Extra fans pressed up against the velvet ropes outside the driveway of the Four Seasons Hotel, and extra Warner Bros. PR staff patrolled the hallway double-checking passes for the back-to-back press conferences Saturday afternoon starring George Clooney (for his film Michael Clayton) and Brad Pitt ( The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford).
Pitt learned this morning that he won the best actor award at the just-concluded Venice Film Festival, but the majority of questions he received were about his own fame.
“I was surprised to learn that the tabloid quotient was alive and well [in Jesse James's time],” said Pitt, who in his white jacket and ecru cap looked like he should be driving an English roadster rather than facing down 200 reporters. “There were sensationalism and complete fabrication back then, too – not much has changed besides the quantity. But the microscope's not really on me; it has nothing to do with my actual life.” Then he scratched his neck, and about a hundred cameras flashed and whirred.
He doesn't regret the pact he's made with fame, though.
“I know the deal, I understand the trade-off,” he said. “It can be difficult, but you acclimate. And we get great perks, we get to see the world. The only thing unmanageable is when they come full-frontal at the kids. It seems there's no line drawn for family these days, that's the only thing that really bothers me.”
He praised the input of his partner, Angelina Jolie: “I rely on it. She's the best sounding board I have. I value it immensely. It pisses me off sometimes, but….”
As for the female fan who broke through the security ranks in Venice, Pitt said, “I haven't been jumped like that in some time, I have to say. But I don't want to change my life because of paranoia. A couple people out there are maybe not playing with a full deck, but I'm not changing a thing.”
Brad's fame has such reach that it even spilled into Clooney's press conference one hour earlier. Clad in a suit jacket and rubbing his salt-and-pepper beard, Clooney commented, “There are a bunch of celebrities out there right now sucking up all the celebrity air who haven't done anything. It creates a vacuum.”
When a reporter asked for examples, Clooney chuckled and said, “No. Well, Brad Pitt.” Later, when asked if he's competitive with Pitt, Clooney continued to joke, “You know, I don't like him, I'll tell you right off. He's very short. You see him in person, he's tiny. No, there's no competition with friends, no competition in art. I couldn't do what Brad does. I do feel competition with Matt Damon though; I'd like to kick his ass.”
Someone asked Clooney what his favourite Brad Pitt movie is. “Johnny Suede,” Clooney joshed. “No, Snatch. No, honestly, I'm doing this Coen brothers movie with him [Burn After Reading, due next year], and he's doing stuff in it that makes me want to kill him, because he's stealing the movie.”
Back at his own press conference, Pitt was asked to return the favour. What's his favourite George Clooney film? “Red Surf, go see it,” Pitt replied. Then he grinned, and a hundred cameras flashed and whirred again.