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The Good, the Brad and the Ugly

Unpacking The Brad Pittcast, in conversation with hosts Dan Dixon and Joseph Earp.

Logo by Genevieve Felix Reynolds

We are all prey to the astonishing illusion of the Hollywood celebrity. The supposition that our favourite filmic faces have always been the dashing stars that greet us through the screen like old friends. Brad Pitt is no exception to this rule. When a fresh-faced Pitt and his rippling abs graced our screens in the iconic Thelma and Louise, a star was born. Little did we know that three years prior, a youthful Pitt was muffling in a black, leather gimp suit, and pummelled by a dolphin, starring in the Yugoslavian drama The Dark Side of the Sun.

Like fans following the transition from Clark Kent to Superman, Dan Dixon and Joseph Earp have committed themselves to a chronological assessment of the Brad Pitt catalogue in The Brad Pittcast. With each episode dedicated to unpacking a film featuring Pitt, the podcast provides a unique insight into the genesis story of the star that we all know and love, facilitated by a deep dive into the films that we remember, have never seen, or maybe even choose to forget.

In conversation with Honi, Dan and Joseph spoke of the immediate familiarity of Brad Pitt, but simultaneously held that when they started to look at the trajectory of his career, other narratives started to emerge. “He’s probably one of the only male stars that still fits the traditional mould,” said Dan, evoking references to traditional Hollywood stardom; the good looking, slick but not quite mass-produced likes of Jimmy Stewart. Joseph continued, “Pitt encapsulates what it’s like to be a massive Hollywood star in a world that makes Marvel films.” In these observations, Dan and Joseph hint at a tension that Pitt seems to grapple with throughout his professional life, as he portrays the classic leading man archetype, whilst also maintaining his reputation as an extraordinarily interesting character actor.

But for those that are still unconvinced by the charm of the golden-haired heart-throb, what sits at the core of The Brad Pittcast, and was the primary reason for its creation, is a deep and considered appreciation for film held by both hosts. This is not to say that Dan and Joseph enjoy the same films, in fact, the pair have quite polarising tastes, often reinforced by Joseph’s enthusiastic discussion of exploitation and horror cinema, rivalled by Dan’s opposition to expressions of cruelty. But such divergent attitudes make for vivacious conversation, with added colour coming from the reading of Letterboxd reviews, randomly selected to present weird and wonderful opinions about films from people across the globe. The listening process guides you through discoveries of hidden gems, such as Cutting Class, a 1989 high school ‘whodunit,’ and shines a light on old classics like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, reminding audiences of their brilliance. Additionally, Joseph’s encyclopaedic knowledge of films from all genres means that whether you are listening to an episode on the children’s animation, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, or the much acclaimed, Fight Club, you will leave the podcast with a list of dozens of non-Pitt films, common and obscure, to add to your watchlist.

In an ironic departure from the podcast’s title, many of the films for which Brad Pitt is credited possess noticeably brief Pitt performances. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich, wherein Pitt portrays himself in a cameo for all of one second. In view of the podcasts subject, it’s only natural to wonder how this film could produce an episode that goes for a whopping hour and forty-two minutes. But it is in episodes like this one where listeners are reminded that The Brad Pittcast is more than just an investigation of the man that is Brad Pitt, it simultaneously acts as a survey of the rapidly changing American film industry, revealing the peaks and troughs of a culture that has irrevocably transformed the world that we live in.

Dan, an English academic who is particularly attentive to contemporary American writing in his professional life, noted that “Films allow us to dig deeper into a mythic American culture that we never try to make relevant, but is somehow still always relevant.” This line can be read as a distillation of the podcast’s purpose, an act of ‘slow looking’ that forces audiences to pay attention to what is on the screen and see how that translates to the world beyond. Joseph, who spends much of his professional life engaging with complex works of philosophy, aligned this notion with German director Werner Herzog’s practice of watching WrestleMania, as in the words of Herzog himself, “the poet must not avert his eyes from what’s going on in the world. In order to understand what’s going on, you have to face it.” The American film industry is in many ways a damning, predatory, industrial complex, that perpetuates often irritating and unhealthy discourse. But the longer you spend looking at the media produced by the industry, the more likely you are to find gems. More importantly, the more likely you are to truly find Brad Pitt.

The concept of ‘finding’ Brad Pitt may seem bizarre when his is a name that is routinely splashed across star-studded credit lists, and his face is almost as famous as Hollywood itself. Such a thought leaves me pondering the curious visual of Brad Pitt at the 2020 Oscar’s Luncheon, wherein he equipped himself with a name tag, as though no one would know who he was already. But for two men that have spent the past year and a half intensely watching masses of Brad Pitt content, and spending just as much time discussing the subject, their prevailing finding is that “Brad Pitt is not who you think it is.”

We see the artificial Hollywood star in Troy, the playful yet considered apparition of death in Meet Joe Black, the witty Nazi-killer in Inglourious Basterds, and the man with the name tag at the Oscar’s Luncheon. But do we really know the man behind the label? You should listen to the podcast to find out for yourself.

Don’t know where to start your Pittcast journey? How about you have a listen to one of these episodes to get you started?

For those that want to start at the beginning of the Pitt timeline.

Episode 2 – Dark Side of the Sun: Revel in the absurdity of the world where Pitt got his start – a world of leather gimp suits, motorcycles and dolphin encounters that add nothing to the plot. Join Dan and Joseph as they attempt to unravel the inaudible dialogue of a masked Pitt, and grapple with the themes of fragility and the outsider that weave themselves into the fabric of the film.

For those that haven’t watched any of the films, but still love Brad Pitt.

Episode 18 – Brad Pitt’s Fits: The paparazzi, whether we like it or not, play such a vital role in shaping the way that we view our favourite celebrities. In this episode, Dan and Joseph scroll through the tabloids of yesteryear to assess the outfits and accessories that have come to define the Brad Pitt that we know and love. A fun, mini episode that explores the comfort that we get from our sense of familiarity, imagined or real, with people that mean a lot to us.

For the fan that has only come across Brad Pitt this decade.

Episode 1 – Ad Astra: A thoroughly modern Brad! Take a sneak peek at what is to come in the first episode ever produced by The Brad Pittcast crew. A great start for followers of the 2020 awards season run, lovers of space, and fans of a contemplative, aged Pitt, often staring in silence.

For a discussion about a genuinely good film that you should definitely watch.

Episode 42: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: You know what’s going to happen – it’s literally in the title. Nonetheless, this film is an irrevocable masterpiece! In addition to a chat about a marvellous work of cinema, The Brad Pittcast takes an empathetic turn, discussing high stakes, life-changing decisions, and saying farewell to a dear member of The Brad Pittcast family.

For the children at heart and cartoon fans.

Episode 35 – Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas: Featuring the vibrant Xavier Rubetzki Noonan, this episode is a trip down memory lane for those of us that grew up with the fever dream that was DreamWorks 2D animation. Find out whether a man whose career has been built around the physicality of his performances can pull off a role that rides exclusively on his voice.

For those that love a classic.

Episode 26 – Fight Club: A considerable amount of ink has been spilled and audio recorded about the David Fincher sensation, Fight Club. But Dan and Joseph bring something new to the mix, discussing, among other subjects, the alternate universe in which Robert Pattinson portrays Tyler Durden. Relish in the unadulterated hotness of Brad Pitt and question whether or not this film is truly cinematic gold.

And if you’re still stuck mulling over what to listen to, just listen to all of the episodes.