A Tireless Brad Pitt Talked to Every Journalist at 'Ad Astra' Premiere

The actor spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his new sci-fi film and the challenge of putting the "Rubik's Cube" together with director James Gray: "It was more delicate than any other film I’ve ever worked on."
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Brad Pitt is tired of talking. 

He's been doing a lot of it, too. The summer of Pitt started in May when Quentin Tarantino unveiled his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the Cannes Film Festival, and the chatter has continued all season long with that film's late July release followed by one more Pitt punch courtesy of James Gray's sci-fi character study Ad Astra, in theaters this weekend. There have been press conferences and premieres chased by lengthy and revealing profiles in GQ and The New York Times. Because of all the words and some of the best reviews of Pitt's career, everyone is now talking about him (and his Oscar chances). So who could blame the 55-year-old actor and Oscar-winning producer if he was ready to close shop and let the work speak for itself? 

There would've been a lot of disappointed journalists outside the Cinerama Dome Wednesday night, but that's not what happened. Instead, shortly after 6 p.m. a studio publicist informed the waiting media ranks that Pitt would be arriving early for the Ad Astra premiere in order to talk to every journalist already standing behind the stanchions. It's a rare promise — especially from an A-list megastar — but Pitt followed through and gave time to the entire line, trailed by only one handler who kept a healthy distance. No grouped interviews or taps on the shoulder to wrap it up.

"He's such a pro," was the most common compliment, besides the obvious ones about everything else. When it came time to talk to The Hollywood Reporter, Pitt, who stars as an introspective astronaut searching for his gone-but-not-forgotten father, admitted that he's aware of his current level of exposure. "I'm tired of hearing myself," he said with a laugh. "I say too much, really." 

He's a producer on Ad Astra — it's his face on the posters and in nearly every frame of the two-hour film — so he knows that kind of responsibility. It means he must keep the conversation going. "Listen, I prefer just to be making the thing," he continued. "There’s so much material out there and really good material that I think more complicated films can get lost. It’s important to get behind it in that way. [Ad Astra] is really beautiful. It has something to say and it's a fresh addition to the sci-fi genre."

An ambitious one, too. Costing north of $80 million, Ad Astra, which co-stars Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga and Liv Tyler, is Gray's biggest production to date after films like The Lost City of Z, The Immigrant and We Own the Night. Money aside, Pitt said the hardest part was making sure the film's themes — things like fatherhood, love, purpose and forgiveness — were not left floating in outer space. "The hardest part of this film was really putting it together. Not only was it a Rubik's Cube of a structure, but James and I set out to do something really raw, open, in the moment, sincere. We wanted to do something sincere. The danger in that — I would even call it a minefield — is that it can easily become too trite or too flat depending on how you shape the thing. it was constant negotiation to stay on point. It was more delicate than any other film I’ve ever worked on."

Co-star Loren Dean used other words to describe his scene partner and the way he juggled duties as No. 1 on the call sheet with producing chores. A fitting adjective would be impressive for the way he talked to the crew and offered his gratitude on a daily basis. "I've loved his work for so many years," said Dean, who plays Donald Stanford, a lieutenant who joins Pitt's Roy McBride on a risky space mission. "He's amazing to watch and to act with, but he said goodnight to everybody at the end of the night and thanked them for the day's work, just like a producer would. But he did this after a full day's work hanging in wires in front of cameras. He just commands both roles — actor and producer — so seamlessly." 

He commanded attention again in the Cinerama lobby after the closing credits in a sea of fellow A-listers like Rami Malek, Damien Chazelle, James Franco, Aaron Taylor Johnson and Steven Tyler. Outside the theater, throngs of fans and autograph-seekers waited for a piece of Pitt's time. He gave it to them, even sharing some words with them, too. "Thank you for coming," he was overheard saying. Even to the guy who asked him to sign an oversized poster of Achilles, his character from the 2004 film Troy.