In the August issue of GQ magazine, in an extremely softball interview, Pitt talked about being sober and quitting smoking. He quoted the poet Rumi. But the photos made more of a stir, sending the internet wild, simply because they defy conventional leading-man glamour. In one he is wan, eyes rimmed with liner, lying in a watery bed of flowers like a dead Ophelia. In another, his eyes are adorned with rays of metallic silver makeup. With surreal, psychedelic backdrops, the photos were eccentric and completely unexpected. Agreeing to that was a savvy move too, the kind that keeps viewers curious and helps keep great actors’ careers alive.
Pitt’s follow-up to Bullet Train couldn’t be more different from a popcorn action movie. In Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, set in Hollywood in the 1920s and due to be released in December, he plays a character reportedly based on silent-film idol John Gilbert. The role embraces conventional Hollywood glamour. But Pitt’s droll sense of his image and career shows us how to be a movie star – not an Instagram celebrity or an influencer, but an enduring, old-fashioned movie star – one for the 21st Century.
Bullet Train is released in the US on 5 August.
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