Is Fury the movie that will finally earn Brad Pitt the Oscar for best actor? Although he collected the Best Picture Oscar earlier this year as producer of 12 Years a Slave, he would dearly love to be recognised for his regular job. Though he intends to wind down his acting career over the coming years in favour of developing and producing films, Pitt still enjoys throwing himself into great stories.
Fury is a gritty WWII drama that stars Pitt as Wardaddy, a veteran tank commander determined to bring his tank crew home alive while they storm through Germany in the waning stages of the war. It’s the kind of film that Pitt hopes will stand the test of time.
“The key for me is to do stories that I find personally interesting and meaningful and which make me feel that I’m going to leave something behind which will make me proud and make my children proud,” Pitt says. “I would like to show some of my films to my children and which I can point to and say, ‘Your daddy made this!’ I need to throw myself into projects that are personal and have something to say about the world in a lasting way.”
Shot in the UK, Fury is directed and written by David Ayer (End of Watch) and draws inspiration from the true story of an American tank unit that took part in the final assault on Nazi Germany. Co-starring Shia LaBeouf, Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son), Jason Isaacs and Michael Peña, the film follows Pitt and his men over the course of one harrowing day of combat.
Pitt, who turned 50 last December, spent several months working on the film last autumn while his long-time partner Angelina Jolie was directing her second feature film, Unbroken. The celebrity couple were recently married in a private ceremony held on the grounds of their sprawling Chateau Miraval estate on the French Riviera, in which their six children served as ushers and bridesmaids.
They have six children together, including three they adopted: 13-year-old Maddox, from Cambodia; 10-year-old Pax, from Vietnam; and nine-year-old Zahara, from Ethiopia. The couple’s three biological children are eight-year-old Shiloh, and Knox and Vivienne, six-year-old twins. This is the second marriage for Pitt, who wed Jennifer Aniston in 2000. They divorced in 2005.
It was recently announced that Pitt and Jolie would be starring in By The Sea, a relationship drama which Jolie is both writing and directing. They recently scouted locations on the island of Gozo near Malta in preparation for the production which will mark their first joint screen appearance since Mr and Mrs Smith, the 2005 film which marked the beginning of their relationship.
Together: Brad, you’ve chosen to do several war or war-related films of late with Inglourious Basterds, World War Z, and now Fury. Why do those stories strike so close to the heart?
Brad Pitt: They’re all very unique stories but there’s something very compelling about films where you’re forced to the brink and dealing with killing and death on a daily basis. You learn a lot about human nature when you’re dealing with issues of basic survival and trying to protect people close to you.
What drives you as a producer as compared to your work as an actor?
Being a producer means you can look for stories that are meaningful to you and be part of their evolution from day one until the day the film is finished. I’ve spent a lot of my life on a film set and I’ve learnt a lot about how this business works and what kinds of elements enable you to make good films as opposed to bad ones. I’ve been able to produce a lot of films lately and each time out it’s a learning experience where I’m able to take that knowledge and put it to good use on the next project.
I still enjoy acting but I like spending more time at home with our family and that’s something you can’t always do if you’re spending three or four months away on a film set. As a producer, I get to work out of my home – I get to make the kids their breakfast, drive them to school, and be there for dinner.
Is acting no longer as meaningful to you today as it was at the beginning of your career?
It’s different. I’m very happy with the projects I’ve been involved with lately. I still have a great passion for storytelling that has been part of my life ever since I was a kid when my parents would take us to drive-in movies. As an actor, I love being able to explore all the complex aspects of human nature and how we’re constantly in various stages of conflict with each other. But it’s not as consuming as it used to be because my family is my priority and I’d rather spend more time with my kids.
You and Angelina seem to have found a balance between work and family. How do you think your kids are managing as children of very famous parents?
Angie and I do everything we can to carve out some semblance of normalcy for them. It’s not unusual for the kids to be covered in paint. We have mud fights. It’s chaos from morning until the lights go out, and sometimes after that I love playing around at night with the older ones or sitting down and reading books with Mad. It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world.
How do you and your partner Angelina keep your kids from the invasive aspects of celebrity?
We have elaborate strategies for leaving the house or hotel or wherever we happen to be staying. The kids are used to being very mobile and travelling light. They think of it as a constant adventure even though it takes a lot of advance planning to avoid the paparazzi and crowds.
Does the constant travel ever become exhausting?
Being a parent of several children is exhausting no matter what. I’m lucky that Angie has so much energy and never gets down or complains. The only time I’ve ever seen her really tired is after the twins were born and that proved very demanding and made it difficult for her to spend as much time with the other children as she did before. But now that the twins are older, it’s becoming a lot easier for all of us. I mean, when you have a big family, you learn to develop good logistical training and then it’s just like a machine that keeps moving forward. (Laughs)
Do you and your kids watch a lot of movies at home together?
Yes. But they’re all children’s films and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing each one of them about ten times. That’s the extent of my film vocabulary lately. (Smiles)
Where do you spend most of the year, L.A. or the south of France?
We move around a lot although our base camp is L.A. We’re like nomads. It’s easier in (southern France) because we have much more privacy and the people who live in the area are incredibly respectful of us and we can move around pretty freely in the villages.
The best thing about our home there is that the children enjoy a much more normal environment, and we don’t have to hide as much or strategize as much to move around. Even for me and Angie, it’s a lot more relaxed. I haven’t seen the lobby of a hotel in years because I enter and leave via the back door and in France we feel like a much more normal family and we don’t deal with as many distractions.
How do you feel about turning 50?
There’s a sense of liberation to turning 50. You feel freed to focus only on meaningful things because you become much more aware of time. You’ve gone through different stages and cleared away the stuff that slows you down. As a father, I also have a sense of responsibility to my children and wanting to give them a beautiful life. Things are much clearer.
Have you changed your thinking about how you want to live your life from here on in?
I have many other interests now and it’s easier to be less single-minded than I used to be about my career. That’s the kind of freedom that comes from having a family – you’re part of this bigger project. Children are a dominant value in my life now, and they weren’t before. They were always something I thought I’d get around to having when the time was right.
(Now) I’m in a place where I’ve become much more generous and loving and your focus is on making your family happy and secure. I wanted this kind of life for a long time.
When you look back at your life, can you point to any great turning point?
Leaving university just a few weeks before graduating was a big decision. You never forget that kind of a moment in your life where you decide to change directions and follow your instincts. I was thinking that the life I thought I wanted for myself was all wrong. I didn’t want to look for a job at some newspaper or find something just to pass the time. I knew I had to get out and do something different with my life. I had this idea to go to try acting and see where that would take me.
So I loaded up the car and headed for Los Angeles. I had $300 to get me there and somehow get started. It was just something I needed to do for myself.
What kind of adventures compare to that feeling now?
Everything’s different. As a father, things like taking my kids to a museum or showing them incredible works of architecture are just as important as anything else I do in life. Your entire world is different when you’re looking at things from the perspective of a parent. Getting the kids to bed is an adventure just as waking up when they’re jumping on your bed is one of the most beautiful things that can happen to you even if you don’t always think so at the time! (Laughs)