FILM REVIEW MAGAZINE - DECEMBER 1999

Close to the Edge

Why being a Brad fan is a risky business

FEW STARS AS beautiful as Brad Pitt live so close the cinematic edge. While love-struck fans may refer to remember him as the mischievous, hardodied JD in Thelma & Louise or as the gorgeous, hot-headed Tristan in Legends of the Fall, more creditable film buffs will recall less salubrious turns. Hell, this is the man who, in Too Young To Die?, played a dishevelled drag addict who forces his 14-year-old girlfriend into prostitution to finance his habit. In Johnny Suede he was the eponymous moron, a ludicrously quiffed, narcissistic loser who dreams of being Ricky Nelson In the stylish and criminally underrated Kalifornia, he was a bearded, bulked-up psycho who picked his toes in public and beat his girlfriend for swearing. And let us not forget Twelve Monkeys, that weird and wonderful sci-fi masterpiece from Terry Gilliam that lea flared Pittas the insane and seditious son of Christopher Plumruer. Oh, and how many world-class sex symbols would take on the role of the Grim Reaper himself - as Pitt did in Meet Joe Black? Maybe he just wanted to count the number of captions that jumped for the obvious drop dead gorgeous line. Who knows?

And now, in David Fincher's brutal Fight Club, Brad Pitt plays Tyler Durden, a lord of the low-life who advocates violence as a way to exorcise emotional pain and to reassert man's place in the universe. Durden, a bare-knuckle boxer and anarchist, moonlights as a waiter, urinating in the soup for kicks, and, as a projectionist, splices pornographic images into family films. It's yet another example of Pitt's ongoing effort to distance himself from the lowest ebb of his working life: that moment when People magazine voted him Sexiest Man Alive. He readily admits that he took a supporting role to Bruce Willis and Madeleine Stowe in Twelve Monkeys as "another step to kill the evil of People magazine". It more than paid off: he won the Golden Globe and nailed his first Oscar nomination.

Now his hard-hitting performance as Tyler Durden (for which he had his teeth chipped to make him look more authentic), has caused outrage among critics and self-appointed arbiters of good taste.

In short, Brad Pitt just can't keep his name out of the papers. As Fight Club stirs up controversial comparisons to A Clockwork Orange, lesser publications gloat on the star's romantic agenda. And there are rich pickings to be had.

Before he was even famous, Pitt was seriously involved with the actress Juliette Lewis. So serious, that he proposed a life of permanent bliss and, in 1993, they became engaged. While the tabloids hailed them as the hottest new couple since Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, ]uliette purred, "He's so cute, Brad is." They met on the set of the 1990 TV movie Too Young To Die? She was 17, he was 24 and, one night, he offered her a lift back to town. "We didn't say much," the actress recalled later. "It was just really warm and nice. See, his image is stud and all that stuff. But we just talked, like two humans do." Two years later they were talking 'marriage. "We both know we're each other's person for life," Juliette swore at the time. "It's not like something will happen by accident that will all of a sudden tear us up. We'll probably have two weddings: one where we'll write our own stuff, and the other which would be the normal, standard thing."

Be that as it may, Brad and Juliette broke up in 1994 and the latter plunged into a reclusive tailspin. Today, married to a professional skate boarder, juliette confides, "I was so young. There's no animosity between Brad and I, but we don't talk - and that's odd."

Pitt moved onto bigger things. Following a fling with Julia Ormond, his co-star from Legends of the Fall, he fell in love with Gwyneth Paltrow, who played his wife in David Fincher's Seven. Their subsequent courtship reached a sort of public apotheosis when a photographer caught them frolicking in the nude on the Caribbean island of St Barthelemy. The photographs were then circulated on the Internet and in publications around the world, further cementing the reputation of the hottest new couple since, er, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

Brad apparently proposed to Gwyneth three times until, just before Christmas of '96, she accepted his offer while visiting him on the set of Seven Years in Tibet in Argentina. Word has it that he went down on bended knee and presented her with a 100,000 four-diamond Tiffany ring that he had designed himself. The engagement party was another publicity sensation: held at the lavishly appointed Beverly Hills home of Brad's agent, Kevin Huvane, the guest list included such wellwishers as Gwyneth's parents- the actress Blythe Dannet and producer Bruce Paltrow- Steven Spielberg, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rob Lowe, Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Perkins, Jennifer Beals, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, and, er, Jennifer Aniston.

Seven months later Brad and Gwyneth separated amid a fanfare of speculation, mainly that Gwyneth didn't approve of her fiance's partying. Others suggested that Brad didn't exactly meet Gwyneth's academic specifications. Meanwhile, Pitt had been romantically linked with Claire Forlani, his co-star from Meet Joe Black, when he turned his attention to his engagement party guest, Jennifer Aniston, prompting inevitable comparisons to an episode from Friends.

The couple have since set up home together and have, allegedly, been discussing marriage plans. Brad has even given Jennifer a three-carat diamond ring, although nobody has dared call it a token of engagement. And so the publicity machine rumbles on.

Of course, if one chooses to go out with famous actresses, then one is asking for trouble. Other highprofile stars like Keanu Reeves and Jodie Foster have managed to keep the press out of their diaries simply by opting to share their lives with normal people.

The fact remains that Brad Pitt is as overrated a hermit as he is an underrated actor.

by James Cameron-Wilson


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