Cannes 2012: Brad Pitt Says His New Crime Film Isn't an Attack on Obama

7:34 AM PST 05/22/2012 by Gregg Kilday
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The star of "Killing Them Softly" says that the 2008 financial crisis was "criminal" and "there still haven’t been any criminal repercussions for that.”

Brad Pitt doesn’t want his new film, the crime tale Killing Them Softly, to be viewed as an attack on President Obama.

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Meeting with the press at the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie was having its world premiere Tuesday, Pitt did acknowledge the upcoming November elections, saying, “I think we’re going to see more negative ads than ever before, and I certainly don’t want this film to in any way be mistaken for that.”

The subject came up because in adapting George Higgins’ 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade to the screen, director and screenwriter Andrew Dominik has set the action in 2008, the year of the mortgage meltdown and financial crisis in America. Pitt plays a killer-for-hire who’s called in to settle scores when a couple of minor hoods raid a card game. As the small-time gangsters fall upon each other, it all plays out against the larger financial crimes taking place on Wall Street as well as that year's presidential campaign.

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The movie specifically references Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he spoke of the promise of America. But though some might read that choice as a critique of what Sarah Palin likes to call that “hopey, changey stuff,” Pitt insisted that is not the case.

“I was there that night in Chicago when Obama won. It was an amazing night -- people out in the street, connected,” said the actor, who also produced the film. He argued that he sees the use of Obama’s words in the film “not as a cynical look back at a statement of failure but as a real expression of hope.”

He and Dominik also insisted that it’s coincidental that the Weinstein Co. will release the film in the U.S. on Sept. 21, about six weeks before Election Day.

Dominik, who directed Pitt in the acclaimed 2007 Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, explained that as he started adapting the novel, “I realized it was a story about an economic crisis,” and he couldn’t resist drawing comparisons to the mortgage collapse that led to the 2008 crisis.

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Speaking of crime films in general, he said: “I always feel that crime films are about capitalism because it is a genre where it is perfectly acceptable for all the characters to be motivated by the desire for money. In some ways, the crime film is the most honest American film because it portrays Americans as I experience a lot of them, in Hollywood, as being very concerned with money.”

Killing’s specific story, he added, “is about a crisis in the economy and the people who have to clean it up.”

As for the larger mortgage meltdown, Pitt couldn’t resist interjecting at one point: “It was criminal, by the way, and there still haven’t been any criminal repercussions for that.”

As for other burning questions of the day, one journalist interrupted all the filmmakers’ talk of crime and violence, character and politics, to ask Pitt whether he and fiancee Angelina Jolie have set a wedding date.

“We have no date,” Pitt responded. “We actually, really, truly have no date.”

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