When it comes to buddy movies, the Brad Pitt/ Leonardo DiCaprio double act in ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ has probably already won Quentin Tarantino a smash hit with his ninth writer/ director movie. Pitt plays the stuntman to DiCaprio’s washed up actor.
Pitt himself doesn’t look like he’s about to exit stage right – this year he also stars in the sci fi flick ‘Ad Astra’ with Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland, and a sequel to zombie shocker ‘World War Z’ has also been announced.
RSNG got some face time with Pitt to ask about the dynamic between him and DiCaprio, what it’s like to work with Tarantino again, and why the new movie is an argument for playing the cards you are dealt…
RSNG I guess that you couldn’t have said no to this new adventure…
BRAD PITT, ACTOR ‘It would have been stupid… completely stupid to say no.’
BP ‘Because it’s Tarantino! I know both Leo and I have already worked with Quentin, but it’s not only that, or the way that he works is so unique and has such an original way of telling stories. When I knew that Leo and I were going to be working together, that was it. Quentin’s is one of the best voices that we have for telling stories.’
RSNG Is it true that there was a possibility we could have had someone else playing these roles?
BP ‘It is true as far as I believe he met several other actors before he decided on us two, as it seems we had the right combination for what he wanted to do, which again is flattering that he felt that. But yeah, he definitely spoke to a lot of other people before he came back around to me – I think that’s the way that it worked.’
‘We have a stuntman-actor relationship which is legendary’
RSNG So, what was it like working on the movie and with Leo DiCaprio?
BP ‘Working on this film was really, really good fun. Leo and I have been in the movies since the early 1990s, which gives us a lot of the same reference points and now we are making a movie about the industry that we love, about a city we love.’
‘We have a stuntman-actor relationship, which is legendary – like how it worked back then, like with Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen, and Burt Reynolds with Hal Needham.’
‘So, working on a project which relates to everything which I love about the industry was really so much fun. Besides Leo being the best and so gifted, he is actually so humble, and I think you also see that coming across in the film. We were able to bounce off each other, it really was so easy working alongside such a great actor and friend.’
RSNG As you said first of all, you would have been a fool not to have come on board?
BP ‘That’s it. I have great respect for Leo and for us to do this film together and the film itself, I thought it was a great idea. The longer I do this means that the company that I keep becomes as important as the project. So, with Leo, Margot and the rest of the cast… we were all gonna do it.’
RSNG How would you describe the difference between your character Cliff Booth and Leo’s character, Rick Dalton?
BP ‘I feel like Leo and I play one character, like a full character. Quentin wrote into the Rick Dalton character, the self-doubts, dealing with the challenges, that dialogue in the mind which says that you are a piece of shit.’
‘That is met in contrast by those times where we are at peace, and accepting our world and that we are okay with the cards, which we have been dealt. To me, the fun is in the alternation between the two.’
RSNG What else drew you to the project?
BP ‘Well, Quentin is one of the most original filmmakers of our generation – of any generation and when he makes that call, you say ‘yes’. The film is further proof of his legacy to the last detail.’
‘Another great thing was the script reading, which was a great ceremonial thing and you go to his house individually to do that. When we got there, Quentin had an example of the scenarios in the film and we all went through in our own time there.’
‘I went back a second time and it was the same script, although this time it had coffee stains on, and it was a little dog-eared. But we have all been through the same kind of Tarantino-ceremony, haha!’
RSNG Speaking of directors, you worked with Adam McKay as director on The Big Short, which is primarily a serious drama, but McKay’s background is more in comedy – why were you happy to go to him?
BP ‘My company had the rights to Michael Lewis's book, and we had a script developed but we needed another take on it. Adam was looking for serious material like this and he finally cracked it – he wrote a script that explained the issues and all the different mortgage-backed securities products in a way that audiences could follow.’
‘We needed Adam's filter to make the story accessible, so that people would be able to appreciate the humour and absurdity of the way the crisis developed and who were some of the people involved.’
‘The film breaks down the language and explains how one thing led to another, but does it in a very clever and entertaining way.’
RSNG How easy was it convincing Paramount to jump on board with your own production company, Plan B?
BP ‘A lot of it came down to the casting. We called Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carrell – those were the three big names we wanted – and they all jumped in and gave great performances. It's important to me to be able to keep helping to get these movies made and I'm very proud of everyone involved.’
‘I guess the older I get, the less my mind is shielding me’
RSNG What experiences of your own childhood do you take towards having those roles reversed, now being a parent yourself?
BP ‘I remember my mother would spend a lot of time talking to me and my siblings late at night before we went to sleep. Those were some of the most beautiful conversations I ever had in my life. They were very comforting in a deep sense of the term. The way I look at a family is very much from a kid’s point of view.’
‘It should be a safe place where you can grow up and experience life and make mistakes and learn from them in a secure environment. That’s why I see fatherhood as a massive responsibility and privilege to be able to help get your kids ready for the outside world.’
RSNG What about your own upbringing?
BP ‘It was a little different for me when I was growing up. In our family, we just didn't talk a lot or feel encouraged to talk about feelings. It taught us to be sturdy and self-disciplined – that meant that you didn't show any weaknesses and you couldn’t discuss any problems that you had, or display frustrations or sadness. You kept that to yourself and I would say that has stayed with me a little into adulthood.’
‘Sometimes, I can still find it difficult to express myself, although lately I have certainly improved in those areas. I guess the older I get, the less my mind is shielding me.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for Brad Pitt’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Ad Astra.