By Simon Miraudo
October 5, 2012
Poor Brad Pitt. For much of his career, the tabloids' fascination with his gorgeous parade of partners, cavalcade of children, and his own undeniable prettiness has overshadowed his legitimate talents as an actor and artist. Though it’s taken nearly twenty-five years in the industry to alter the public’s perception, he’s finally being considered seriously (that he still has all that other good stuff in his life, particularly the gift of ageless beauty, makes us resent him slightly). He delivers one of his best ever turns in Killing Them Softly, as a business-minded hit man caught up in a sticky crime committed by imbeciles. In honour of that fine film, I'm reflecting on his ten best performances to date. First, let us grab something to eat and try to forget all about Meet Joe Black...
We barely understand what gypsy boxer Mikey says throughout Guy Ritchie’s mobster flick, but we definitely believe that a punch from his comically ripped physique would propel you into a hallucinogenic daze.
It’s a great honour to play a doofus in a Coen brothers’ film, and with Burn After Reading, Pitt joined the ranks of such luminaries as George Clooney, William H. Macy, and Nicolas Cage. Gym junkie, bike enthusiast, and wannabe secret agent Chad Feldheimer is one of his most endearing characters. This, however, is "a Coen brothers’ film,"and it doesn’t matter how endearing a character is; they’re destined to meet an unfortunate end.
8. 12 Monkeys
Pitt’s a four-time Oscar nominee and a five-time Golden Globe nominee, and though he is recognised as a perpetual bridesmaid these days, he actually walked away with a Globe back in 1995 for his twitchy turn in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. No wonder he uses food as a prop these days; as much as we love him in this flick, those fidgety hands clearly needed something to occupy them.
His major breakout role arguably came as well-meaning but super-unlucky Detective David Mills in David Fincher’s Se7en, a gigantic hit featuring some of the most gut-churning violent imagery ever committed to film. It also provided him with a catchphrase: “What's in the box?”
Harking back to those fantastically over-the-top army men in war flicks of yore, Lt. Aldo Raine relishes his mission of collecting “Naht-zee” scalps. With his jaw jutted way out, Pitt knowingly enters the realm of parody to better suit Quentin Tarantino’s larger message about the manipulative, magnificent power of movies.
5. True Romance
James Franco based his work in Pineapple Express on Pitt’s stoner Floyd in this Tarantino scripted, Tony Scott helmed action comedy. For that alone, we are forever grateful. For years, Brad’s fans cited True Romance when defending him against those who decried him as merely a pretty face. It takes a good actor – or at least one with some decent sense memory – to play drugged-out this convincingly.
Working with his Killing Them Softly director Andrew Dominik, Pitt embodied tragic folk hero Jesse James with an equal measure of charm and paranoid pathos. Co-star Casey Affleck might have overshadowed him as Robert Ford, but he’s still mighty compelling as the doomed title character (and was awarded the Volpi Cup for his troubles at the Venice Film Festival).
Brad came closest to receiving an Oscar for his leading role in Bennett Miller’s adaptation of true sports tale Moneyball. As Oakland Athletics' ambitious, game-changing general manager Billy Beane, Pitt emitted cool determination as he sought to remove the romance from baseball, only to find himself swept up in the game’s undeniably romantic elements. He lost to The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, for, somewhat ironically, his most understated performance.
2011 was a good year for Mr. Pitt. Not only did he trump his turn in Moneyball by playing the complicated, cruel, perpetually disappointed, heart-breakingly ill-equipped father in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, both features – which he also produced – where nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. His involvement in each cannot be understated.
1. Fight Club
But any actor who has ‘Tyler Durden’ listed amongst their credits will have to forever accept that any future part will likely pale in comparison. As the charismatic and vulgar mouthpiece of the bored narrator (Edward Norton), Tyler convinces a group of sad, lonely men to beat one another senseless before indoctrinating them in his anti-social ways. Pitt is so good in David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel, you almost want to shave your head, burn your hand with lye, and join his "Space Monkeys" in destroying civilisation.