“The people of New Orleans have been failed on the federal level, and the state level, and the local level,” Pitt says with a tinge of frustration.
Working with Global Green, Pitt sponsored and chaired a competition to design sustainable, energy-efficient, and carbon-neutral homes for the Lower Ninth Ward. The group is hoping to break ground later this year. And there are many other concerns both national and international in which the Pitt-Jolies have immersed themselves. According to The Giving Back 30 (a list of the largest public charitable donations by celebrities), the couple gave away $2,415,000 in 2006. Of course, they’re making more money as quickly as they give it away.
This fall sees the release of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Aside from having one of the best titles in some time, the movie features powerful performances from Pitt as James, Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, and Sam Rockwell as Ford’s brother. Set in the last year of James’ life, it tells the story of how Ford’s infatuation with the notorious outlaw turned to betrayal.
“These doomed characters who don’t know how to right themselves,” Pitt says. “There’s a big lack of understanding of consequence. Especially with the Robert Ford character. This isn’t so much a Western. It plays more like a psychological study of these guys. I probably just killed the ticket sales right there. I’ve never been a good salesman.”
And while Pitt is known more for his acting than for his behind-the-scenes work, his production company, Plan B, has quietly been building up an impressive roster of projects, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Departed, Running With Scissors, and A Mighty Heart. He had purchased the rights to James Frey’s discredited memoir A Million Little Pieces, but the option has expired.
Around this point in the conversation Pitt seems to have lost his initial energy. His answers have become shorter, the pauses loooonger. He has run out of steam. This may well be due to his having devoured the Big Bowl of Spaghetti. But it could also be the subject matter. Pitt is most animated when he’s talking about anything but what he does for a living.
“This Paris Hilton quest for fame,” he says, perking up. “She’s blissfully oblivious.” Here he breaks into a snigger worthy of a sixth-grader who has just hit a classmate with a killer spitball. “Oh, my god, we’ve been away for . . . Where were we? We hadn’t seen television for . . . like a month. I’m probably exaggerating. And we just got back to the States. And we turned on CNN. And I was so happy to sit down with some CNN. And on comes Paris Hilton, going to jail. And so we just turned it off again.”
It’s time for Pitt to go home to a mate who is as regal as a hood ornament and children who could keep Benetton in advertising campaigns for years. He has the wide-eyed incredulity of the newly anointed dad, breaking out in a broad smile whenever the topic is raised.