Brad Pitt returns to the big screen with Babylon, the film about the transition from silent to talkies directed by the young prodigy Damien Chazelle (La La Land). He plays Jack Conrad, a star in decline with which, after Once upon a time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019) repeats as a film professional in crisis.
A situation in which, as he admits, he sees personal similarities. The boy who conquered Hollywood by showing his butt in Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991) aspires to keep his throne bare, three decades later, his heart.
Do you have anything in common with your Jack Conrad character?I would say that our lives have crossed, yes. I share your love for the business, for the job… Striving to understand your place in the world of cinema after 30 years in this job. I have tried to put a lot of myself into this character.
Also in the most intimate?Too. He has been married five times and is still looking for love…
The film is a cinephile encyclopedia. It is said that his character is a mixture of legends such as John Gilbert or Douglas Fairbanks. What have you learned from them?Interpretation has changed a lot since the silent era. Then the actor explained many things to the audience, with gestures that today would be considered exaggerated. It was about incorporating that gesture and mixing it with the current one. I read a lot about the period.
And what surprised you the most?Many of the silent film stars could not make the transition to sound, because it was a different language to which they did not know how to adapt. New York stage actors were the ones who best understood the new times.
Was it a very demanding shoot from a physical point of view?they all are. When you start shooting, your life stops and the only thing that matters is telling a story. It helped (and a lot) that filming was delayed due to the pandemic. We all live Babylon like a post-confinement party.
In fact, the movie starts out as one big celebration…That first party scene, which is 30 minutes long, is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. It’s incredible the way Damien has to alternate the intimacy of the characters with the big show that Hollywood was at that time, a kind of Wild West.
David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Terrence Malick… After working with the best American directors, how would you define Damien Chazelle?I wanted to work with him since Whiplash. It burst like a star, which is what it is. Babylon It is a film with epic overtones, because we find ourselves in a moment of transition between silent and talkies. Damien has tried to reproduce that sensation and to vampirize the energy of the moment, to shoot the scenes as it would be done at that time, with its 700 extras and its explosions, with its characters going in and out of very long shots, with its great camera movements. And you roll until that magical moment when everything is perfect. That beauty is in Damien’s movie.
Were you tempted to produce it?My intention was solely to work with Damien.
The producer Brad Pitt, do you see similarities between the current film crisis and that of 1927 with the transition from silent to talkies? Is the cinema threatened by streaming?There are movies that work better on platforms. It happens a lot with small intimate productions, which have more audiences. It creates something so wonderful and cinematic that it’s comparable to the common big screen and surround sound experience. Since both forms of distribution are going to coexist, we need both.
For the time in which it takes place Babylon the Oscars were created. You have a statuette as a producer (for 12 years a slave) and as an actor (Once upon a time…in Hollywood). What possibilities do you see Babylon in the next edition?Prizes are never the goal. With that being said, I would give them all to Margot Robbie.
And music and photography?Sure, that would be great. Especially for Justin (Hurwitz, the composer). It’s amazing the connection she has with Damien. Theirs is pure serendipity: two such talented people who meet in college… They’re kind of like Mick (Jagger) and Keith (Richards). Some Rolling Stones.
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Brad Pitt: “The Oscars are not the goal, but I would give all the awards to Margot Robbie”
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