Pitt, Brad: Playing Legendary Criminal Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’s Western

Brad Pitt plays the legendary criminal Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’s new Western, The Assassination of Jess James by the Coward Robert Jones, which opened to rave reviews, including acclaim for Pitts mature performance.

Seeing Pitt in character for the first time, author Ron Hansen recalls it was like having the subject of his years-long research come powerfully to life. “When I saw him on the set I didnt think There’s Brad Pitt; I automatically thought, Theres Jesse James.”

Dominik agrees: “I believe audiences will forget pretty quickly that hes Brad Pitt, which is a real testament to his performance. Brad couldnt have been more passionate about this movie and this role; hes not afraid to crack some eggs to make an omelet. He captures all the nuances and brings such authority to the part that you understand why people claimed Jesse James mere presence could fill a room with warmth or tension.

“Jesse was a very isolated person,” the director notes. Im not sure how much he really noticed the people around him. Hes been called a sociopath, but that, by definition, is a person who lacks conscience and isnt very emotional, and I dont think thats entirely the case with Jesse, who ran the gamut from violent outbursts to stretches of pensive meditation. In any case, he was certainly damaged.

Pitt, who, coincidentally, grew up in Springfield, Missouri, less than 200 miles from Jesse James birthplace and childhood home in Kearney, Missouri, based his characterization on a blend of instinct and Hansens research. “He was unsettled,” Pitt says, considering some of the issues that were driving Jesse at the time. He felt cornered, weary of the chase and of having to live his life under an alias. Mostly, I think he was unable to deal with his own legend.

Ridley Scott, who directed Pitt’s 1991 breakthrough performance in Thelma & Louise, says of the role, Its a true character study that, on the surface, carries none of the usual trappings of a leading man hero. It really demonstrates Brad’s maturity and depth as an actor.

Pitt, who’s also credited as the film’s producer, is an award-winning actor and has also gained great success as a producer under his Plan B banner. Pitt most recently earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Alejandro Gonzlez Irritus acclaimed drama Babel, opposite Cate Blanchett. He also shared in a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Motion Picture Cast.

Pitt next plays the title role in the romantic fantasy The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which reunites him with Cate Blanchett and marks his third collaboration with director David Fincher. The film is due out in May 2008. Later this year, he will begin filming the Coen brothers dark comedy Burn After Reading, in which he stars with George Clooney and Frances McDormand.

For Plan B, Pitt recently served as a producer on Martin Scorseses Oscar-winning Best Picture The Departed, Ryan Murphys Running with Scissors, starring Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow and Alec Baldwin; and the real-life drama A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie. Plan Bs upcoming projects include Shantaram, starring Johnny Depp under the direction of Mira Nair, and The Time Travelers Wife, starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Plan B previously produced Tim Burtons fantasy hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp, and Wolfgang Petersens historical epic Troy, in which Pitt also starred.

Born in Oklahoma, Pitt began his acting career with smaller roles in films and on TV. In 1991, he first gained the attention of critics and audiences with his breakthrough performance as the seductive hitchhiker in Ridley Scotts controversial hit Thelma & Louise. He went on to star in Robert Redfords A River Runs Through It, Dominic Senas Kalifornia and Neil Jordans Interview with the Vampire.

Pitt received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his performance in 1994s Legends of the Fall, in which he starred with Anthony Hopkins. Two years later, he was honored with an Academy Award nomination and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Terry Gilliams Twelve Monkeys.

Pitt subsequently earned praise for his work in the David Fincher films Se7en and Fight Club; Jean-Jacques Annauds Seven Years in Tibet; and Guy Ritchies Snatch. He also joined an all-star ensemble cast, including George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac, in Steven Soderberghs hit remake of Oceans Eleven. Pitt also starred in the sequel Oceans Twelve, which reunited the cast and director Soderbergh, and earlier this year in the series third installment, Oceans Thirteen; and the smash hit action comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith, opposite Angelina Jolie.

Pitts additional film credits include: Tony Scotts Spy Game, with Robert Redford; Gore Verbinskis The Mexican, with Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini; the title role in Martin Brests Meet Joe Black; Alan J. Pakulas The Devils Own; Barry Levinsons Sleepers; Tony Scotts True Romance; Ralph Bakshis Cool World; and Johnny Suede.