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.

Just a ramble, really

Awards season is an exciting time for anyone immersed in the movie and entertainment world. It’s a time to celebrate the vast array of diverse cinema released each and every year. Or is it? This year’s BAFTA’s were presented as an awards show genuinely concerned with heralding unique independent cinema as well as mainstream films that are able to reach larger audiences. Many who watched the BAFTA’s may of been unaware of the films of Mike Leigh, the power of Linklater’s twelve year project with Boyhood or the great creative minds behind spectacular productions such as Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The BAFTA’s, this year hosted by witty British treasure Stephen Fry, are often seen as a precursor to The Academy Awards in the sense that you can perhaps guarantee the trophy’s will be handed out to the same hands. In the past this has been somewhat true – not this year. Boyhood received one award, and Birdman dominated.

Without questioning the validity of either award ceremony, I simply wish to say that with each year The Academy Awards (apparently the most prestigious night in film) are seemingly becoming less about true talent, and more about mass appeal. All we have to do is remember the Greats who never received a trophy, and when they did it was for a strange role that didn’t really seem fitting as opposed to previous performances; Martin Scorsese being a great example of a director who, after decades of producing career-defining films and changing the face of cinema, finally had his moment in the sun but with a film that perhaps didn’t challenge audiences quite in the same way as say Goodfellas or Casino.

The Academy Award’s are of course not at all bad, and this year stood as a platform for many winners to call for equality surrounding societal issues such as misogyny, racism and feminism. Further to this, if a film wins its likely many will seek that feature out – which in turn means more revenue for an industry that is becoming dominated by illegal downloads and on-demand services which seem determined to destroy the dwindling cinema industry. No one can really define the term ‘independent’ anymore, like no one can really understand why Netflix, a website that owes its success to film and television, wishes to take away from the spirit of the business (i.e, the experience of theater-going).

I don’t profess to be the most knowledgeable on the woes of the industry, or the ins-and-outs of the latest deal to produce a film franchise based on light pornography (which although might be based on the worst-written literature in recent history, has certainly helped the Box Office out), but I do profess that I love film. In recent years my love for indie film has expanded, and my view that the studios main agenda to churn out $100 million blockbusters that were finished in six months and have a script that could be written by my cat, is pretty annoying. Don’t remake Point Break and turn a cult classic into something it was never meant to be – a multi-million dollar project. Sit down and open that script that a talented eighteen year old with a passion for film wrote, and poured their soul into – and create the next film that truly means something, because that is what is really missing from the majority of contemporary cinema.

Dallas Buyers Club, review

Released late 2013 and winner of three Academy Awards Jean-Marc Vallee’s critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club is a biopic of sorts, charting the real-life story of Ron Woodroof (portrayed wonderfully by Matthew McConaughey) wh0, when diagnosed with AIDS, takes treatment for not only him but other sufferers into his own hands. The film, at 116 minutes, is tough at times – prepare for real emotion and some mixed feelings when it comes to Woodroof. This is such an important story to tell and despite potential difficulties is essential viewing. Lifting the lid on AIDS Vallee takes the stance of a non-judgmental director, its up to you how you feel about Woodroof and his controversial lifestyle, but one thing is for certain – you care, and you feel sympathy for what people with this illness had to go through before helpful treatments became accessible (a light is also shined on the prejudice they unjustly received).

Set in 1985 when these real-life events took place we are positioned with Ron, a man who leads a lifestyle of hard drug use, gambling and precarious sexual endeavors. Having suffered from several blackouts and then an accident at work Woodroof is told he has AIDS and is given thirty days to get his affairs in order before his illness will kill him. Refusing to accept this horrible diagnoses he takes part in a drug test for AZT (which at that time was one of the only drugs approved to treat AIDS in America). Shortly after Woodroof meets various other sufferers including the charismatic and rather beautiful Rayon, a transgender male. Rayon, played by Jared Leto (unbelievably good in this role) is a juxtaposition to Woodroof, and is due credit to the change in Ron’s attitude to life, and a change in his morals which is highlighted throughout the course of the film. The majority of Buyers Club focuses on Ron’s illegal drug trade (he smuggles in ddc and peptide T, both of which improved his health) which helped to prolong the lives of many AIDS patients as well as his own (Ron lived for seven years after his diagnosis was originally given to him). Interestingly, it is the medical system in America that seems to be under attack rather than Woodroof’s initial lifestyle choices.

The most intriguing element to this riveting true story is the relationship between Ron and Rayon. Leto plays the latter with a sterling heart and love for life; unafraid to be different. Leto’s performance lends to some heartrending moments, and one of the best performances (if not THE best of 2013) which deservedly led to him winning Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. McConaughey’s onscreen chemistry with Leto is wonderful at times, these two are a pair that couldn’t be further apart but during the course of the film they help each other in an array of ways which leads to a strong friendship. Rayon in particular changes Woodroof’s opinions on homosexuality for the better which is best exemplified in a scene in a supermarket; A man Ron knows verbally insults Rayon which leads to a fight because of Woodroofs refusal to accept what he has just heard. It is at this moment that you know there is a heart somewhere in Ron, but perhaps he has just been too afraid to show it.

promotional still for dallas buyers club

promotional still for dallas buyers club

McConaughey is a treasure as the protagonist of the film in a physically and emotionally demanding role (he lost three stone in weight to portray Ron at his most frail), never overplaying as someone who has a tremendous change of perspective (going from a man who is not particularly likeable to someone who cares for others more then he does himself). He also plays Ron with a charismatic charm about him – even in his darkest moments he still cracks a smart comment or some kind of joke. McConaughey and Vallee are never judging Woodroof, who certainly behaved in ways which could be looked down upon, its up to those watching what viewpoint they end on. Supporting the two main actors is Jennifer Garner, an actress who is often overshadowed or perhaps forgotten for the roles she plays but steals the scenes she is in because of her fragility and kindness. Those two things are adopted as she embodies Dr. Eve Saks, a woman who refused to quietly ignore the wrongdoings of the American medical system at that time.

The whole film is full of tender moments which are often challenged by ones of the harsh reality of what these people were dealing with. Humanity and friendship are of great significance in Dallas Buyers Club and the relationships played out are touching to watch and heartbreaking to see end. A particular scene in a restaurant between McConaughey and Garner shines with personality and aura and it feels as though you could be placed there with them. Another wonderful trait to the piece is its non-intrusive stance; for a film focused on people dealing with a terminal illness scenes relating to this never feel overwrought or uncomfortably gruesome but Vallee is still able to make you aware of the limited time Rayon, Ron and their friends were left with.

Intelligent, wickedly humorous at times and just damn brilliant Dallas Buyers Club is a stellar example of cinema at its best and most powerful.