Brad Pitt’s career has had a longevity that any actor would envy, easily jumping between big-budget and independent fare and unafraid to tackle edgy or challenging material.
As a producer he’s fared even better, his name attached in that capacity to many of the best films of the past dozen or so years including “Moonlight,” “The Lost City of Z,” “The Departed,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Selma,” and basically every film he himself has been in since “The Assassination of Jesse James”.
In an interview with The New York Times this week, coming hot off his sixth Golden Globe nomination for “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” he revealed that there was one film he did that changed everything. It was a movie that changed the way he decided on roles, putting himself back in the driver’s seat rather than deciding on roles based on advice from others.
That movie? 2004’s epic “Troy” which made $497 million worldwide and proved a career-maker for Eric Bana. Pitt was the star of the film though, pushed as its biggest star:
“I was disappointed in it [Troy]. When you’re trying to figure things out in your career, you get a lot of advice. People are telling you that you should be doing this, and other people are saying you should be doing that.
There was this defining film I never got to do, a Coen brothers film called ‘To the White Sea. We had an opportunity to go, and then it was shut down. Then another interesting opportunity arose, and instead I was talked into: ‘No, you need to be doing this other thing. You can get to your art project later.’ I ended up taking that advice.
But that really made me think, ‘I’m following my gut from here on out.’ I had to do ‘Troy’ because – I guess I can say all this now – I pulled out of another movie and then had to do something for the studio. So I was put in ‘Troy’. It wasn’t painful, but I realized that the way that movie was being told was not how I wanted it to be. I made my own mistakes in it.
What am I trying to say about Troy? I could not get out of the middle of the frame. It was driving me crazy. I’d become spoiled working with David Fincher. It’s no slight on Wolfgang Petersen. ‘Das Boot’ is one of the all-time great films. But somewhere in it, ‘Troy’ became a commercial kind of thing. Every shot was like, Here’s the hero! There was no mystery. So about that time I made a decision that I was only going to invest in quality stories, for lack of a better term. It was a distinct shift that led to the next decade of films.”
Interestingly Pitt’s career pre and post-“Troy” aren’t that different in terms of the ratio of quality films vs. flops, and numerous solid films made in the decade before like “Se7en,” “Fight Club,” “Spy Game,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “12 Monkeys,” and “Snatch” and in the decade after like “The Assassination of Jesse James,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Burn After Reading,” “Moneyball,” “The Counselor,” “World War Z,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Tree of Life”. At best, there’s simply a slight shift away from some more obvious commercial fare.