Actor profile: Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has starred in 46 films to date, with four just announced or in pre-production. With 6o awards under his belt, including one Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and BAFTA (impressive, right?), Pitt is beyond established in Hollywood; he IS Hollywood. From films exploring the empowerment of women, to Irish Gypsy fighters, to Greek mythology and voice work, the actor has cemented himself as a compelling force within the film industry – one who shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

eli roth and pitt in inglorious basterds

eli roth and pitt in inglorious basterds

Pitt started on TV movies and shorts in the 1980’s but his career on the big screen came in the 1990’s and his reputation as an actor with real ability was built over several films. These films, Thelma & Louise (1991), True Romance (1994), Se7en (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Meet Joe Black (1998), exemplify what Pitt does best – diversity. Never one to do the same thing twice (although recent years may be proving different), the actor made a name for himself during this decade, show-casing his want for sundry roles in provocative features that didn’t necessarily follow the rules.

Often known for playing the good guy, Pitt threw himself into a role no one saw coming following his turn in popular romantic drama Meet Joe Black. As Tyler Durden in cult favourite Fight Club (1999), the actor was recognised universally as the character and quickly became a favourite of many. Tyler gave Pitt another string to his bow, and the performance has gone on to become one of his most instantly recognisable amongst audiences. Brutish, manipulative and surreal, Pitt gave spectators a glimpse at the alter-ego of the actor himself, and of Ed Norton’s untitled protagonist. Fight Club also marked the second pairing of director David Fincher and Pitt and exemplifies the latter as a directors actor.

brad pitt as tyler durden in fight club

brad pitt as tyler durden in fight club

Following the impressive (albeit somewhat controversial) reception of Fincher’s fighting phenomenon Pitt turned his attentions toward a character who is not only one of the most infamous of any role he has played to date, but possibly one of the most likeable – and enjoyed – by fan’s and audiences. As Irish bare-knuckle boxer Mickey O’Neill  in Guy Ritchie’s unabashedly British flick Snatch (2000) Pitt continued to become a multi-layered thespian with many dimensions that were yet to be unraveled. Covered in tattoos, with an accent so realistic and strong its almost impossible to understand, Mickey not only reminded audiences of Pitt’s want to continue down a diverse and unexpected path, but his want to not take himself – or be taken – too seriously. Snatch is a classic example of Brit comedy, but one that successfully appeals to the masses. Pitt’s appearance amongst the ensemble cast helped to bring the American’s on board, and while it may of originally appeared as inaccessible to US crowds, Snatch became a Box-Office success story.

pitt as mickey in guy ritchie's snatch

pitt as mickey in guy ritchie’s snatch

After Pitt’s stint in kooky indie projects by genre directors, he became blockbuster gold and went on to star in several hits over the next five years including Ocean’s Eleven (2001), The Mexican (2001), Troy (2004) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). More than an on-screen presence, Pitt began his own production company in 2005 with the release of Troy. Known as Plan B (simple yet entirely appropriate), the venture has produced 20 films including Pitt’s own Moneyball (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013), as well as Scorsese’s The Departed (2006) and Matthew Vaughn’s comic-book adaptation Kick-Ass (2010). Films made in conjunction with Plan B reiterate the actors courage within the industry to not follow the rules. Narratives covering travel, slavery, sport, controversial mob violence and more all exemplify Pitt’s willingness to support out-there ventures for different demographics. The latter point reminds us all of the actor’s place within cinema aimed at an adult audience – apart from voice work on animated features, Pitt is usually known for his attachment to violent flicks. We all remember that Jared Leto scene in Fight Club.

2009 saw a new partnership which was brief but effective. Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt joined together for World War 2 art-house satirical comedy Inglorious Basterds. Made up of English, French and German, Pitt starred as Aldo Raine, a Nazi-scalping red-neck lieutenant with a craving for blood shed. Embodying a mixture of Carry On eccentricity and a classic war hero, Raine marked the start of the actor’s career in war epics on the big screen. In 2014 came emotional tank drama Fury and now fans eagerly await War Machine which will yet again see Pitt play an infamous soldier – this time in contemporary war Afghanistan.

From figures of the imagination to con-men, Brad Pitt has shown that he can give an all-star performance time and again. Now affiliated with online streaming service Netflix, he is showing that he can move with the digital age and continue as top-dog not just in Hollywood, but in the competitive and ever-changing film industry.


Leonardo DiCaprio – top three performances

Leonardo DiCaprio (middle name Wilhelm for a little bit of trivia – and who doesn’t love how fierce that is?!) has been in twenty five features, nominated for an astounding ten Golden Globe’s and four Oscars – coming away with no wins for the latter which has often raised questions as to why. Known for playing an array of now cult characters – from the obvious Jack in Titanic to con artist Frank in Catch Me If You Can and Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s daring adaption of the Bard’s classic story of forbidden love. Whatever the role – DiCaprio has pretty much always aced it, having worked with directors such as Spielberg, Nolan, Eastwood and Boyle. Ignoring the fact the Academy cant recognise this talent with that Best Actor trophy, the number of auteur’s who have happily worked alongside the actor and the sheer number of projects he’s taken part in that have received both critical and commercial acclaim validates that DiCaprio is at the top of his game. Here, I have selected three films (it was originally five but that spiraled out of control) that epitomize this talent, stand alone as movies of great worth, and exemplify DiCaprio’s love of taking on diverse roles.

1. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet Baz Luhrmann, 1996

Luhrmann has now cemented himself as a director full of quirks and plenty of eccentricity. Romeo + Juliet was only his second feature (and part of his ‘Red Curtain’ trilogy along with Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge) and verified the guy as someone will plenty of vision (that MTV aesthetic is a winner every time) and an eye for talent. Casting Clare Danes and our man DiCaprio in the lead was a smart move and saw the pair quickly go on to roles in mainstream films that caught the eye of directors such as Martin Scorsese – who DiCaprio has now worked with on five features.

Luhrmann was the first to bring old-school Shakespeare to the contemporary, artistically swapping swords for guns and Verona for Venice Beach – keeping the classic dialect and bringing in an accompanying soundtrack of Radiohead and The Cardigans to match the woeful script. Dicaprio and Danes carry the whole feature but its the formers performance as the intense, boyish and naive Romeo that stands out. The brilliance of the actors performance is in his understanding of the Bard’s words; this coupled with the emotion poured into the role brings meaning to an era

dicaprio as romeo in baz luhrmann's film

dicaprio as romeo in baz luhrmann’s film

of writing that seemed to get lost in school classrooms.

The chemistry between Danes and DiCaprio is electric and the pure realism of the pairs romance is palpable but Luhrmann is careful to never undermine the raging family war that is at the heart of this story. John Leguizamo provides support as Tybalt, and the poignant scene in which the two feuding families come to a head determines the strength of stylized cinema if supported by an ensemble cast capable of giving enough – and this is clearly seen here. Undeniably underrated but damn near perfect, Lurhmann’s feature exemplifies DiCaprio’s ability to transcend the feeling of traumatic love and deep emotion to a new generation of people who quickly became versed in the ways of Shakespeare.

2. The Basketball Diaries – Scott Kalvert, 1995

The Basketball Diaries is probably one of Leo’s least know roles. Daring, Provocative and heavy on real-life topics, Kalvert’s film plays with surreal dreams and hard-hitting reality to successfully convey the early life of drug-addict turned poet Jim Carroll. An indie flick and released in 1995, DiCaprio took a risk so early on in his adult career portraying Carroll who went to extreme lengths to attain drugs (some of which are acted out on screen and define the word gritty). Not necessarily praised by critiques upon release, this 90’s drug drama has achieved a kind of cult status which is certainly deserved.

mark wahlberg and dicaprio in the basketball diaries

mark wahlberg and dicaprio in the basketball diaries

The reason – out of so many performances to chose from – this is my number two for Mr DiCaprio is because of the sheer power of his brutal performance. Adolescence and rebellion is truly captured with Jim, as he navigates growing up, tailoring his skill as a writer, and urban life in New York city. Kalvert’s film and DiCaprio’s representation of a teenager destroyed by drug abuse pulls no punches and expects the same from those watching. This is no fairytale rendition of the highs and lows of coming of age but it is an intelligent retelling of a mans fight to overcome the temptation of drug use.

Leo was only 21 when he shot The Basketball Diaries and at such a young age managed to present himself as an actor unafraid to take a gamble. Heart-wrenching in it’s honesty and a great feature that shows us a young Dicaprio doing his time on the indie scene but about to take the rest of the world by storm.

3. The Departed – Martin Scorsese, 2006

Martin Scorsese won his first Best Director Oscar for this nostalgic gangster flick. Casting DiCaprio as troubled undercover cop Billy, the director recaptured the spirit of this beloved genre of film; successfully channeling classic features such as Goodfellas. In this role, DiCaprio shone as an actor now well into his career as an adult talent on the Hollywood scene – away from the romantic dramas of the 1990’sSince The Departed, he has continued to involve himself in a number of violent films which challenge the minds and eyes of those watching.

dicaprio as billy in the departed

dicaprio as billy in the departed

Scorsese’s Oscar winning film reiterates the strength and power of the emotion constantly packed in to any given character Leo can get his hands on (apart from ‘Wall Street perhaps), and as a Southie resident who takes part in a number of violent endeavors, Billy is as loveable as a gangster can possibly be. As cliched as the genre can sometimes be, DiCaprio is sure to shy away from giving a formulaic performance and is able to give an underlying representation of a contemporary hyphenated male struggling with his masculinity in a socially divided America.

There are so many more incredible performances to pick from but these three represent pivotal moments in the actors career as he strove to obtain acting perfection.

Three festive films to get you in the Christmas spirit

Its eight days until Christmas day and everyone is abuzz buying presents, decorating the tree and of course – watching some festive films. I thought it was appropriate to write a short piece on the movies that capture the spirit of Christmas for me, which will hopefully inspire you guys to seek them out and enjoy for yourselves.

Love Actually

Synopsis: Released in 2003, Love Actually focuses on an array of different characters who’s stories eventually come together in one way or another. Set in London and France the film f0llows a set of relationships, some romantic, some family-based and some of friendship, but all ones which wonderfully (and at times, quite realistically) display the ups and downs that people face together. Starring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson (in a brief but distinctly memorable performance), Liam Neeson and so many more, this is an adult Christmas film exploring the beauty and abundance of love at this time of year.

andrew lincoln as mark in love actually

andrew lincoln as mark in love actually

Verdict: While Love Actually isn’t a family Christmas film, it is certainly an enjoyable one. Its incredibly relatable in a manner of ways, from the marital struggles we see Karen (Thompson) and Harry (Alan Rickman) go through, to the loss of a loved one that Daniel (Neeson) and his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) are coping with. Beyond the realism of situations that many find themselves dealing with in life is the fantasy element that makes this a great whimsical picture when a break from the real is needed. Some of these moments include a romantic gesture at the airport and a rather humorous, but tender relationship between the Prime minister (Hugh Grant) and his employee. There is one particular stand out scene involving a set of cue cards, which will pull at your heart strings and remind you how wonderful people can be. Richard Curtis is known for portraying great characters and directing their interesting stories in a thoroughly accessible way, this is no different; You will cry. You will laugh. You will cringe, but you will remember the importance of reminding those around you just how much you care about them – and that is the great, underlying power of Curtis’ Love Actually.

Little Women

Synopsis: Originally a novel, Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation takes the classic story of the March sisters, cleverly using the magic and warmth that can be read on page and bringing that to the screen. The film follows the lives of Jo (Winona Ryder), Meg (Trini Alvarado), Beth (Claire Danes) and Amy (Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis) as they take on the duty of keeping up their education, as well as their home in order while their father is away at war. The film spans five years and takes the audience on an emotional journey which studies the transition between adolescence and adulthood.

the march family in little women

the march family in little women

Verdict: While not everyone will see this as a Christmas film it is, to me, a constant reminder of the festive time of year, no matter what month you watch it in. It features two Christmas’ (which makes it valid here, right?) and the cinematography and mise-en-scene of 1800’s America is warming in itself – candle light, luscious furnishings and horse and carriage all make this a brilliant historical tale. Winona Ryder is a triumph as protagonist Jo, a young woman with a penchant for writing and a big heart. Claire Danes, while not featured heavily, transcends the feeling of being a younger sibling watching her elders fly the nest, and her performance as Beth is genuine and touching. Susan Sarandon provides depth and maturity in her role as Mrs. March, a role which parents will find themselves taken with. The whole piece channels the importance of family and specifically the bond of the March sisters through a difficult time in American history (the civil war). Little Women demonstrates the ties of sisterhood and furthermore the joy of being together, especially at Christmas.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Synopsis: Director Brian Henson transports the classic tale of the Christmas Carol to The Muppet era, with audience favourites Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and a whole host more translating the well-known story into an accessible tale for the entire family. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, a man visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night who are keen to change his views on life. What ensues is a humorous and spirited journey into a London full of colourful Muppets attempting to befriend the grumpy old man.

kermit, miss piggy and tiny tim in the muppet christmas carol

kermit, miss piggy and tiny tim in the muppets christmas carol

Verdict: The Muppet Christmas Carol may not be the best festive film ever made, but it might possibly be the most warmhearted. The entire piece is an ode to Christmas, and an ode to classic Christmas tales. Henson celebrates this time of year, making the film fun for children (thanks should be given to characters such as Tiny Tim and Fozzie Bear) as well as it being seemingly enjoyable for adults too. It’s easy to find yourself immersed into the story of Kermit and his family, and you forget that these are in fact puppets. The musical junctures strengthen the movie and to see Caine take on the classic role of Scrooge, and run with it, further propels you to love this film. The power of The Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t in its message (although ones of the importance of giving and kindness can definitely be seen) but just in its ability to allow you to sit back, not over-think and relish in the relaxation of viewing an easy-going film at a busy time of year.

To some these might not be classic examples of festive cinema, but to me they exemplify what Christmas is all about – family, love, friendship and giving. And beyond that, they are three films that are a pleasure to watch time and again.