If I were part of the Hollywood elite, I would spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about which photograph of me they would use during the “in memoriam” segment of the Oscars. Would it show me young and vital? Old and dignified? A character shot from my most cherished film, where I played a fat baker being bitten on the crotch by a little dog?
I mention this because, if I had to guess, Brad Pitt doesn’t spend any time fretting about this. Not any more. Because, thanks to the selection of portraits that accompany his new GQ interview, we already know what he will look like dead.
Look at the cover. It’s extraordinary. Pitt’s hair is slicked back, he’s wearing a gold medallion and an extremely flammable-looking shirt, lying down on a bed of artificial flowers. His eyes are open. He’s wearing mascara. He looks, not to put this indelicately, like some undertakers have tried to pretty up his corpse before his family arrives for a visit. Oh, and there’s a lizard crawling across him.
Amazingly, this is the least startling setup of the shoot. Scroll through the interview and you’ll see Pitt dressed like a Jim Morrison waxwork having a stroke, chewing his finger while dressed in a bright yellow safari suit and hiding out in the spot where they dug up Billy Batts in Goodfellas, dressed like the Czech Republic’s 14th-best stage magician, and doing an A+ impression of Tino the Artistic Mouse from Hey Duggee.
Part of me is impressed. In the past I have attended photoshoots where actors have refused to do anything even remotely interesting. Recently, for example, I saw an actor politely but firmly refuse to stand facing a plain hotel room wall because they thought it would be “too weird”. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a photographer said to Pitt: “Hey Brad, do you mind if I light your hand on fire?” and his response was: “Great! Can I also look like I’m urinating in my pants?” Whatever you think of the photos, you have to applaud his commitment.
Still, GQ has done a very thorough job of taking one of the world’s most photogenic men and making him staggeringly unphotogenic. If I had to guess at how this happened, I would suggest that the biggest culprit is the interview itself.
It is an example of the worst kind of celebrity magazine profile. It is self-serious and faux-profound, determined to whip up even the most mundane exchange until it sounds like a pronouncement from God. There is a long stretch about whether he prefers cold or room temperature water. There’s a tract on nicotine mints. At one point he just stops talking and the interviewer, struck dumb with awe, can only marvel that: “Silence is especially dramatic when Brad Pitt is creating it.”
As such, an inordinately vast portion of the interview is given over to the dullest subject on earth. That’s right, Pitt describes his dreams. Nothing particularly interesting comes from this – he used to have a recurring dream where he was being stabbed – but nevertheless it’s substantial enough for the cover of GQ to exclaim: “Brad Pitt opens up his dream world”. So it makes sense for the accompanying photoshoot to be entirely dream-themed. And this is how a big magazine came to devote several pages to one of the world’s most famous men doing bad David Lynch cosplay.