Birthdate: December 18, 1963
Birthplace: Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA
One of a small handful of essential, dominant movie stars of the past three decades, Brad Pitt (birth name: William Bradley Pitt) is in the even rarer company of movie superstars who also produce movies in which they don’t star. (As of 2022, he has produced or executive-produced 31 features in which he doesn’t appear.) It may even turn out when Pitt retires from acting (which he’s been threatening to do recently) that his filmography as a producer—through his company, Plan B Entertainment--has a longer shelf life than his work as an actor.
For example, Pitt has been Oscar-nominated more times as a producer (for Bennett Newman’s 2011 Moneyball, Steve McQueen’s 2014 Twelve Years a Slave, and Adam McKay’s 2016 The Big Short) than as a lead actor (for David Fincher’s 2009 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Moneyball). The same pattern holds with the BAFTAs, which additionally nominated producer Pitt for Martin Scorsese’s 2007 The Departed. His Independent Spirit Awards win (12 Years a Slave) and nominations (Michael Winterbottom’s 2007 A Mighty Heart, Barry Jenkins’ 2022 The Underground Railroad) are purely for his production.
Notably, Brad Pitt has received far more acclaim from his fellow producers than actors: Unlike the Screen Actors Guild’s mere two awards (as part of the cast of Quentin Tarantino’s 2010 Inglourious Basterds and supporting actor for Tarantino’s 2020 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), the Producers Guild of America has lavished Pitt with everything from the Visionary Award and the Stanley Kramer Award (for Ryan Murphy’s 2014 film version of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart) to a Lifetime Achievement Award, along with his Plan B partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner.
Things didn’t start with so much acclaim for Brad Pitt, who rashly dropped out of the vaunted journalism program at the University of Missouri a few weeks before graduation and winged it for Los Angeles to become a struggling would-be actor in 1987. He collected experience but no credits in some significant productions (such as No Way Out with Kevin Costner) and toiled in minor roles until 1991, when Ridley Scott cast Pitt as the hunky J.D. in Thelma & Louise, turning him into a global beefcake sensation.
The same year, Pitt starred in one of his last low-budget films, Tom DeCillo’s wonderful Johnny Suede. Just a year later, Pitt was headlining Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It with Craig Sheffer and Tom Skerritt, solidifying his emergence as one of the hottest young movie stars in years.
Brad Pitt established a marker early on that he wouldn’t be a movie star who accepted only lead roles, such as joining Ridley’s late director brother, Tony, in a supporting role for True Romance (1993), his first of several collaborations with Tarantino. Although Tom Cruise’s name was above the title for Neil Jordan’s smash hit, Interview with the Vampire (1994), Pitt proved a dazzling co-star (despite getting an undeserved Razzie award for the role) and easily the equal of the mega-star Cruise.
At this point, Brad Pitt demonstrated a striking ability to shrewdly choose interesting material that expanded him as a performer in movies that stretched the art form. He led a brawny ensemble, with Anthony Hopkins, in the film version of Jim Harrison’s epic, Legends of the Fall (1994). 1995 marked two of Pitt’s most remarkable films: David Fincher’s astonishing detective crime fiction, Se7en (1995), with Morgan Freeman, followed by one of Terry Gilliam’s finest works, the dystopian brain tickler 12 Monkeys (1995), with Bruce Willis.
He co-starred with Harrison Ford in Alan J. Pakula’s final film, The Devil’s Own (1997), and then handled the sprawling, David Lean-style ambitions of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet (1997) with David Thewlis and BD Wong. An epic of a fantasy sort, followed by Martin Brest’s romantic Meet Joe Black (1998) with Hopkins and Marcia Gay Harden.
Pitt shifted into truly twisted and imaginative realms with the iconic Fight Club (1999), his second work with Fincher and featuring a dazzling Edward Norton in a generation-defining movie. Pitt followed this up with a quirky, memorable (and uncredited!) cameo as himself in the Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman comedy, Being John Malkovich (1999), and the first of a string of men-on-a-caper-mission movies that would almost become a Brad Pitt brand—Guy Ritchie’s fun Snatch (2000), with Jason Statham, Benicio del Toro, and Rade Serbedzija.
This naturally led to Steven Soderbergh’s hugely successful Ocean series starring Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon (Ocean’s Eleven in 2001, Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007). Other broad entertainments for Pitt around this time included the wild, underrated The Mexican (2001) with James Gandolfini, Tony Scott’s dazzling Spy Game (2001) with Redford, and another distinctive cameo in Clooney’s fantastic directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).
Though he tends to be an actor with contemporary taste, Pitt went to Ancient Greece (as Achilles) for Wolfgang Petersen’s epic Troy (2004) with Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom, and then made the ultimate “Brangelina” movie in 2005, Doug Liman’s raucous Mr. & Mrs. Smith. 2006 marked an essential creative moment for Brad Pitt: He became a producer of projects in which he didn’t appear, a move that was relatively rare at the time for superstar talent.
With Plan B Entertainment, he backed Scorsese’s Boston crime epic, The Departed, with Jack Nicholson; the Sundance grand jury prize-winning documentary set in Sudan, God Grew Tired of Us; and an early Ryan Murphy comedy-drama, Running with Scissors, with Brian Cox and Alec Baldwin. 2007 was even more notable, including four Pitt-produced films (backing such filmmakers as Michael Winterbottom and Mike White), most prominently of which was Andrew Niccol’s majestic western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with Casey Affleck, and the first case of Pitt as both star and producer.
Starting in 2008 and into 2009, Brad Pitt took a brief break from producing to star or co-star in significant films by four of the most influential American filmmakers: Joel and Ethan Coen (Burn After Reading, again with Clooney), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with Cate Blanchett) and Tarantino (Pitt in a rollicking turn as hard-as-nails Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds).
Pitt supported hits like Matthew Vaughn’s breakout smash as a producer, Kick-Ass (2010), Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, and Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray Love (2010) with Julia Roberts. Pitt, though, outdid even himself in 2011. Consider that he not only produced and starred in both Terrence Malick’s widely acclaimed The Tree of Life, with Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, as well as Bennett Miller’s superb drama, Moneyball, earning Brad Pitt his first Best Picture Oscar nomination; he was also a casting voice in George Miller’s excellent animated sequel, Happy Feet Two.
The audacity of such a range of cinema continued for Brad Pitt into the period from 2012 to 2016, beginning with two stellar starring-producing collaborations with Dominik (2012’s Killing Me Softly with Ray Liotta and Gandolfini) and Marc Forster (the 2013 epic sci-fi-horror, World War Z); the hit sequel, Kick-Ass 2 (2013); a fine Rachel Boynton doc on the global oil industry, Big Men (2013); and a colorful supporting turn in the dark and twisted Cormac McCarthy-written The Counselor (2013), with Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz; and David Ayer’s impressively mounted World War II drama, Fury (2014), with Shia LaBeouf.
Brad Pitt’s work as a producer of high-quality American movies paid off with (Brit!) Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) won Pitt the Best Picture Oscar. Pitt’s heavy involvement in backing many of the major films of recent Black filmmakers continued with Ava DuVernay’s magnificent Martin Luther King biopic, Selma (2014), with David Oyelowo. Pitt appeared opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese in Scorsese’s odd, self-referential short film, The Audition (2015), followed by the even odder (and last) Brangelina movie, with director Jolie under the spell of Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni in the box-office bomb, By the Sea (2015).
Pitt once again confirmed that his mark as producer-star was the sign of good things with Adam McKay’s smashing, topical The Big Short (2015), with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, earning Pitt his second Best Picture Oscar nomination. Brad Pitt backed (as executive producer) his second Best Picture Oscar winner in 2106 with Barry Jenkins’ poetic Moonlight, with Mahershala Ali.
He reunited with Malick as producer and narrator for the filmmaker’s most unusual project, the cosmic non-fiction and non-linear film, Voyage of Time (2016). Then he turned to pure movie star material as the star of Robert Zemeckis’ spy drama, Allied (2016), with Marion Cotillard. In 2016 and 2017, as executive producer, Pitt supported three exciting and creative filmmakers: James Gray (The Lost City of Z, with Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson), Bong Joon-ho (the nutty comedy-adventure, Okja, with Tilda Swinton), and David Michôd (the Netflix-released black comedy, War Machine, starring Pitt).
Recently, Brad Pitt has been dramatically shifting the balance of his film work away from acting and toward producing, exemplified by the 2018-2020 period during which he performed in only three films (including a cameo in 2018’s Deadpool 2) but produced or executive produced nine. However, he made the most of his acting turns, winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as heroic stuntman Cliff Booth in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) with Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as his second collaboration (as star and producer) with James Gray on the space drama, Ad Astra (2019), with Ruth Negga and Tommy Lee Jones.
Pitt served as producer on some of the best and most artistically significant films of this period, including Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-nominated If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), with KiKi Layne and Stephan James; Adam McKay’s brilliant, Oscar-nominated portrait of Dick Cheney, Vice (2018), with Christian Bale; the splendid, bittersweet American indie drama by Joe Talbot and lead actor Jimmie Fails, The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019); Michôd’s beautifully staged Shakespearean drama, The King (2019), with Timothée Chalamet; Miranda July’s first film as writer-director in over a decade, the quirky Kajillionaire (2020), with Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, and Richard Jenkins; Lee Isaac-Chung’s lauded Oscar-winning family drama, Minari (2020), with Steven Yeun; and Jon Stewart’s return as a feature writer-director, with Irresistable (2020), starring Steve Carell, Natasha Lyonne, and Rose Byrne.
Brad Pitt may outperform this remarkable 2018-2020 track record in 2022. As an actor, Pitt appeared with Sandra Bullock twice: first, in a small role in the runaway hit, The Lost City, and then as lead as a colorful hitman in the action comedy Bullet Train with Joey King and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Later in the year, Pitt starred with Margot Robbie in the anticipated Damien Chazelle period drama Babylon. Pitt served as executive producer on the light comedy remake for HBO, Father of the Bride, with Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan.
But as lead producer, Pitt is almost certain to be in the 2022 Oscar race with three highly anticipated films focused on strong women characters: Maria Schrader’s account of the Harvey Weinstein abuse scandal, She Said, with Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan; Sarah Polley’s return as writer-director with Women Talking, starring Frances McDormand, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and Rooney Mara; and Pitt’s latest collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Dominik, Blonde, his adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel about Marilyn Monroe, with Ana de Armas and Adrien Brody.
Pitt’s upcoming producing projects—all with dates to be announced—display an eclectic range from science fiction (Landscape with Invisible Hand, starring Tiffany Haddish, and the much-anticipated version of Cixin Liu’s epic novel, The Three-Body Problem) to eco-adventure (The Tiger, with Alexander Skarsgård) to mystery (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) to horror (Black Hole) to high drama (Ryan Coogler’s ripped-from-headlines Wrong Answer, with Michael B. Jordan) to documentary (an untitled portrait of late rocker Chris Cornell).
Brad Pitt was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and raised by parents Jane and William Pitt, who owned a trucking company. Brad Pitt has two siblings: a younger brother, businessman/philanthropist Douglas, and a more youthful sister Julie. He grew up mainly in Springfield, Missouri, where he attended and graduated from Kickapoo High School. He went on to the University of Missouri, where he studied in the school’s renowned journalism program.
Remarkably, Pitt—the proverbial young man seduced by the lure of acting in the movies–dropped his university studies two weeks short of graduation, moved to Los Angeles, and became a struggling actor in 1987. Pitt was married to actress Jennifer Aniston from 2000 to 2005, when they divorced; Pitt was then married to Angelina Jolie from 2014 to 2019 when they divorced. Pitt has six children. His height is 5’ 11”. His estimated net worth is $300 million.
Pitt’s Heroes: Brad Pitt cited Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, and Gary Oldman as the actors he most admired while learning his craft.
Adoptive Dad: Brad Pitt not only had three children with ex-wife Angelina Jolie but also adopted two sons and a daughter: Maddox, Shiloh, Pax, Vivienne, Knox, and Zahara.
Banned in China: Unlike many fellow Hollywood superstars who have been wooed to publicize their releases in Mainland China, Pitt has been banned there since 1997, the year of the release of Seven Years in Tibet.
Did You Know?: Brad Pitt’s first starring role was in a European-backed film, shot in 1987 and 1988, but not released until eight years later—Bozidar Nikolic’s Dark Side of the Sun.
Pitt’s Achilles’ Heel: While portraying the Greek warrior Achilles in the epic Troy, Pitt tore his Achilles’ Heel.
Face Off: Though he hasn’t been diagnosed with the condition, Brad Pitt has noted that he has suffered for many years with so-called “face blindness,” or the inability to recognize people’s faces, medically known as prosopagnosia.