David Fincher helped Brad Pitt rehearse for a middle-aged renaissance – The A.V. Club

David Fincher helped Brad Pitt rehearse for a middle-aged renaissance – The A.V. Club

Together AgainWith Together Again, Jesse Hassenger looks at actors and directors who have worked together on at least three films, analyzing the nature of their collaborations.  In Quentin Tarantino’s recent Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth, stunt double, driver, and all-purpose best-friend-for-hire for fading actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). As he cruises through 1969 Los Angeles, running errands for his buddy, Booth manages to stay laconic and laidback as Dalton sweats and stammers over his growing irrelevance. The basic details of Cliff’s life should not necessarily inspire awe over his cool; he lives in a trailer, appears to subsist on beer and boxed mac ’n’ cheese, and doesn’t have much chance of a future in his profession (to say nothing of the ambiguity over whether he’s a murderer). But Cliff does scan as cool, at least superficially—in part because he’s played by Pitt, who has remained supernaturally handsome even as age has finally crept into his fiftysomething face.Pitt’s performance in Hollywood is not exactly minimalist, but it’s even-keeled and quietly charismatic in a way that’s become common in his later-period work. This wasn’t always his signature move in his younger years. Pitt came up around the same time as Tarantino (one of his early-career highlights is a supporting role in the Tarantino-penned True Romance), but they wouldn’t work together until 15 years after their mutual banner year of 1994. During his pre-Tarantino period, the one filmmaker Pitt periodically returned to remains his most frequent behind-the-camera collaborator: David Fincher. Given their extensive history, it’s strange to realize that none of Pitt’s very best performances are in Fincher’s movies. Fincher rarely taps into the deepest reservoirs of Pitt’s charm or unforced gravitas, the combination of which makes his recent Tarantino performance a career highlight. Instead, the pair creates Pitt archetypes—the kind of literal and metaphorical image-making that has given Pitt a history to draw upon in his better work. A list of Pitt’s best and fullest performances would make a poor argument that Fincher noticeably improves Pitt’s acting. But he’s had a hand in the multiple versions of Pitt that both preceded and informed his current incarnation as an effortlessly compelling (and deceptively skillful) actor-star in the vein of Paul Newman or Robert Redford.Relaxed effortlessness does not seem particularly compatible with Fincher’s reputation as an exacting taskmaster. The director’s movies are often infused with monomaniacal obsession; he’s made no less than three serial-killer pictures. Pitt, meanwhile, is an engaged performer, and more than able to summon fire as needed, but his best moments tend not to be his showiest. That’s what makes him so expertly cast as a stunt double for Leonardo DiCaprio who specifically lacks his sweaty, actorly intensity.That’s also why he feels somewhat (and perhaps productively) at odds with the tone of Seven, his first film with Fincher, and Fincher’s first foray into the serial killer subgenre. Pitt’s Detective Mills is a crucial character in the movie, more demonstrative than either his quiet, world-weary partner, Detective Somerset
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