Last Wednesday, Brad Pitt walked the red carpet to receive the highest honor that the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) has to offer, the Maltin Modern Master Award.
The Maltin Modern Master Award was created in 1995 to honor those in the entertainment industry who the SBIFF believe have enriched culture in a significant matter.
That night, the streets outside of The Arlington Theatre were surrounded by thousands of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Pitt before he walked down the red carpet to take a few photos for the media. Afterwards, he darted off towards the theater, only stopping near the end of the press box to give a few brief interviews to student journalists from U.C. Santa Barbara (UCSB).
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Pitt joyously gave advice to students who were interested in pursuing a career in the film industry. “There are so many different aspects to film, but one, just listen to your instincts, get in there and try everything and see where your interests lie, and learn the craft, really study the craft,” explained Pitt.
This idea was echoed throughout the night, as the acclaimed film critic and film historian Leonard Maltin took an auditorium of 2,000 people and Pitt on a reflective journey of the actor’s 33-year career in the film industry.
One of the first things that Maltin and Pitt joked about was their similar beginnings, but different life careers. “We both majored in journalism,” said Pitt. “You redefined film theory, and I majored in journalism.”
Pitt explained that although he was originally drawn to investigative journalism because of movies such as “All the President’s Men,“ his desire to study and work in film was where his heart lay. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of avenues to getting involved in film in southern Missouri. It wasn’t until a week before his graduation when he decided to drop everything and spontaneously moved to Los Angeles with a friend to begin his career in acting.
“It just occurred to me that I could go to it [the film industry], and I literally loaded up the car,” said Pitt. “I didn’t graduate, all I had to do was turn in a term paper, but in my head I was done, I was going west and within a week I was doing extra work.”
Pitt continued by telling the audience of his time working as an extra in Hollywood for almost one-and-a-half years. He also emphasized the struggle behind trying to earn his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card and find his big break, which he compared to a “Catch-22” kind of system.“To get your SAG card, you had to have a line, but to have a line, you had to have your SAG card,” said Pitt.
Pitt got his “breakout moment” when he got a starting role in the 1991 film, “Thelma & Louise,” but when asked by Maltin, when did he specifically start to feel like a professional actor, Pitt responded, “meeting David Fincher.”
Fincher is an award-winning director, and the duo have worked on three films together, “Seven,” “Fight Club,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Pitt spoke of how his time working with Fincher was “memorable” and “fun,” specifically emphasizing their time together on the set of “Fight Club.”
After the discussion on Fincher, Maltin and Pitt quickly jumped through the rest of his early career so Maltin could ask specific questions regarding roles the actor missed out on. “How many auditions would you reckon you went on as you were getting foot in … parts you lost?” asked Maltin.
“No! Okay I’ll give you one,” replied Pitt. “Only one because I really believe it was never mine, it’s not mine it’s someone else’s and they go and make it. I really do believe in that but I did pass on the ‘Matrix.’”
The moment Pitt revealed he dropped the opportunity to play Neo, the auditorium all gasped simultaneously. Pitt poked fun of the fact that he wasn’t invited to play a role in the second or third “Matrix” movies, and moved the discussion onto his career in the 2000s. Maltin eventually asked, what inspired Pitt to become a producer.
“There was this time in the aughts [2000s], what was happening was the interesting 70s-like films that were aiming in that direction were not getting made,” said Pitt. “It was becoming such a gamble on the studios they could not make these bets anymore, and so I started getting into kind of push[ing] some of these stories that I was still interested in …”
The night continued in a similar manner as Maltin and Pitt reflected on the actor’s career throughout the 2000s and 2010s before the night eventually came to an end. Before everyone could leave their seats, Fincher was invited on stage to hand the award to Pitt.
“So few people in the history of movies have been good at this, that we annex them to a special tier, people like Bogart or Cary Grant, or Jimmy Stewart or Paul Newman,” said Fincher. “They are as rare as albino pandas, they are movie stars and here is one of them … Now a Maltin Modern Master recipient, Brad Pitt.”
At that moment, the audience all stood and gave a roaring applause as Pitt embraced Fincher and accepted his award.
“That was so kind, that was nice, he’s never said that sh*t to me, ever,” said Pitt as he addressed the audience. “Thank you for this, thank you Santa Barbara … It’s nights like this I get to look back and feel really blessed. ”
He eventually ended the night with some loving words for the city of Goleta and Santa Barbara.
“You guys don’t know this but I hang out here a lot, I’ve [been] up in Goleta since ’99,” said Pitt. “This is home, I’m home … Santa Barbara rules.”