When you know that you are about to interview someone as mind-bogglingly famous as Brad Pitt, you try to stay cool. You remind yourself that, really, this man is just a good guy from the American Midwest armed with a charming smile – and a phenomenal career in the film industry. After all, he’s got to be just like the rest of us: human. But the minute I shake his hand that internal voice starts screaming, reminding me that this is him: Brad Pitt. A megastar since Thelma And Louise 18 years ago, winner of countless acting accolades and now the lead in Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited war film, Inglourious Basterds. So what do I do? Try and pretend that this really is just a bearded guy in a white T-shirt and baggy beige pants. So, here goes…
I’m curious – what got you interested in Tarantino’s new project?
This one came with a build-up of mythic proportions. There were rumours that he’d been sitting on this idea for eight years. People wondered: would he ever get to make it? Rumours were spreading that he wanted to make a WWII spaghetti Western. Then I got word this summer: he was going to get in touch with me because he was almost finished with the script and wanted to start shooting immediately. After that it was just one of those times when you read a script and there’s nothing you want to change.
Did you discuss WWII much with Quentin?
Well, you know this story basterdises history. I really enjoyed reading it [laughs]. I just wondered if we could get away with it, and then I realised – I’m going to do this! – and I didn’t want to give a piece of it away. This felt like the finishing piece, the top to all Nazi-focused films. I felt you can’t take it further than this.
Some of the critics have said that it’s a very American movie…
In the sense that we [Americans] love a revenge story and historically in our cinemas they work well – yes, that’s fair to say.
How did you decide on the physical mannerisms of your character, Lt Aldo Raine: his walk, accent, moustache?
It was all written in the script. It was so well laid out, you know, it was a really clear road map. Quentin writes some brilliant characters. You really don’t need to add anything. Why would you? You’d only ruin his work of genius [laughs].
So, what’s your favourite Tarantino film?
I can’t be sure. I’ve seen them all and I can’t really say that one is better than the other. I mean, with directors like him – and there’s only a handful – it’s really about their work collectively. This film is as good as any others that he’s made; it’s so outrageous.
And this isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Quentin…
I did a script that he wrote and Tony Scott directed called True Romance [in 1993]. He’s really good on his feet and not precious about his work: he makes moves and cuts sections out, and is so well versed in cinema. He is really impressive to watch, but then he’s just good fun to hang out with too.
I’ve heard that he is rather talkative.
[Laughs] He tells a good story – but don’t ever fall asleep on his set… ask somebody else what happens when you do that. I’m not going to tell you!
Does he let you improvise?
You know, you really don’t improvise with his stuff because his dialogue is so good and so specific. I find that if you wander off the trail you just mess it up. He knows a little bit about acting and is good at throwing a wrench at your performance, say, if you’re getting a little stagnant and messing it up or sending it in the wrong direction. He knows how to get what he wants out of you, and he knows exactly what he wants.
Why did you start acting? What do you like about it?
I like movies, not so much acting, but I like movies, the cinema, the stories, and I like being a part of that. I’m not sure I like acting so much. Making a film is a collaborative process. If people like the movie, that’s credit to everyone who has put in the effort to make it happen; it takes us all. One person can’t make it happen – but it does start and end with the director.
What have you learnt throughout your acting career?
That experience helps. Now I have shortcuts and shorthand to get to places faster.
What is your favourite movie of all time?
Dr Strangelove is probably my all-time favourite, and Apocalypse Now.
Have you ever wanted to direct a movie?
Oh no! It would be too painful for me. It would take up too much time. I’m too much of a perfectionist, it just wouldn’t be a good mix. I’ve got too many other things I like to do, like being with my kids or building or something.
I’ve heard that you like architecture.
I have some partners, and we’ve done some conceptuals for a few resorts, hotels and apartment blocks, but none of them have been built as yet.
Do you think you’ll do more of it when you retire from movies?
I’m doing it now. I don’t plan on ever retiring; there are so many interesting things to do. I think you make your own life and if you don’t like it, it’s your fault.
Inglourious Basterds is scheduled for release in UAE cinemas on September 24.