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Interview: Brad Pitt

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Fury, which closed the London Film Festival on Sunday, is a big, bold war epic. Set during the last part of the Second World War, the film focuses on a group of soldiers living in a single tank. Their lives are a mixture of utter boredom mixed with the sheer hell of battle, although their relationships with each other get them through.

The cast, which includes Michael Peña, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, and Jon Bernthal, is headed up by Brad Pitt as a stern, bruised and damaged soldier nicknamed ‘Wardaddy’. The film may have the scale of classic war films of the past, though it thrives on an electric, pumping modern sensibility that thrusts the characters fears and horror into the viewers faces.

Surprisingly, director David Ayer decided to shoot the film on celluloid rather than digitally. Different formats have proved a controversial issue for some leading actors in the past, with stars such as Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr claiming they have an effect on the process of their performance. I asked Brad Pitt whether this made a difference to the process for him as an actor: "For me there’s no difference," he says, "I’m game for either. I’m a purist; I love film. But also, on the other hand, there are guys who are discovering their own thing with digital, they’re not trying to emulate film digitally, they just trying to find its own look and its own voice. I appreciate that as well. But when [director David Ayer] made the film call I was happily pleased."

As it happens, Pitt’s wife is one of these people discovering their own thing with digital, as she has directed the Jack O’Connell-starring film Unbroken on the ARRI Alexa digital camera. By coincidence, it’s also set in World War II. So did they exchange notes on research at all during production? "We had a lovely experience. We don’t normally work (at) the same time but we just got our schedules cocked up and it ended up this way."

He adds: "We deal with the psychic damage of the soldier; her film focuses on the triumph of the human spirit against horrific odds. It’s a very uplifting, very beautiful film."

The film doesn’t delve to deep into the back stories of the soldiers, though these were created for the actors in order to make it easier for them to bring them to life. "We all had very specific back stories," Pitt says. "We worked a good three months or more at least before the camera started rolling, together and singularly."

Another coincidence is the fact that Pitt has previously played another brutal, damaged WWII soldier, in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009. However, for him the similarities end there: "I don’t see it," he says. "I don’t see it, no. They are two distinctly different animals for me."

He is keen, however, to make it clear what Fury is really about, and that’s the psychological experience of warfare and the traumas suffered by those involved: "The standard issue solider experience seems to be the same on either side. Not a film about sides and who is winning what, but a film about that accumulative psychic trauma, that dent in the psyche that every soldier carries to some extent, endures, and is then meant to come home with.’"

For those wishing to know more about such issues beyond the film, he does have a book recommendation: "There is a fantastic book that helped me a lot on the subject. It’s by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, it’s called On Killing, and he lays it out better than anyone."

Fury (2014) is released in the UK on 22 October. Brad Pitt spoke to TNS’s Film Editor Barnaby Walter and other journalists at the closing of the BFI London Film Festival press event at The Corinthia Hotel. Watch the film’s trailer below:

 

 




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