Always the bridesmaid but never the bride come awards season for screen legend Brad Pitt
Ad Astra, available to buy on the Virgin Media Store. Rent it on Virgin Movies from Monday 27 January. Cert 12
Ad Astra is a film like no other. It’s part paranoid thriller, part action epic, part intimate relationship drama and all of it is set in space. What keeps it anchored though is its central star, one William Bradley Pitt.
Here, Pitt plays Major Roy McBride, an astronaut tasked with a unique mission: to track down his father (Tommy Lee Jones) across the depths of space. Oh, and he had thought his dad was dead… but he’s alive, and might just be about to annihilate all life in the universe. Basically, it’s complicated.
Brad Pitt plays McBride – a man deeply committed to his training as an astronaut – with a restrained calm. But he also captures the emotions bubbling beneath the surface and manages to somehow subtly communicate them through the screen. Pitt’s enigmatic and quietly commanding performance generated plenty of awards buzz, but he’s come up short when the Academy Awards nominations were announced.
Surprisingly for a name so synonymous with Hollywood blockbusters, and despite performing at the highest levels since 1994, Brad Pitt has never won an Oscar for his acting. Here, we explore Brad’s back catalogue of Oscar-worthy roles, all of which are available to buy on the Virgin Media Store.
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
Another recent Brad Pitt blockbuster that’s being courted by Oscars chat, this Quentin Tarantino masterpiece tells the story of washed-up actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman best mate Clint (Brad Pitt). Smart-talking and sexy, Pitt is on fine form in this QT classic, delivering a multilayered performance that deftly veers from happy-go-lucky to dangerous and unpredictable to convey a character who’ll use any method to help out his friend – no matter how extreme.
The Big Short
As part of the stellar ensemble cast in this knowingly comedic caper about the American housing market crash in 2008, Pitt plays outsider investment banker Ben Rickert. To bring Rickert (based on real-life banker Ben Hockett) to life on screen, Pitt gained 20 pounds, grew out his beard and sported a rather unflattering fringe. But looks aside, his performance was among the most standout from this all-star line-up; bringing a sense of weary wisdom to the pivotal role.
Meet Joe Black
One of Pitt’s earlier movies, this is the star at his young-movie-star shiniest, playing the title character, Joe Black. Impossibly handsome, impeccably dressed and also actually the physical embodiment of Death, Black is a naïve newbie to Earth and its customs. Following Anthony Hopkin’s billionaire businessman Bill Parrish around in a bid to discover what life is like, Black’s sense of boyish wonder and bemused playfulness is infectious and entertaining, and pulled off effortlessly by our leading man. Plus, his chemistry with Bill’s daughter Alison (Clare Forlani), is hot stuff.
Obviously, Brad Pitt’s turn as Tyler Durden made this list. How his performance as the shaven-headed anarchist soap salesman didn’t win him all the awards ever will forever be a mystery. Pitt is in the shape of his life here as the lean and shredded Durden, and his acting is up to scratch too. He’s wild, unpredictable and magnetic, a ball of rebellious energy that bounds around the scenery and sparks off co-stars Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. A David Fincher classic, this take on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name is late 90s cinema at its best and most brutal.
The Tree Of Life
This movie is one of the most stunning undertakings in cinema, exploring the meaning of life through the childhood memories of a middle-aged man named Jack (Sean Penn), punctuated by breathtaking imagery of the universe. Terrence Malick’s masterpiece was met with lukewarm acclaim on its release but has gone on to be celebrated by critics. Central to the film is Jack’s volatile and at times violent relationship with his father, played by Pitt with a palpable sense of rage and resentment simmering under the surface. It’s hard to claim just one thing as a highlight in a movie so unique and affecting, but Pitt’s performance might just be it.
This is the true story of how the former general manager of professional baseball team Oakland Athletics and a young data analyst completely reinvented the way baseball teams are managed and coached. Lining up to bat in the lead role, Pitt is likeable and relatable as manager Billy Beane, who’s searching for redemption through his new team. The kicker is, the role garnered Pitt a Best Actor Oscar nomination. It’s bizarre that he didn’t win. He’s pitch perfect, playing a gifted yet fallible man and father in a way that feels believable. That final scene as well. We’re not crying, you’re crying!
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
This is the strange tale of a man who lives his life in reverse, going from old to young. It’s an interesting, unique concept and one that’s brought vividly to life by a humble and at times heartbreaking central performance by Pitt as the title character. Button’s physicality and appearance changes dramatically throughout the movie as he lives out his years. Aided by incredible CGI wizardry and make-up work, Pitt somehow manages to make this impossible story feel real. Again, it’s another film where Pitt was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but lost out.
A complex and convoluted film, Babel is a twisting tale set across three countries, with the characters’ lives interconnecting in ways that only become clear as the narrative unravels. It’s highly ambitious, beautiful and complex, with Pitt and Cate Blanchett at the centre of the international cast. Their storyline and its subsequent repercussions are brought to life by the actors’ raw emotions and seemingly real reactions to the situations they find themselves in.
Another classic from David Fincher, Se7en is a tense police thriller, telling the story of Pitt’s rookie cop David Mills his and soon-to-retire partner William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who go up against a serial killer punishing people for their perceived sins. Pitt perfectly complements the film’s noir-esque atmosphere; depicting David as a man with a perverse fascination with the killer that brings him dangerously close to the edge of his own sanity. If you’ve seen it and didn’t deem his performance worthy of an Oscar, we implore you to rewatch it, if only for the emotional heft he brings to the “don’t open the box” scene.
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Image credits: Ad Astra © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation