William Bradley Pitt is an American actor and film producer. He has received multiple awards and nominations including an Academy Award as producer under his own company, Plan B Entertainment.
Pitt first gained recognition as a cowboy hitchhiker in the road movie Thelma & Louise (1991). His first leading roles in big-budget productions came with the drama films A River Runs Through It (1992) and Legends of the Fall (1994) and horror film Interview with the Vampire (1994). He gave critically acclaimed performances in the crime thriller Seven and the science fiction film 12 Monkeys (both 1995), the latter earning him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination.
As a public figure, Pitt has been cited as one of the most influential and powerful people in the American entertainment industry. For a number of years, he was cited as the world's most attractive man by various media outlets, and his personal life is the subject of wide publicity. In 2000, he married actress Jennifer Aniston; they divorced in 2005. In 2014, Pitt married actress Angelina Jolie. They have six children together, three of whom were adopted internationally. In 2016, Jolie filed for a divorce from Pitt, which was finalized in 2019.
1987–1993: Early work
While struggling to establish himself in Los Angeles, Pitt took lessons from acting coach Roy London. Pitt's acting career began in 1987, with uncredited parts in the films No Way Out (1987), No Man's Land (1987) and Less Than Zero (1987). In May 1987, his television debut came with a two-episode role on the NBC soap opera Another World. In November of the same year, Pitt had a guest appearance on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. He appeared in four episodes of the CBS primetime series Dallas between December 1987 and February 1988 as Randy, the boyfriend of Charlie Wade (played by Shalane McCall). Later in 1988, Pitt made a guest appearance on the Fox police drama 21 Jump Street. In the same year, the Yugoslavian–U.S. co-production The Dark Side of the Sun (1988) gave Pitt his first leading film role, as a young American taken by his family to the Adriatic to find a remedy for a skin condition. The film was shelved at the outbreak of the Croatian War of Independence, and was not released until 1997. Pitt made two motion picture appearances in 1989: the first in a supporting role in the comedy Happy Together; the second a featured role in the horror film Cutting Class, the first of Pitt's films to reach theaters. He made guest appearances on television series Head of the Class, Freddy's Nightmares, Thirtysomething, and (for a second time) Growing Pains.
Pitt was cast as Billy Canton, a drug addict who takes advantage of a young runaway (played by Juliette Lewis) in the 1990 NBC television movie Too Young to Die?, the story of an abused teenager sentenced to death for a murder. Ken Tucker, television reviewer for Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Pitt is a magnificent slimeball as her hoody boyfriend; looking and sounding like a malevolent John Cougar Mellencamp, he's really scary." The same year, Pitt co-starred in six episodes of the short-lived Fox drama Glory Days and took a supporting role in the HBO television film The Image. His next appearance came in the 1991 film Across the Tracks; Pitt portrayed Joe Maloney, a high school runner with a criminal brother, played by Rick Schroder. After years of supporting roles in film and frequent television guest appearances, Pitt attracted wider recognition in his supporting role in Ridley Scott's 1991 road film Thelma & Louise. He played J.D., a small-time criminal who befriends Thelma (Geena Davis). His love scene with Davis has been cited as the event that defined Pitt as a sex symbol. After Thelma & Louise, Pitt starred in the 1991 film Johnny Suede, a low-budget picture about an aspiring rock star, and the 1992 live-action/animated fantasy film Cool World, although neither furthered his career, having poor reviews and box office performance.
Pitt took the role of Paul Maclean in the 1992 biographical film A River Runs Through It, directed by Robert Redford. His portrayal of the character was described by People's Janet Mock as a career-making performance, proving that Pitt could be more than a "cowboy-hatted hunk." He has admitted to feeling under pressure when making the film and thought it one of his "weakest performances ... It's so weird that it ended up being the one that I got the most attention for." Pitt believed that he benefited from working with such a talented cast and crew. He compared working with Redford to playing tennis with a superior player, saying "when you play with somebody better than you, your game gets better." In 1993, Pitt reunited with Juliette Lewis for the road film Kalifornia. He played Early Grayce, a serial killer and the boyfriend of Lewis's character in a performance described by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone as "outstanding, all boyish charm and then a snort that exudes pure menace." Pitt also garnered attention for a brief appearance in the cult hit True Romance as a stoner named Floyd, providing much needed comic relief to the action film. He capped the year by winning a ShoWest Award for Male Star of Tomorrow.
1994 marked a significant turning point in Pitt's career. Starring as the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac in the horror film Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, based on Anne Rice's 1976 novel of the same name, he was part of an ensemble cast that included Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, and Antonio Banderas. Despite his winning two MTV Movie Awards at the 1995 ceremony, his performance was poorly received. According to the Dallas Observer, "Brad Pitt [...] is a large part of the problem [in the film]. When directors play up his cocky, hunkish, folksy side [...] he's a joy to watch. But there's nothing about him that suggests inner torment or even self-awareness, which makes him a boring Louis." Following the release of Interview with the Vampire, Pitt starred in Legends of the Fall (1994), based on a novel by the same name by Jim Harrison, set in the American West during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Portraying Tristan Ludlow, son of Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) a Cornish immigrant, Pitt received his first Golden Globe Award nomination, in the Best Actor category. Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas co-starred as Pitt's brothers. Although the film's reception was mixed, many film critics praised Pitt's performance. Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, "Pitt's diffident mix of acting and attitude works to such heartthrob perfection it's a shame the film's superficiality gets in his way." The Deseret News predicted that Legends of the Fall would solidify Pitt's reputation as a lead actor.
In 1995, Pitt starred alongside Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow in the crime thriller Seven, playing a detective on the trail of a serial killer. Pitt called it a great movie and declared the part would expand his acting horizons. He expressed his intent to move on from "this 'pretty boy' thing [...] and play someone with flaws." His performance was critically well received, with Variety saying that it was screen acting at its best, further remarking on Pitt's ability to turn in a "determined, energetic, creditable job" as the detective. Seven earned $327 million at the international box office. Following the success of Seven, Pitt took a supporting role as Jeffrey Goines in Terry Gilliam's 1995 science-fiction film 12 Monkeys. The movie received predominantly positive reviews, with Pitt praised in particular. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called Twelve Monkeys "fierce and disturbing" and remarked on Pitt's "startlingly frenzied performance", concluding that he "electrifies Jeffrey with a weird magnetism that becomes important later in the film." He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film and received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The following year he had a role in the legal drama Sleepers (1996), based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's novel of the same name. The film received mixed reviews. In the 1997 film The Devil's Own Pitt starred, opposite Harrison Ford, as the Irish Republican Army terrorist Rory Devany, a role for which he was required to learn an Irish accent. Critical opinion was divided on his accent; "Pitt finds the right tone of moral ambiguity, but at times his Irish brogue is too convincing – it's hard to understand what he's saying", wrote the San Francisco Chronicle. The Charleston Gazette opined that it had favored Pitt's accent over the movie. The Devil's Own grossed $140 million worldwide, but was a critical failure. Later that year he led as Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in the Jean-Jacques Annaud film Seven Years in Tibet. Pitt trained for months for the role, which demanded significant mountain climbing and trekking practice, including rock climbing in California and the European Alps with his co-star David Thewlis. The film received mostly negative reviews, and was generally considered a disappointment. Pitt had the lead role in 1998's fantasy romance film Meet Joe Black. He portrayed a personification of death inhabiting the body of a young man to learn what it is like to be human. The film received mixed reviews, and many were critical of Pitt's performance. According to Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, Pitt was unable to "make an audience believe that he knows all the mysteries of death and eternity." Roger Ebert stated "Pitt is a fine actor, but this performance is a miscalculation."
In 1999, Pitt portrayed Tyler Durden in Fight Club, a film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name, directed by David Fincher. Pitt prepared for the part with lessons in boxing, taekwondo, and grappling. To look the part, Pitt consented to the removal of pieces of his front teeth which were restored when filming ended. While promoting Fight Club, Pitt said that the film explored not taking one's aggressions out on someone else but to "have an experience, take a punch more and see how you come out on the other end." Fight Club premiered at the 1999 Venice International Film Festival. Despite divided critical opinion on the film as a whole, Pitt's performance was widely praised. Paul Clinton of CNN noted the risky yet successful nature of the film, while Variety remarked upon Pitt's ability to be "cool, charismatic and more dynamically physical, perhaps than [...] his breakthrough role in Thelma and Louise". In spite of a worse-than-expected box office performance, Fight Club became a cult classic after its DVD release in 2000.
Pitt in December 2001 Pitt was cast as an Irish Gypsy boxer with a barely intelligible accent in Guy Ritchie's 2000 gangster film Snatch. Several reviewers were critical of Snatch; however, most praised Pitt. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said Pitt was "ideally cast as an Irishman whose accent is so thick even Brits can't understand him", going on to say that, before Snatch, Pitt had been "shackled by roles that called for brooding introspection, but recently he has found his calling in black comic outrageousness and flashy extroversion;" while Amy Taubin of The Village Voice claimed that "Pitt gets maximum comic mileage out of a one-joke role". The following year Pitt starred opposite Julia Roberts in the romantic comedy The Mexican, a film that garnered a range of reviews but enjoyed box office success. Pitt's next role, in 2001's $143 million-grossing Cold War thriller Spy Game, was as Tom Bishop, an operative of the CIA's Special Activities Division, mentored by Robert Redford's character. Mark Holcomb of Salon.com enjoyed the film, although he noted that neither Pitt nor Redford provided "much of an emotional connection for the audience".
On November 22, 2001, Pitt made a guest appearance in the eighth season of the television series Friends, playing a man with a grudge against Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, to whom Pitt was married at the time. For this performance he was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. In December 2001, Pitt played Rusty Ryan in the heist film Ocean's Eleven, a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack original. He joined an ensemble cast including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy García, and Julia Roberts. Well received by critics, Ocean's Eleven was highly successful at the box office, earning $450 million worldwide. Pitt appeared in two episodes of MTV's reality series Jackass in February 2002, first running through the streets of Los Angeles with several cast members in gorilla suits, and participating in his own staged abduction in another episode. In the same year, Pitt had a cameo role in George Clooney's directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He took on his first voice-acting roles in 2003, speaking as the titular character of the DreamWorks animated film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and playing Boomhauer's brother, Patch, in an episode of the animated television series King of the Hill.
Pitt had two major film roles in 2004, starring as Achilles in Troy, and reprising his role, Rusty Ryan, in the sequel Ocean's Twelve. He spent six months sword training before the filming of Troy, based on the Iliad. An on-set injury to his Achilles tendon delayed production on the picture for several weeks. Stephen Hunter of The Washington Times stated that Pitt excelled at such a demanding role. Troy was the first film produced by Plan B Entertainment, a film production company he had founded two years earlier with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Grey, CEO of Paramount Pictures. Ocean's Twelve earned $362 million worldwide, and Pitt and Clooney's dynamic was described by CNN's Paul Clinton as "the best male chemistry since Paul Newman and Robert Redford." In 2005, Pitt starred in the Doug Liman-directed action comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith, in which a bored married couple discover that each is an assassin sent to kill the other. The feature received reasonable reviews but was generally lauded for the chemistry between Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who played his character's wife Jane Smith. The Star Tribune noted that "while the story feels haphazard, the movie gets by on gregarious charm, galloping energy and the stars' thermonuclear screen chemistry". Mr. & Mrs. Smith earned $478 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest hits of 2005.
For his next film, Pitt starred opposite Cate Blanchett in Alejandro González Iñárritu's multi-narrative drama Babel (2006). Pitt's performance was critically well-received, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said that he was credible and gave the film visibility. Pitt later said he regarded taking the part as one of the best decisions of his career. The film was screened at a special presentation at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and was later featured at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Babel received seven Academy and Golden Globe award nominations, winning the Best Drama Golden Globe, and earned Pitt a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe. That same year, Pitt's company Plan B Entertainment produced The Departed, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Pitt was credited on-screen as a producer; however, only Graham King was ruled eligible for the Oscar win.
Reprising his role as Rusty Ryan in a third picture, Pitt starred in 2007's Ocean's Thirteen. While less lucrative than the first two films, this sequel earned $311 million at the international box office. Pitt's next film role was as American outlaw Jesse James in the 2007 Western drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, adapted from Ron Hansen's 1983 novel of the same name. Directed by Andrew Dominik and produced by Pitt's company Plan B Entertainment, the film premiered at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, with Pitt playing a "scary and charismatic" role, according to Lewis Beale of Film Journal International, and earning Pitt the Volpi Cup award for Best Actor at the 64th Venice International Film Festival. He eventually collected the award one year later at the 2008 festival. It is his favourite film.
Pitt's next appearance was in the 2008 black comedy Burn After Reading, his first collaboration with the Coen brothers. The film received a positive reception from critics, with The Guardian calling it "a tightly wound, slickly plotted spy comedy", noting that Pitt's performance was one of the funniest. He was later cast as Benjamin Button, the lead in David Fincher's 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a loosely adapted version of a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story follows a man who is born an octogenarian and ages in reverse, with Pitt's "sensitive" performance making Benjamin Button a "timeless masterpiece", according to Michael Sragow of The Baltimore Sun. The performance earned Pitt his first Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, as well as a fourth Golden Globe and second Academy Award nomination, all in the category for Best Actor. The film received thirteen Academy Award nominations in total, and grossed $329 million at the box office worldwide.
Pitt's next leading role came in 2009 with the Quentin Tarantino-directed war film Inglourious Basterds, which premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Pitt played Lieutenant Aldo Raine, an American resistance fighter battling Nazis in German-occupied France. The film was a box office hit, taking $311 million worldwide, and garnered generally favorable reviews. The film received multiple awards and nominations, including eight Academy Award nominations and seven MTV Movie Award nominations, including Best Male Performance for Pitt. He next voiced the superhero character Metro Man in the 2010 animated feature Megamind. Pitt produced and appeared in Terrence Malick's experimental drama The Tree of Life, co-starring Sean Penn, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In a performance that attracted strong praise, he portrayed the Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in the drama Moneyball, which is based on the 2003 book of the same name written by Michael Lewis. Moneyball received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Pitt.
His next role was as mob hitman Jackie Cogan in Andrew Dominik's 2012 Killing Them Softly, based on the novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins. In 2013, Pitt starred in World War Z, a thriller about a zombie apocalypse, based on Max Brooks's novel of the same name. Pitt also produced the film. World War Z grossed $540 million at the box office worldwide, becoming Pitt's highest grossing picture. Next in 2013, he produced, and played a small role in, 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup. The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Picture. Also in 2013, Pitt had a supporting role in Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Plan B Entertainment landed its first television series on the 2013–2014 schedule, as their joint venture with ABC Studios, the sci-fi/fantasy drama Resurrection, was picked up by ABC.
Pitt starred in Fury, a World War II film directed and written by David Ayer, and co-starring Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña. The film was released on October 17, 2014. By the end of its run, Fury proved to be a commercial and critical success; it grossed more than $211 million worldwide and received highly positive reviews from critics. In 2015, Pitt starred opposite his wife, Jolie, in her third directorial effort, By the Sea, a romantic drama about a marriage in crisis, based on her screenplay. The film was their first collaboration since 2005's Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Pitt's next role came with the biographical comedy-drama The Big Short, which he also produced. The film was a commercial and critical success. It went on to gross over $102 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, earning Pitt his third Academy Award nomination as producer. In 2016, Pitt starred in Robert Zemeckis's romantic thriller Allied, in which he plays a spy assassin who falls in love with a French spy (played by Marion Cotillard) during a mission to kill a German official in World War II. In 2017, he starred in the Netflix satirical war comedy War Machine, which he also produced. Pitt played a recurring role as a weatherman on the late-night talk show The Jim Jefferies Show throughout 2017.
In 2016 it was announced that Pitt will star in the upcoming sequel to World War Z, with official release date set as June 9, 2017. However, in early 2017, the release date was announced to be indefinitely delayed. In June, David Fincher was confirmed to direct the World War Z sequel, marking Pitt and Fincher's fourth collaboration. Next, Pitt will star in James Gray's deep space epic Ad Astra, in which he will play the slightly autistic space engineer Roy McBride who searches across the galaxy for his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. In February 2018, it was announced that Pitt will star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio as Cliff Booth, a stunt double, in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood about the Manson Family murders.
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