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.
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.
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.
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.