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Brad Pitt on Actors and Directors, 1992 to 2004: Out of the Archives

A twice Golden Globe winner with six nominations, Brad Pitt stars as a trained killer in the action/comedy Bullet Train, opening this week.
Pitt spoke to the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press during several interviews between 1992 and 2004 about working with Robert Redford as a director on A River Runs Through It and as a fellow actor in Spy Game (2001) by Tony Scott, about the actors that he most admired growing up and other directors he worked with.
The first time HFPA journalists interviewed Brad Pitt was in February 1992, after his breakout role in Thelma & Louise directed by Ridley Scott, when he had already completed shooting A River Runs Through It, from the 1976 novella by Norman Maclean. He spoke about the actors he admired growing up: “I remember that Robert Redford and Paul Newman were big in my family, my dad was a fan of them, because of the kind of movies they stood for, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), about one man against the system, standing up for his principles. So they were actors that you respected. But I remember movies more specifically than people, films like Midnight Cowboy (1969) with Dustin Hoffman, Serpico (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) with Al Pacino. These films meant something to me.”
When HFPA interviewed Pitt in 2004 about Troy, directed by Wolfgang Petersen based on Homer’s Iliad, he mentioned those movies and actors again, adding a few more: “I remember vividly seeing at a very young age Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, directed by Milos Forman from the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey), Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken, John Malkovich, all these guys. And working with Julie Christie playing my mother in Troy was a pinnacle for me, because she was the hottie for me growing up, she was everything to me, and she still is, by the way; I can see it right in her eyes, and that’s when I have to turn away.”
Back in 1992 the actor spoke about Robert Redford’s qualities as a director and as a man: “I love the guy. He’s this absolute man, the man that men want to be, the man that women want to be with, and people expect too much of him, because of the roles he has played and his principles, but he’s just a man. For me as an actor it took a while, a few weeks, because I didn’t know him, to trust his vision and see his strength as a director, because he had to build this world, and he was very quiet, to keep his sanity; but I was most impressed with his directing. Redford knew exactly what he wanted to say, he had it completely mapped out, so he was very direct and straightforward, ‘This is what we need here’ there were no other alternatives. And he made a very powerful movie.”
In 1997, when the HFPA interviewed Pitt for The Devil’s Own by Alan J. Pakula, he spoke again about Redford and other directors he had worked with, including Terry Gilliam who had directed him in 12 Monkeys (1995): “In 1992 I didn’t know enough at the time to be able to comment on Redford, but he’s always been one of my favorites, because of his strength. He’s one of the great American storytellers, and the way he told that story in A River Runs Through It certainly elevated our work as actors. Terry Gilliam has got such a unique vision that I found myself as an actor to just go ‘all right Terry’ to whatever he said, because you know that you’re in great hands, and that he’s going to put an interesting perspective on it that you yourself may not have come up with. With Alan Pakula, certainly you’ve seen Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), these were definitely two of my favorite movies from the seventies. And for The Devil’s Own I was relying on so much wisdom and experience about what works in a scene and what doesn’t work. With Alan we talked constantly about fine tuning a scene and he was great for that, he was excellent, because of all his years of experience.”
In 1998, when talking to HFPA about Meet Joe Black directed by Martin Brest, Pitt said about the director: “He’s better equipped than I am to make the choices, and I actually liked the pace of watching things unfold, of letting it breathe like fine wine, in this period of ‘cut cut cut, we get it already.’ Marty Brest is one of our greatest storytellers and that’s the most important thing to me before I accept a role, for making that kind of investment. I love this man and I know where he’s coming from, I back him all the way in his meticulous search for this harmony, for this expanse, for letting it breathe, then stopping and moving to the next scene. I’m all for him.”
Having already acted with Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall (1994) directed by Edward Zwick from the 1979 novella by Jim Harrison, Pitt said about working with the Welsh actor again in Meet Joe Black: “It will be decades before I understand where Tony’s coming from, he’s an enigma to me. This guy is one of our greatest actors, hands on, but he’s a mystery to me. He’s a very giving man, a very complex man, he’s also very haunted, in the sense that most people have something they wrestle with, but he’s not afraid to show any of it, in how he balances the good and the bad of the human in his characters. He’s way beyond me.”
In 2000, when interviewed about Snatch, written and directed by British newcomer Guy Ritchie, Pitt mentioned directors of 1970s movies that he admired and other upcoming directors that he wished to work with: “I’m a big fan of Nicholas Roeg, of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, they are the greats and they are still going. I’m a big fan of Darren Aronofsky, and Alexander Payne is one to watch. I think David O. Russell is great, and then the usual list, Spike Jonze, , Steven Soderbergh, and David Fincher, of course. I’d like to work with all of them sooner or later but to me the most important thing is the storyteller, that’s what I get off on.”
Brad Pitt had just been directed by David Fincher in Fight Club (1999). In 2001, when HFPA interviewed him about Ocean’s Eleven by Steven Soderbergh and Spy Game by Tony Scott. He spoke about working with Robert Redford as a fellow actor: “It was really nice working with Redford as a director the first time in A River Runs Through It, and it was even nicer on Spy Game, where we’re both on the same side of the camera and bouncing off each other, because he’s just acting in this movie and we’re both spies, the younger one and the older one. It’s a protégé-mentor relationship in the beginning, so it worked well for this film, because we already had that history. I was looking forward to sitting across the table from him, now being a little more comfortable and understanding the business a little more, being able to swap stories and ask him questions; so we had great fun between takes that way. Back then in 1992 I was green and I was working with one of the icons of cinema, so there was more of an intimidation factor, but it’s such a different relationship when now you can meet somewhat like peers. I just saw a Biography on Redford on the cable channel A&E, and this guy has done amazing stuff, if you look at the collection of his films together, it’s just amazing.”