Brad Pitt has chosen the pages (and website) of a glossy magazine to give his first interview since splitting from Angelina Jolie amid accusations he’d hit their teenage son. It was a calculated attempt to rehabilitate his image – and it seems to have worked.
It’s seven months since Brangelina broke apart against the backdrop of reports of a physical altercation between Brad and 15-year-old Maddox on a private plane.
Social workers and the FBI took no action against Pitt. There were also rumours of an affair with his co-star Marion Cottilard – which she denied.
But his reputation had been called into question and he has kept a low profile since.
So how does one of Hollywood’s biggest stars begin to fix his image and move on? The answer seems to be – by doing an eight-day photoshoot mucking about in America’s national parks and a long, confessional and philosophical interview with GQ Style.
The headlines from the interview have been, depending on which website or paper you read: Brad has had therapy to get through his divorce; he’s admitted drink problems; he listened to Frank Ocean to get over the split; and he wore the same $1,000 (£775) tank top as Harry Styles.
In the bits about his divorce, he is conciliatory and admits the chaos of the past half-year has been “self-inflicted”, but he’s putting “family first”.
He “refuses” to get into a vicious court battle with Angelina and says they’ve got to handle the situation with “great care and delicacy” for the children.
Verdict? He’s the honest and sensitive guy we always knew he was.
Not everyone was totally convinced, though.
E! published an article headlined: Why Brad Pitt won the Jolie-Pitt war by throwing himself on his sword.
“This interview could have been a more obstinate denial of wrongdoing on Pitt’s part,” E!’s Natalie Finn wrote. “Yet it was quite the opposite.
“Throwing caution to the wind – and simultaneously capitalizing on 30 years of good will built up in Hollywood – Brad went for it, translating what he’s gleaned from his newfound love of therapy into a painfully self-aware, self-deprecating, oft-poetic and at times rambling discourse on a charmed life that veered off course and what he’s doing to right the ship.”
In Vanity Fair, Kenzie Bryant wrote: “Pitt clearly studied the lay-it-all-bare, heart-on-my-sleeve, owning-my-flaws interview section of the post-celebrity-divorce playbook.
“Learning from his tumultuous year is a theme of the talk, especially regarding the divorce, which is still under way.”
Bryant added: “He comes across candid, remorseful, and keen to let the world know that he’s doing a lot of work on himself.”
And in an article praising his “openness and honesty” about his alcohol problems on Huffington Post, Ryan Hampton of Facing Addiction wrote: “Brad, I lift a cranberry-and-Perrier to you.
“People like you do so much to give a face to the addiction crisis that claims so many lives. Thank you for your honesty, your courage, and your willingness to open up about your recovery.”
As one of the most famous people on the planet, Brad Pitt had to talk about his problems sooner or later, attempt to take control of the story and move on.
And he’s got a new film coming out – which gets several prominent mentions in the GQ article. He needs to promote that by talking to the media, as he will need to do for future releases.
He can’t dodge the subject of his divorce and personal problems. But he can choose which outlet he uses to speak about them, and what they say.
In giving his first post-split interview to GQ Style, he’s chosen a publication that is glossy in both format and interview style. GQ correspondent Michael Paterniti’s questioning was gently probing but sympathetic. He didn’t ask what went on in the plane.
The choice of GQ wasn’t likely to put too many rival media outlets’ noses out of joint, and was guaranteed to be picked up by virtually every news outlet around the world.
And he will have had control over what went in the article, according to PR guru Mark Borkowski. “Total copy approval, total picture approval, total headline approval,” he says.
Pitt “looks good and has admitted he’s had a problem,” Borkowski says. “So it’s very transparent and very honest. To be as upfront and direct as he’s been, it is a remarkable moment in his career.”
Many celebrities would have tried to hide or snipe at their ex through the media, but Pitt is dealing with it “in the most humane way possible”, he believes.
Despite that, every decision about where to place the interview and what to say will have been carefully thought through, Borkowski says.
“He was always going to be plagued with this story. So if you’re going to talk about it, talk about it in full.
“But of course the timing is calculated, the language is calculated. Everything is calculated. And everything is a gamble.
“A lot of people prefer to stay before the waterline and not do it. He’s taken a massive risk and I can think of many who just wouldn’t go this far.”