything that he’s been made famous for is, has, has already occurred. And everyone in his gang is either dead or in jail. His brother’s left. He’s quit the gang and he’s really on his own … the most important thing is, he is consumed by paranoia, most of it justified, but consumed.” For his performance, he won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 64th Venice International Film Festival; although Pitt attended the festival to promote the movie, he left early after being attacked by a crazed fan who pushed through his bodyguards, and he was not present to accept the award. The festival failed to ship Pitt the award, so he did not collect it until the 65th Venice Film Festival in 2008.
Pitt appeared in the 2008 dark comedy Burn After Reading, his first collaboration with the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan). Burn After Reading received positive reviews; Andrew Pulver of The Guardian called the film “a tightly wound, slickly plotted spy comedy”. Pulver, who also rated the film four out of five stars, noted that Pitt’s performance was one of the “funniest”. He was cast as Benjamin Button, the lead in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), loosely adapted from the 1922 short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, about a privileged man who is born an octogenarian and ages in reverse. The film reunites Pitt with Babel co-star Cate Blanchett and Se7en and Fight Club director David Fincher.
Pitt has two new screen roles scheduled for production. In October 2008, production begun in Germany for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, a film about an American resistance fighter, Pitt’s character, battling Nazis in German-occupied France. The movie awaits release in 2009. Pitt has signed on to appear in the Lost City of Z, where he will play a British explorer searching for a mysterious Amazonian civilization. Also in 2009, he will appear in the drama Tree of Life directed by Terrence Malick and starring alongside Sean Penn. Other projects
Pitt has appeared in television commercials designed for the Asian market, advertising such products as Edwin Jeans. He also appeared in a Heineken commercial which aired during the 2005 Super Bowl; it was directed by David Fincher, who directed Pitt in the feature films Se7en and Fight Club.
Pitt, along with Jennifer Aniston and Paramount Pictures head CEO Brad Grey, founded the production company, Plan B, in 2002. Aniston, along with Grey, are no longer partners in the company. Aniston, however, is still attached to many projects that were set up before her divorce from Pitt. The company produced the 2005 film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp, as well as The Departed (2006), and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). Pitt has been reluctant in discussing the production company, following the events in 2005. In an interview, he added that there are a lot of films in the Plan B production line in which he would never take a starring role. “We made an edict at the beginning that we would focus on stories and storytellers. I get to be part of stories that I may not be right for as an actor, but as a film lover I think they’re amazing stories to tell.”
Pitt, along with frequent co-stars George Clooney and Matt Damon, supports One, a campaign fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries. He is the narrator of the Public Television series Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge, which discusses current important global health issues. Pitt is behind Not On Our Watch, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur, along with Clooney, Damon, Don Cheadle, and Jerry Weintraub.
In 2006, Pitt gathered a group of housing professionals together in the Hurricane Katrina-stricken New Orleans to begin planning a project that Pitt calls Make It Right, with the goal of financing and constructing 150 new houses in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. The houses are being designed with an emphasis on sustainability and affordability, with the hope that the project can and will be replicated throughout the city, with the assistance of Global Green USA, a national environmental organization. Thirteen architectural firms are involved in the project, many of which are donating their services. Pitt and philanthropist Steve Bing have each committed to matching $5 million in donations.
In the media
In 1995, Pitt was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 25 sexiest stars in film history. Pitt has also twice been named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine in 1995 and 2000. Pitt has appeared on the annual Celebrity 100 list by Forbes magazine in 2006 and 2007, at No. 20 and No. 5. In 2007, Pitt was listed among the Time 100 a compilation of the 100 most influential people in the world, as selected annually by Time magazine. He was credited with using “his star power to get people to look at places and stories that cameras don’t usually catch”.
In 2004, Pitt visited the University of Missouri campus to encourage students to vote in the 2004 US presidential election, in which he supported John Kerry. Also, in 2004, he publicly spoke for funding a tax-free embryonic stem-cell research that involves the cloning and destruction of human embryos. Saying, “We have to make sure that we open up these avenues so that our best and our brightest can go find these cures that they believe they will find.” He also supported California’s ballot iniative, Proposition 71, where federal government provide funding for research that use different types of stem cells, including adult and embryonic stem cells.
Starting in 2005, his relationship with Angelina Jolie became one of the most reported celebrity stories worldwide. After confirming that Jolie was pregnant in early 2006, the unprecedented media hype surrounding them “reached the point of insanity” as Reuters described it in their story “The Brangelina fever”. Trying to avoid the media attention, the couple went to Namibia for the birth of their daughter Shiloh, “the most anticipated baby since Jesus Christ”, as it had been described. Two years later, after confirming Jolie’s second pregnancy again it fueled a media frenzy. For the two weeks, before the birth, Jolie spent in a seaside hospital in Nice, reporters and photographers camped outside on the promenade to report on the birth.
Pitt was also prominently featured in the December 2006 Art Issue of Vanity Fair. He is seen posing in a blue-colored photo in nothing but white boxer shorts, socks and holding a gun while appearing to be drenched with water. The cover promotes an article on the Robert Wilson video portraits, a production of LAB HD that includes numerous celebrities and noted personalities. This cover had drawn criticism from Pitt because, although he had signed a release for the image, he did not expect it to end up on the cover of Vanity Fair. The video portrait, which represents Pitt’s first effort in avant-garde cinema, was exhibited at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.
In September 2008, Pitt donated $100,000 to fight California’s November 2008 ballot, Proposition 8, initiative that would overturn the state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. He stated, “Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn’t harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Pitt dated several of his co-stars, including Robin Givens (Head Of The Class), Jill Schoelen (Cutting Class), Juliette Lewis (Too Young to Die? and Kalifornia), who at sixteen was ten years his junior when they started dating, and Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en), with whom he had a much-publicized engagement. Pitt also dated actresses Sinitta and Thandie Newton.
In an October 2007 interview with Parade magazine, Pitt revealed that he is no longer a Christian or believes in an afterlife. In this interview, Pitt said: “There’s peace in understanding that I have only one life, here and now, and I’m responsible.” He is also a knowledgeable fan of architecture, particularly that of Frank Lloyd Wright, and has helped the National Trust for Historic Preservation raise money.
Pitt met Friends actress Jennifer Aniston in 1998 and married her during an enclosed wedding ceremony in Malibu on July 29, 2000. In January 2005, Pitt and Aniston announced that they decided to formally separate after seven years together. Two months later, Aniston filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
As Pitt’s marriage to Aniston drew to a close, he and actress Angelina Jolie were involved in a well-publicized Hollywood scandal in which Jolie was often painted as the “other woman”, largely due to their chemistry during the filming of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. While Pitt denied any claims of adultery, he admitted that he “fell in love” with Jolie on the set.
In April 2005, a month after Aniston filed for divorce, a set of paparazzi photos emerged that seemed to confirm the rumors of a relationship between Pitt and Jolie. The photos, which were reportedly sold for $500,000, showed Pitt, Jolie and her son Maddox at a beach in Kenya. During the summer, the pair were seen together with increasing frequency, and the entertainment media dubbed the couple “Brangelina”. Pitt and Aniston’s final divorce documents were granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court on October 2, 2005, ending their marriage. On January 11, 2006, Jolie confirmed to People magazine that she was pregnant with Pitt’s child and thereby confirmed their relationship for the first time in public. In an October 2006 interview with Esquire magazine, Pitt admitted that he and Jolie will marry “when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able”.
In July 2005, Pitt accompanied Angelina Jolie to Ethiopia, where Jolie adopted her second child, a six-month-old girl named Zahara; later Jolie indicated that she and Pitt made the decision to adopt the child together.In December 2005, it was confirmed that Pitt was seeking to legally adopt Jolie’s two (adopted) children as his own; per the legal requirements, classified advertisements in the Los Angeles paper Daily Commerce announced the name change request. On January 19, 2006, a judge in California approved this request, and the children’s legal surnames were formally changed to “Jolie-Pitt”.
On May 27, 2006, Jolie gave birth to a daughter, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, in Swakopmund, Namibia by a scheduled caesarean section. Pitt confirmed that their newly born daughter will have a Namibian passport. People paid more than $4.1 million for the North American rights, while British magazine Hello! obtained the international rights for roughly $3.5 million; the total rights sale earned up to $10 million worldwide, which became the most expensive celebrity image of all time. All profits were donated to an undisclosed charity by Jolie and Pitt. Madame Tussauds in New York unveiled a wax figure of two-month-old Shiloh; it was the first infant re-created in wax by Madame Tussauds.
On March 15, 2007, Jolie adopted a three-year-old boy from Vietnam, Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt, (originally Pax Thien Jolie). Since the orphanage does not allow unmarried couples to adopt, Jolie adopted Pax as a single parent, with Pitt later adopting him as his son domestically.
Following media reports suggesting Jolie might be pregnant again, she attended the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards in a close-fitting dress, indirectly confirming those rumors. In May 2008, Jolie confirmed on the Today show that she and Pitt were expecting twins. On July 12, 2008, Jolie gave birth to the couple’s twins, a boy named Knox Léon and a girl named Vivienne Marcheline at the Lenval hospital in Nice, France. The rights for the first images of Knox and Vivienne were jointly sold to People and Hello! for $14 million—the most expensive celebrity baby pictures ever taken.The money went to the Jolie/Pitt Foundation.