The ultimate 21st Century film star

In the August issue of GQ magazine, in an extremely softball interview, Pitt talked about being sober and quitting smoking. He quoted the poet Rumi. But the photos made more of a stir, sending the internet wild, simply because they defy conventional leading-man glamour. In one he is wan, eyes rimmed with liner, lying in a watery bed of flowers like a dead Ophelia. In another, his eyes are adorned with rays of metallic silver makeup. With surreal, psychedelic backdrops, the photos were eccentric and completely unexpected. Agreeing to that was a savvy move too, the kind that keeps viewers curious and helps keep great actors’ careers alive.

Pitt’s follow-up to Bullet Train couldn’t be more different from a popcorn action movie. In Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, set in Hollywood in the 1920s and due to be released in December, he plays a character reportedly based on silent-film idol John Gilbert. The role embraces conventional Hollywood glamour. But Pitt’s droll sense of his image and career shows us how to be a movie star – not an Instagram celebrity or an influencer, but an enduring, old-fashioned movie star – one for the 21st Century.

Bullet Train is released in the US on 5 August.

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