Summer is coming and, in America, that means it’s time to hit the national parks. So we (GQ Style team) took Brad Pitt and photographer Ryan McGinley tumbling across three of them: The Everglades, White Sands, and Carlsbad Caverns. Then we sat down with Pitt at home in L.A. for a raw conversation about how to move forward after things fall apart.
Brad Pitt is making matcha green tea on a cool morning in his old Craftsman in the Hollywood Hills, where he’s lived since 1994. There have been other properties in other places—including a château in France and homes in New Orleans and New York City—but this has always been his kids’ “childhood home,” he says. And even though they’re not here now, he’s decided it’s important that he is. Today the place is deeply silent, except for the snoring of his bulldog, Jacques.
Pitt wears a flannel shirt and skinny jeans that hang loose on his frame. Invisible to the eye is that sculpted bulk we’ve seen on film for a quarter-century. He looks like an L.A. dad on a juice cleanse, gearing up to do house projects. On the counter sit some plated goodies from Starbucks, which he doesn’t touch, and some coffee, which he does. Pitt, who exudes likability, general decency, and a sense of humor (dark and a little cockeyed), says he’s really gotten into making matcha lately, something a friend introduced him to. He loves the whole ritual of it. He deliberately sprinkles some green powder in a cup with a sifter, then pours in the boiling water, whisking with a bamboo brush, until the liquid is a harlequin froth. “You’re gonna love this,” he says, handing me the cup.
Serenity, balance, order: That’s the vibe, at least. That’s what you think you’re feeling in the kitchen of Brad Pitt’s perfectly constructed, awesomely decorated abode. Outside, children’s bikes are lined up in the rack; a blown-up dragon floatie bobs on the pool through the window. From the sideboard, with its exquisite inlay, to the vase on the mantel, the house exudes care and intention. And it carries its own stories, not just about when the Jolie-Pitts were a happy family, but also from back in the day, when Jimi Hendrix crashed here. It’s said he wrote “May This Be Love” out in the grotto, with its waterfall (Waterfall / Nothing can harm me at all…). “I don’t know if it’s true,” says Pitt, “but a hippie came by and said he used to drop acid with Jim back there, so I run with the story.”
And yet Pitt is the first one to acknowledge that it’s been chaos these past six months, during what he calls a “weird” time. In conversation, he seems absolutely locked in one moment and a little twitchy and forlorn in the next, having been put on a journey he didn’t intend to make but admits was “self-inflicted.” The unfortunate worst of it surfaced in public this past September. When he was on a flight to Los Angeles aboard a private plane, there was a reported altercation between Pitt and one of his six children, 15-year-old Maddox. An anonymous phone call was made to the authorities, which triggered an FBI investigation (ultimately closed with no charges). Five days later, his wife, Angelina Jolie, filed for divorce. By then, everything in Pitt’s world was in free fall. It wasn’t just a public-relations crisis—there was a father suddenly deprived of his kids, a husband without wife. And here he is, alone, a 53-year-old human father/former husband smack in the middle of an unraveled life, figuring out how to mend it back together.
And yet the enterprise known as Brad Pitt inexorably carries on. In November, the movie Allied came out, starring Pitt and Marion Cotillard. At the premiere he was described as “gaunt,” and rumors of an affair with Cotillard, and an on-set encounter between her and Jolie, had been so virulent that Cotillard took to social media to deny them, underscoring her love for her own partner, with whom she was pregnant with their second child. Meanwhile, Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, found itself winning an astonishing third Oscar for Best Picture, with Moonlight. (Pitt spent the Oscars ceremony at a friend’s house.) This month Netflix will release Pitt’s War Machine, a satire based on the incidents surrounding the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. In the film, he plays a gruff, ascetic stand-in for McChrystal, General Glen McMahon, with both big-gestured comic panache and an oblivious unknowingness that seems to be a metaphor for the entire American war effort.