Born December 18, 1963, in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Pitt grew up in Springfield, Missouri, the eldest of three children in a devoutly Southern Baptist family. His father, Bill Pitt, owned a trucking company and his mother, Jane Pitt, was a family counselor. Pitt originally aspired to be an advertising art director, studying journalism at the University of Missouri. However, the young college student had other quiet aspirations, the product of a childhood love of movies, which finally seemed tangible his last semester at university when he realized, “I can leave.” On a whim, Pitt dropped out of college, packed up his Datsun, and headed West to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles, just two credits shy of a college degree.
Pitt told his parents he intended to enroll in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, but instead spent the next several months driving a limousine—chauffeuring strippers from one bachelor party to the next, delivering refrigerators, and trying to break into the L.A. acting scene. He joined an acting class and, shortly after, accompanied a classmate as her scene partner on an audition with an agent. In a twist of fate, the agent signed Pitt instead of his classmate. After weathering only seven months in Los Angeles, Pitt had secured an agent and regular acting work.
Pitt’s first jobs came in television, appearing in episodes of Dallas, the daytime soap Another World, the sitcom Growing Pains, and in 1990’s short-lived Fox Television series, Glory Days. In 1989, Pitt played Billy Canton, the drug-addicted pimp of a teenage runaway, played by Juliette Lewis, in the NBC made-for-television movie Too Young to Die. Pitt and Lewis (9 years his junior at age 16) started dating and eventually moved in together.
Pitt made his big screen debut in 1989’s horror/slasher film Cutting Class with Donovan Leitch, and played a teen track star in Sandy Tung’s Across the Tracks, but it was a well-timed bit part in a controversial Hollywood film that pushed him into the glare of instant stardom. Pitt’s performance as a renegade, sugar-tongued hitchhiker who gets picked up by the two title characters in Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise (1991) grabbed universal attention despite only a few minutes worth of screen time. Pitt’s combination of charming bad boy charisma and sexual playfulness (particularly in a fiery love scene with Geena Davis) secured him as a genuine sex symbol (and wore out the rewind button on many a VCR).
Pitt’s next few films failed to boost his acting credibility and establish him as more than just a pretty face in Hollywood. He appeared in The Favor (1992) with Elizabeth McGovern, Tom CiCillo’s directorial debut, Johnny Suede (1992), and the unconvincing, half-animated Cool World (1992).
However, later that year, the Hollywood sunshine set the golden boy alight once more in Robert Redford’s 1992 film based on Norman McLean’s autobiography, A River Runs Through It. Pitt played the main character’s charismatic gambling, fly-fishing brother (looking remarkably like the young Robert Redford). Redford later admitted that he did not choose Pitt on the strength of his audition, rather, because “[he] had an inner conflict that was very interesting to me.” Pitt delivered a sparkling performance, skillfully depicting the character’s dangerous footing between overwhelming charm and reckless self-destructiveness.
In 1993, Pitt re-teamed with three-year girlfriend Lewis in Dominic Sela’s Kalifornia. Pitt played Early Grayce, a man who goes on a cross-country killing spree with his girlfriend. The film was deemed self-indulgently violent and nihilistic by many reviewers and did not do well in the box office. Pitt and Lewis broke up soon after filming, creating a publicity disaster.
Pitt proceeded to lighten his repertoire with a comedic performance as “Floyd,” a burnt-out hippie in Tony Scott’s True Romance, but his next major role came in the adaptation of Ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, alongside Tom Cruise. Rice initially expressed outrage at the casting choices, finding the two boyish, all-American film stars too rough for the subtle, slightly homoerotic overtones of the tale. “It’s like casting Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer,” she reportedly complained. However, after seeing the final film, Rice retracted her initial statements and filmed a short spot for the video version, endorsing the film. Caryn James of The New York Times reported, “the power of the film depends on Mr. Pitt’s rich and deeply affecting performance. Low-key and serene, he makes Louis convincing as a bereaved father, lover, even son.”
Pitt’s next few efforts secured his place as a Hollywood staple; still, many critics found his roles lacking in dimension. In 1994’s Legends of the Fall, an epic family melodrama, Pitt played Tristan, a stereotypical romantic hero with long, golden locks and a penchant for alternately selfish and self-sacrificing gestures. However, Pitt abruptly took a gritty turn as a detective on the trail of a serial killer in David Fincher’s disturbing and gory thriller, Seven. During filming, he met and began dating his then relatively unknown costar, Gwyneth Paltrow. Both claimed it was “love at first sight.” The two stayed together for two and a half years and were one of Hollywood’s most admired and celebrated couples. Then, in 1997, after a seven-month engagement, the couple split for unknown reasons.
In 1995, Pitt starred as a mental patient in Terry Gilliam’s psychological thriller Twelve Monkeys and won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor. He followed with another dark thriller, Sleepers (1996), and Alan J. Pakula’s Devil’s Own with Harrison Ford, before heading to Argentina to film Seven Years in Tibet, an ambitious, seventy million dollar project, which met disappointingly mixed reviews. Unfortunately, his next film, the three-hour plus Meet Joe Black, co-starring Anthony Hopkins, in which he played a very comely version of Death, also inspired little praise.
In 1999, after a brief hiatus from the Hollywood hot list, Pitt re-teamed with Seven director, David Fincher, to make Fight Club. The apocalyptic film, also starring Edward Norton, presents an unglamorous Pitt in a disturbing role as leader and recruiter of Fight Club, a bloody diversion for young professional males. Next up for Pitt was the British crime-caper Snatch (2001), costarring Benicio Del Toro and directed by Guy Ritchie. That same year, Pitt starred with Julia Roberts in the romantic comedy The Mexican, teamed with Robert Redford in the thriller Spy Game, and joined an A-list ensemble cast including Roberts, George Clooney, and Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the Rat Pack heist caper Ocean’s Eleven. In 2004, he starred as the Greek hero Achilles in Warner Bros.’ blockbuster epic Troy.
In 2005, Pitt starred across from Angelina Jolie in the blockbuster film, Mr. And Mrs. Smith. The action flick, about a married couple who are both secretly working as spies, earned more than $100 million at the box office.
Pitt’s next film, the critically acclaimed Babel (2006) earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination. The actor moved on to less serious fare in the reprisal of his role as Rusty Ryan in the Ocean’s Eleven sequel, Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). In 2008, Pitt teamed up with the Coen brothers to star in the FBI comedic thriller, Burn After Reading. The film earned two Golden Globe nominations, and grossed more than $60 million at the box office.
Pitt took on a more whimsical role for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this David Fincher-directed movie, Pitt plays Benjamin Button who is born as a 70-year-old man and ages in reverse. Button is currently nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Pitt.
In 2009, Pitt starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He also has an upcoming project with Sean Penn in the film The Tree of Life.
A two-time winner of People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” title (1995 and 2000), Pitt began dating Jennifer Aniston, star of the TV sitcom Friends, in 1998. Pitt and Aniston were married July 29, 2000, in Malibu, California. The couple announced their separation in January 2005 and divorced in October of that year.
Soon after their separation, Brad Pitt began dating actress Angelina Jolie. In May 2006, the couple had a baby girl, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. They also have three adopted children (Maddox, Pax Thien, and Zahara). In July 2008 Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie had twins, a boy, Knox Leon, and a girl, Vivienne Marcheline. The family currently splits their time between Los Angeles and New Orleans.