Let’s face it: As the Hollywood Awards Season has stretched on, culminating this evening in the annual 92nd Academy Awards, Brad Pitt looks more than primed to take home his first ever acting Oscar in his three plus decade career of creating and weaving together a veritable buffet of characters that range from a sultry gigolo (Thelma and Louise), a lovable stoner (True Romance), a tortured vampire (Interview with a Vampire), a cocky young police detective (Seven), an Allied World War Two officer (Inglorious Bastards) and, finally an easygoing and steadfast stunt-double in 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Pitt’s been here before, perhaps most memorably for his turn in Terry Gilliam’s mind warping time travel epic, 12 Monkeys. For this decidedly gonzo turn, Pitt was awarded with a 1996 nomination for Best Supporting Actor. ’96 was actor Kevin Spacey’s year, however, and Pitt went home empty-handed only to return with a Best Actor nomination for 2009’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That year Mr. Pitt ceded to Sean Penn (for Milk) and in 2012 he forfeited his Best actor nomination for Moneyball to actor Jean Dujardin (for The Artist). Pitt also struck out with his nomination that same year for producing Moneyball. To date, the actor’s only nomination with a win was not for his capable acting but rather for his producing prowess on the Steve McQueen directed film, 12 Years a Slave. The luck Pit had with producing did not, alas, extend to The Big Short, his next nomination from the Academy as a producer (although he did act in a small role in the film, too). Which brings us up to this evening and what just might be the performance that pushes the former A River Runs Through It star up to the Oscar podium for his first ever acting Oscar.
I’ll have to admit it: I was a late convert on the Brad Pitt bandwagon. Being a fan of film, of course, it was and still is all but impossible to follow American mainstream cinema without bumping into a Brad Pitt performance once or twice a year. At first I didn’t understand the near idolatry that followed the golden haired thespian from project to project. I had been indifferent to his turn as a Montana fly-fisherman in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It (I’d thought then, and still maintain now, that actor River Phoenix – who had, in fact, auditioned for the part – would have been the best choice for that difficult role) and cringed during the World War One battle scenes in Legends of the Fall where Pitt’s character dashed around the battlefield with decidedly non-regulatory flowing blond locks. ‘He’s a pretty boy,’ I had unfairly decided of Pitt, writing him off as a bantamweight (at best), hopelessly outclassed in a sea of Depp’s, Phoenix’s, DiCaprio’s and Bale’s. I’ve never been happier with being wrong when, in a series of brilliant turns in such films as True Romance, Seven, Fight Club and 12 Monkeys, Brad Pitt proved to the naysayers that he was an acting force to be reckoned with. Pitt took me by the scruff of my neck and, in the inimitable fashion of his perennial stoner character Floyd in Tony Scott’s True Romance, made me want to partake of that glorious Honey Bear Bong and go along on the actor’s journey with him. And I have now, for a quarter of a century.
While up against some considerable talent this evening – Anthony Hopkins, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Tom Hanks – Pitt’s recent spate of award wins for his role of Cliff Booth, alongside his witty banter that passes for the Brad Pitt version of an acceptance speech, have endeared to me an actor who, in his fifties, seems to be hitting a new stride and mining new and complex layers of his own acting gift and doing so with a much needed sense of humor (yes Brad, I believe you when you say you would have found room for Leo on that piece of wreckage after Titanic sank) and aplomb. In short, Brad Pitt is the equivalent of a bottle of good wine: Deeping and richening as the years go on, probably surprising even the vinter’s who initially bottled the sucker up and sold it to the masses in the first place.
My prediction? Brad Pitt waltzes out of the Dolby Theatre later tonight with his first deserved actor win; Great job, Mr. Pitt. I’ll have the beer and cleaning products waiting for you at the After Party…