Brad Pitt is one of the most famous and accomplished actors of his generation. He has starred in numerous critically acclaimed films over the past three decades and has received multiple awards and nominations for his acting skills. Here is an in-depth look at Pitt’s life and prolific career.
Early Life and Background
Brad Pitt was born William Bradley Pitt on December 18, 1963 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He was raised in Springfield, Missouri in a conservative Southern Baptist family. His father, William Alvin Pitt, owned a trucking company while his mother, Jane Etta Pitt, worked as a school counselor. Pitt has two younger siblings, Douglas and Julie.
As a teen, Pitt was involved in sports like golf, swimming and tennis. He was also a member of the school debate team and drama club, foreshadowing his future career in acting. Upon graduating high school, Pitt enrolled at the University of Missouri majoring in journalism with a focus on advertising. However, he left college two weeks before graduation to pursue acting full time.
Where did Brad Pitt grow up?
Brad Pitt grew up in Springfield, Missouri after being born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He was raised in a conventional Southern Baptist family and attended Kickapoo High School where he was involved in various sports and clubs.
What was Brad Pitt’s family and upbringing like?
Brad Pitt had a relatively normal middle class suburban upbringing. His father owned a trucking company while his mother was a school counselor. He has two younger siblings, a brother Douglas and sister Julie. The family attended church regularly and Brad had a fairly strict religious upbringing. While his family life was stable, Pitt has described his childhood as repressive and stifling.
Did Brad Pitt go to college? Where?
Yes, Brad Pitt enrolled at the University of Missouri after high school. He majored in journalism with a focus on advertising. However, Pitt left the university just two weeks before graduation to pursue a career in acting. Though he never finished his degree, the campus of the University of Missouri named him one of its most influential alumni.
After leaving college in 1986, Brad Pitt drove to Los Angeles with just $325 in his pocket to pursue acting. He took acting lessons and worked odd jobs like driving strippers to bachelor parties and wearing a chicken suit for a local restaurant chain. His first roles were small parts in TV shows like Dallas and Growing Pains.
Pitt’s first big break came in 1987 when he landed a recurring role on the CBS primetime soap opera Dallas. However, his claim to fame came in 1991 when he played a cowboy hitchhiker in the road movie Thelma & Louise. His brief but steamy scene catapulted him to sex symbol status.
What were Brad Pitt’s first major movie roles?
- Thelma & Louise (1991) – Pitt’s breakout role as a sexy hitchhiking cowboy
- A River Runs Through It (1992) – Credited role as the rebellious brother
- Kalifornia (1993) – Serial killer Early Grayce opposite Juliette Lewis
- True Romance (1993) – A stoner named Floyd
- Interview with the Vampire (1994) – Vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac
His roles in A River Runs Through It and Interview with the Vampire demonstrated his versatility and cemented his status as a talented up-and-coming actor through the early 1990s.
How did Brad Pitt get his “big break” as an actor?
Brad Pitt’s big break came with a small but memorable role in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise. Pitt played J.D., a flirtatious, handsome hitchhiker who has a steamy love scene with Geena Davis’ character.
Though he was only in the movie for a few minutes, his natural charisma and sex appeal shone through. The part instantly made Pitt a Hollywood hunk and set his acting career in motion. After Thelma & Louise, Pitt began landing bigger roles that displayed his talent like A River Runs Through It and Interview with the Vampire.
Mainstream Success in the 1990s
Some of Brad Pitt’s most popular movies in the 1990s included:
- Legends of the Fall (1994) – Epic drama alongside Anthony Hopkins
- Se7en (1995) – Thriller with Morgan Freeman about serial killer targeting sin
- 12 Monkeys (1995) – Sci-fi time travel flick that earned Pitt first Oscar nomination
- Sleepers (1996) – Legal crime drama with Robert De Niro
- Meet Joe Black (1998) – Fantasy/romance with Anthony Hopkins & Claire Forlani
Pitt played a variety of characters from a tortured son in Legends of the Fall to a man channeling death in Meet Joe Black, proving his versatility as a leading man. Several of these films were both critical and commercial hits that propelled him to A-list celebrity status.
What films did Brad Pitt star in with David Fincher? How did their collaboration impact Pitt’s career?
Brad Pitt starred in two films with director David Fincher in the ’90s that became cult classics and impacted his career trajectory significantly.
The first was the 1995 crime thriller Seven, also starring Morgan Freeman. Pitt played a detective tracking down a serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins. The dark, gritty film was a surprise commercial hit and established Pitt as more than just a pretty boy.
Pitt and Fincher reteamed in 1999 for Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel. As Tyler Durden, Pitt delivered an unforgettable, edgy performance that film critics and cinephiles still discuss today. Fight Club bombed at the box office initially but became a hugely influential cult film.
These two films demonstrated Pitt’s daring choice of roles and propelled him forwards as a versatile, serious actor willing to take risks. His partnership with Fincher was crucial to showcasing his talents beyond traditional leading men.
What was Brad Pitt’s role in Fight Club? How did the film impact his career?
In 1999’s Fight Club, Brad Pitt played Tyler Durden, an insurgent anarchist who starts an underground fight club with the narrator (Edward Norton). With his toned physique and charismatic aggression, Pitt was the perfect choice for the nihilistic role.
Fight Club underperformed at the box office initially but later became a hugely influential cult film, especially among young men. Pitt’s raw, intense performance was a revelation and departure from his previous roles.
The film showed he could captivate in an edgy, unusual role and wasn’t just a conventional Hollywood star. While Fight Club was controversial for its violence, it bolstered Pitt’s acting cred and proved he could take creative risks. It remains one of his most iconic roles that expanded his range and gravitas in Hollywood.
|Major Film Roles
|Legends of the Fall, Interview with the Vampire
|Se7en, 12 Monkeys
|The Devil’s Own
|Meet Joe Black
While extremely successful as a leading man, Brad Pitt was not widely recognized with major acting awards until later in his career. Some of the films for which he has won awards include:
- Twelve Monkeys (1995) – Won Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Nominated for Oscar and won Critics Choice Award
- Moneyball (2011) – Nominated for Oscar and won Critics Choice Award
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) – Won Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Pitt’s roles in character driven films like Benjamin Button and Moneyball finally earned him acknowledgment from the major awards circuits. His Oscar win for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood cemented his stature as one of Hollywood’s best actors.
What was the first Academy Award that Brad Pitt won?
Brad Pitt’s first Academy Award win came relatively late in his acclaimed career, in 2020. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Pitt delivered a humorous, scene-stealing performance as Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt double in the homage to 1960s Hollywood. After decades of excellent work and multiple nominations, Pitt finally received Oscar recognition from the Academy. His self-deprecating acceptance speech charmed critics and showed his evolution as an A-list star.
How many Academy Award nominations has Brad Pitt received?
To date, Brad Pitt has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards and has won 1:
- Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – 12 Monkeys (1995), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Moneyball (2011) Won – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
- Best Picture
Moneyball (2011) – Producer
12 Years a Slave (2013) – Producer The Big Short (2015) – Producer
So while it took over 20 years for Pitt to win an individual acting Oscar, he has been repeatedly recognized by the Academy for his quality film projects both in front of and behind the camera. His only win thus far has been for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Throughout his career, Brad Pitt’s most frequent collaborator in lead roles has been actor Morgan Freeman. The two actors have starred in three films together:
- Se7en (1995) – Freeman and Pitt portrayed detectives chasing a serial killer
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Both played main characters at different ages adapting to aging in reverse
- Invictus (2009) – Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Pitt as a South African rugby captain
The pair’s teamwork led to great success in these films with both garnering award nominations for their performances, especially in Benjamin Button. Beyond their on-screen chemistry, Pitt and Freeman maintained a years-long friendship off-screen.
What directors has Brad Pitt worked with multiple times?
Brad Pitt has had fruitful creative partnerships with several acclaimed directors during his career:
- David Fincher – Se7en, Fight Club
- Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- Guy Ritchie – Snatch, The Mexican
- Steven Soderbergh – Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen
- Edward Zwick – Legends of the Fall, The Siege
- Alejandro González Iñárritu – Babel, The Assassination of Jesse James
Recurring collaborations allow actors to build rapport and shorthand with directors leading to enhanced creative output. Pitt’s willingness to partner repeatedly generated some of his most compelling performances.
How did Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B contribute to his career?
In 2001, Brad Pitt co-founded the film production company Plan B Entertainment with then-wife Jennifer Aniston. Through Plan B, Pitt has produced many acclaimed films he starred in including:
- The Departed (2006)
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
- Kick-Ass (2010)
- 12 Years a Slave (2013)
- Moonlight (2016)
By producing quality films and supporting new talent, Plan B has allowed Pitt to make a creative impact beyond acting. It has strengthened his industry relationships and given him more control over projects he stars in. Plan B earned Pitt a Best Picture Oscar as producer for 12 Years a Slave.
As a bona fide superstar, Brad Pitt’s dating life has long been a source of media and public fascination. Some of his most famous romantic relationships include:
- Juliette Lewis – Dated his “Too Young to Die?” co-star from 1989 to 1993
- Gwyneth Paltrow – Engaged to Paltrow from 1994 to 1997 after meeting on Se7en
- Jennifer Aniston – Married Aniston in 2000 after dating in 1998; divorced in 2005
- Angelina Jolie – Met filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2004; formed celebrity supercouple “Brangelina” for over a decade
Pitt’s status as a Hollywood heartthrob has resulted in intense scrutiny of his romantic partners, especially his marriages to Aniston and Jolie. His eventful love life has been a constant subject of tabloid gossip throughout his A-list career.
How many children does Brad Pitt have? What are their names?
Brad Pitt has six children:
- Maddox Chivan Jolie-Pitt (b. 2001, adopted by Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2002)
- Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt (b. 2003, adopted in 2007)
- Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt (b. 2005, adopted in 2005)
- Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt (b. 2006)
- Knox Léon Jolie-Pitt (b. 2008)
- Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt (b. 2008)
Maddox, Pax, and Zahara were adopted from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Ethiopia respectively. The remainder he shares biologically with ex-partner Angelina Jolie to whom he was partnered from 2005 to 2019. Pitt has said being a father is his most meaningful role in life.
What charitable causes is Brad Pitt involved with?
Pitt is known for his philanthropy and has donated millions to various causes worldwide:
- Started the Jolie-Pitt Foundation for humanitarian aid with Angelina Jolie
- Co-founded the Make It Right Foundation after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild homes in New Orleans
- Donated $1 million to Hope For Haiti earthquake relief in 2010
- Supports the ONE Campaign to fight global poverty and AIDS with Bono
- Funded a children’s cancer center at Saint John’s Hospital in his Missouri hometown
In addition to financial donations, Pitt involves himself directly in initiatives like building sustainable homes and visiting countries impacted by natural disasters. His philanthropic efforts reveal his commitment to social justice issues.
Later Film Career
As Brad Pitt entered his 40s and 50s, some of his most acclaimed performances stemmed from more nuanced, introspective characters facing existential questions about purpose and mortality.
Pitt showed gravitas playing a man aging in reverse in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and pathos as a damaged WWI soldier in The Assassination of Jesse James. In the 2010s, he excelled in complex roles like a baseball executive with life regrets in Moneyball and a retired hitman facing his past in Killing Them Softly.
While still taking on action films, an older Pitt gravitated towards flawed, vulnerable characters that relied more on his superb acting than physicality. His deepened skills marked him as one of Hollywood’s finest character actors.
What is Brad Pitt’s most recent Oscar nomination for?
Brad Pitt’s most recent Oscar nomination came in 2020 for his Supporting Actor role as Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As a laidback 1960s stuntman to Leonardo DiCaprio’s leading man, Pitt offered a loose, humorous performance full of swagger.
After losing many previous nominations, Pitt finally won the Oscar for depicting Booth as a charming yet enigmatic figure who aids his boss and friend Rick Dalton (DiCaprio). Pitt’s nuanced acting layered the role beyond being a humorous sidekick. His Oscar win capped a banner year for Pitt in 2019.
What upcoming projects does Brad Pitt have?
Even after 30+ years in the business, Brad Pitt remains in-demand with several upcoming projects:
- Babylon (2022) – Period comedy drama set in 1920s Hollywood co-starring Margot Robbie
- The Lost City (2022) – Action comedy with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum
- Bullet Train (2022) – High octane action flick based on a Japanese novel
Pitt continues to balance blockbusters like Bullet Train with more awards-bait indie films like Babylon. He also has expressed interest in a possible Ocean’s Fourteen heist film with co-stars George Clooney and Matt Damon if the script aligns. Pitt remains selective about future projects, but his stellar reputation ensures he can work with top-tier co-stars and directors.
Impact and Legacy
As one of Hollywood’s biggest stars for over 30 years, Brad Pitt has made significant pop culture impact in various ways:
- Ushered in a new era of leading man as a witty heartthrob in the 1990s
- “Most attractive man” lists and Sexiest Man Alive labels cemented his status as a hunk
- Tabloid obsession over his love life, especially his marriage to Angelina Jolie
- Celebrity couple nickname “Brangelina” highlighted fascination with his relationships
- Cool, slick performances inspired countless imitations and parodies
- Frequent movie quotes like Fight Club’s “First rule of Fight Club” entered pop lexicon
- Pitted Against Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp as top male movie star of his era
From his good looks to his expansive filmography, Pitt has remained deeply embedded in pop culture for decades. His icon status and Hollywood clout are undisputed.