: William Bradley Pitt in Shawnee, Oklahoma, 18 December 1963.
: Attended public school in Springfield, Missouri; majored in journalism
with a focus on advertising at the University of Missouri but left in 1986
very shortly before graduating; studied acting with Roy London.
: 1987—film debut,
Less than Zero
; TV debut in as guest on series
; 1987–89, worked extensively on TV: guest starred in
Head of the Class
21 Jump Street
Tales from the Crypt
("King of the Road," 1989); 1990—starred in the TV
(as Walker Lovejoy); has done advertisements for Levi's jeans and
Mountain Dew soda; 1991—breakthrough film role in
Thelma & Louise
; 1992—starred in the Oscar-nominated short,
; 1994—read for the audio-book of Cormac McCarthy's novel,
All The Pretty Horses
Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, for
c/o Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, 9150 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 350,
Beverly Hills, CA 90212–3427, U.S.A.
Less than Zero (Kanievska) (extra)
A Stoning in Fulham County (Elikann—for TV)
Cutting Class (Pallenberg) (as Dwight Ingalls); Happy Together (Damski) (as Brian); The Image (Werner—for TV)
Too Young to Die? (Markowitz—for TV) (as Billy Canton)
Across the Tracks (Tung) (as Joe Maloney); Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott) (as J. D.)
Contact (short); Cool World (Bakshi) (as Frank Harris); Johnny Suede (DiCillo) (title role); A River Runs through It (Redford) (as Paul Maclean)
Kalifornia (Sena) (as Early Grayce); True Romance (Tony Scott) (as Floyd)
The Favor (Petrie—produced in 1991) (as Elliott); Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan) (as Louis); Legends of the Fall (Zwick) (as Tristan Ludlow)
Seven (Fincher) (as David Mills); 12 Monkeys (Gilliam) (as Jeffrey Goines)
Devil's Own (Pakula); Seven Years in Tibet (Annaud); Sleepers (Levinson); David
The Dark Side of the Sun (Nikolic) (as Rick)
Meet Joe Black (Brest, Smithee) (as Joe Black)
Fight Club (Fincher) (as Tyler Durden); Being John Malkovich (Jonze) (as himself)
Snatch (Ritchie) (as One Punch Mickey)
Interview with Alison Powell, in Interview (New York), February 1992.
"Hot Actor," interview with Jay Martel, in Rolling Stone (New York), 14 May 1992.
"Slippin' Around on the Road with Brad Pitt," interview with Chris Mundy, in Rolling Stone (New York), 1 December 1994.
"Brad Attitude," interview with Johanna Schneller, in Vanity Fair (New York), February 1995.
"Pitt and the Pendulum," interview with Tony Earnshaw, in Scarlet Street , Summer 1995.
"Brad Company: Co-star Quality," interview with Dan McLeod and Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 13 December 1995.
"Cool. Excellent. Thanks.," interview with J. Giles, in Newsweek , 3 February 1997.
Shay, Regan, Brad Pitt , New York, 1992.
Catalano, Grace, Brad Pitt: Hot and Sexy , New York, 1995.
Nickson, Chris, Brad Pitt , New York, 1995.
Seitz, Matt Zoller, Brad Pitt , New York, 1996.
Westbrook, Caroline, Brad Pitt: the Illustrated Story , London, 1996.
Brad Pitt , Boston, 1997.
Dempsey, Amy. Brad Pitt , Philadelphia, 1997.
Guzzetti, Paula, Brad Pitt , Parsippany, 1998.
Robb, Brian J. Brad Pitt: The Rise to Stardom , London, 1999.
McKenna, Kristine, "The Bad Boy Makes Good," in New York Times , 7 July 1991.
Snowden, Lynn, "Brad Pitt Is Afraid of Sharks," in Premiere (New York), October 1994.
Mooney, Josh, "Brad Pitt: Thief of Hearts," in Cosmopolitan , November 1995.
Current Biography 1996 , New York, 1996.
Giles, J., "A Star's Trek," in Newsweek , 3 February 1997.
* * *
With seven leading feature film roles, four of them in blockbusters, over the four years 1992–95, Brad Pitt has proved himself a movie star for the "alternative" generation. That is, like the "alternative" rock bands who achieved mainstream success in the 1990s by revisiting rock traditions with a vaguely troubled nonchalance—rather than either a knowing distance or a fully immersed sincerity—Pitt walks in the footsteps of James Dean and all the screen's subsequent good-looking rebel males, but with a certain low-key looseness to his torment, an extravagance to his toughness, a calculation to both his blankness and his brains. If Dean and Marlon Brando are filled with angst, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman's personas seem emptier, both more entrenched in their out-of-step positions and more lost in them. Robert Redford's image appears emptier still, but preoccupied with a lack of concern about it, personifying anomie or perhaps protesting it by embracing its extreme. Pitt's characters typically accept a core of emptiness as a given, too, but they do not let it get in the way of their good times. Often they or those they care most about wind up dead or otherwise destroyed, but their movies are all about the queasy fun they have on the way.
Across a prolific string of guest appearances on television soap operas, sitcoms, drama series, and movies of the week, Pitt found his type—confused but charming all-American boy—and worked two sides of it as the size of his roles quickly increased. In four key pre-stardom performances he divided his time equally between playing good boys trying to get up in the world (the short-lived television series Glory Days , the low-budget feature Across the Tracks ), and bad boys trying to get back at it (the episode of the anthology horror series Tales from the Crypt called "King of the Road," the television film Too Young to Die? ).
It was a character from the latter category—J. D., an outlaw who steals the bankroll in Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise —which opened the doors to stardom for Pitt. But the pattern of his career as a leading man suggests that, in the 1990s, the lines separating conventionally striving young man, rebel, psychopath, and victim are hardly clear-cut. Not only does Pitt play all four types in separate instances, he usually combines elements of all four at once. J. D. himself gets a free ride with the film's heroines by pretending to be an earnest collegian—and by feigning nonaggression, giving up his plea for their help as soon as one expresses disapproval. Later, the freewheeling vigor of the exploitative sexuality and criminality J. D. unleashes for (and against) Geena Davis's Thelma is situated by the film as just a cover for his weakness and guilt, when the cop played by Harvey Keitel takes out his anger at the women's impossible situation by blaming and humiliating J. D.
In each of the four big-budget (and big box-office) vehicles that Pitt has carried after Thelma — A River Runs through It , Interview with the Vampire , Legends of the Fall , and Seven —his character similarly rides a crosscurrent of mutually canceling traits: iconoclastic but family-centered, wounded but destructive, unstable but brave. Pitt's choice of projects has shaped his overall persona along similar lines: for every ambivalent leading character there is both a tame supporting role (a too-comfortable boyfriend in The Favor ) and a wild one (a drug-dazed roommate in True Romance ). The supporting character whose portrayal earned Pitt his first Academy Award nomination, Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys , is another perfect encapsulation of the incongruity gathered around Pitt as his generation's angry young man. Jeffrey seems insane at the beginning of the film, in his obsessive, evidently terroristic rebellion against his father—but by the end, Jeffrey's good reasons and intentions are revealed, albeit along with his powerlessness.
Pitt has demonstrated his interest in art as well as commerce with several offbeat leading roles, all of which ask him to delve even more deeply than his mainstream hits into the essences of strongly desiring but perversely flawed men. He plays a never-will-be rock star/criminal/worthy lover in the low-budget Johnny Suede ; a detective stranded across lines of being from his true love as the only human in the cartoon Cool World ; and a committed lover and friend but casual killer in Kalifornia . The last film saw a lot of weight and facial hair added to the form which won him People magazine's acclamation as the "sexiest man alive" in January 1995. Clearly Brad Pitt has become something of a flashpoint for his social moment's ideas about, and conflicts over, masculinity. The impressively wide-ranging devotion to his craft he has shown thus far should keep him at the on-screen epicenter of such conflicts for a long time to come.