“It was actually really freeing just to expose the ugly sides of yourself,” the actor says.
Brad Pitt "grew up with that be-capable, be-strong, don’t-show-weakness thing," but he’s come a long way since then.
The 55-year-old actor, producer, director and father of six opened up to The New York Times about his year-and-a-half of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings following his very public divorce from Angelina Jolie.
In early 2017, when he committed to starring in the James Gray-directed dramatic fantasy, "Ad Astra," Pitt was still dealing with the logistics and emotions of his recent split from the mother of his children.
When asked about that period of time in his life, the actor simply said, "I had family stuff going on. We’ll leave it at that."
"The fact is, we all carry pain, grief and loss," he later noted when asked if "Ad Astra" served as a way for him to work through some of the loneliness he may have been experiencing. "We spend most of our time hiding it, but it’s there, it’s in you. So you open up those boxes."
For his part, Gray was more candid, telling NYT, Pitt "definitely used the stimuli from his life" when playing his "Ad Astra" character Roy McBride.
"Now, I didn’t get personal with him about it at all — I don’t think it’s my business, or even my job — but he investigated the essence of the character through himself," he said.
While Pitt made no mention of the instance, it was reported that the final straw in his 11-year relationship with Jolie came in September 2016, when they are believed to have fought about his drinking habits while aboard a private plane. Now, he’s committed to sobriety.
"I had taken things as far as I could take it, so I removed my drinking privileges," he told NYT, noting he spent a year-and-a-half in AA after she filed for divorce. His recovery group was composed entirely of men, none of whom have publicly uttered a peep about Pitt’s deepest, darkest secrets.
"You had all these men sitting around being open and honest in a way I have never heard," the actor said. "It was this safe space where there was little judgment, and therefore little judgment of yourself."
"It was actually really freeing just to expose the ugly sides of yourself," he added. "There’s great value in that."
Raised in Springfield, Missouri, Pitt is the oldest of three children. His father, he said, "had grown up in extreme hardship and poverty, always dead set on giving me a better life than he had — and he did it. But he came from that stoic ilk."
"I’m grateful that there was such an emphasis on being capable and doing things on your own with humility, but what’s lacking about that is taking inventory of yourself," Pitt explained. "It’s almost a denial of this other part of you that is weak and goes through self-doubts, even though those are human things we all experience. Certainly, it’s my belief that you can’t really know yourself until you identify and accept those things."
Brad Pitt created a new stratosphere of stardom after his 1991 breakout role in "Thelma & Louise." Since then, everything he’s ever said, done, worn and looked like has been scrutinized. His romances, specifically, intrigued the masses. After all, he was engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow and married to Jennifer Aniston before starting a life with Jolie.
"In the ’90s, all that attention really threw me," he admitted. "It was really uncomfortable for me, the cacophony of expectations and judgments. I really became a bit of a hermit and just bonged myself into oblivion."
His life, he explained, was never "the lottery it appeared from the outside." It got to the point that he couldn’t tell his own thoughts and feelings apart from the ones imposed on him by others.
After graduating from wide-eyed lead roles that made up the first portion of his career, Pitt forged a partnership with director David Fincher. Together, they made "Seven," "Fight Club" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." After that, he began to see things differently.
"Those dubious thoughts, the mind chatter, the rat in the skull — that’s comedy," Pitt said. "It’s just ridiculous that we would beat ourselves up that way. It doesn’t matter. I spent too much of life wrestling with those thoughts, or being tethered to those thoughts, or caged by those thoughts."
"I’m curious to see if movies last, if movies stick around," he said, noting he wouldn’t be starring in as many. "It’ll be fewer and farther in between for me, just because I have other things I want to do now. When you feel like you’ve finally got your arms around something, then it’s time to go get your arms around something else."
To read Brad Pitt’s full interview with The New York Times, click here.
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