There were people other than Brad Pitt at this morning’s press conference for the Cannes premiere of Killing Them Softly, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given how Pitt was the single target of pretty much every question asked. The future Mr. Jolie was a charming panelist, gamely answering whatever questions came his way, even when the Cannes moderator tried to keep him away from all the fun topics. Every time a journalist queried him, Pitt made sure he could stare deep into the questioner’s eyes while answering (those lucky dogs), even once asking someone else to move out of the way so he could continue making eye contact with a reporter. He also got cheeky, sometimes simply answering “No” when the moderator asked if he had anything to say, then grinning as the room was overcome by awkward silence and nervous giggles.
In the talky crime drama, Pitt plays a professional “enforcer” who attempts to manage the aftermath when Ray Liotta’s illegal gambling operation is robbed by up-and-comers Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn. There will be blood, and at the press conference, violence was a major topic.
When a Spanish journalist asked Pitt if, as a dad, he had a problem playing a killer, he replied, “Not in any way, because murder is an accepted possibility when you’re dealing in crime. I would have a much harder time playing a racist or something along those lines. That would be much more unsettling for me than a guy who shoots another guy in the face.” Later, when the topic came up again of whether violent video games had influenced the film’s stylized shots of people getting their faces blown off (courtesy of Pitt’s The Assassination of Jesse James director, New Zealander Andrew Dominik), the actor again refused to apologize. “We live in such a violent world. I certainly grew up hunting, which is a very violent act. Have you ever had a hamburger? Have you seen how they butcher cows? It’s barbaric, it’s horrendous, it’s very violent. This is the world we live in, so I see it as absolutely important to film. Is it how it’s shot? Is it memorialized or aggrandized or romanticized in some way? That’s a fair question, but I don’t see a world without it.”
With its weirdly bureaucratic system of hit men and their greedy bosses and the film’s constant background noise of economic stump speeches from the Obama-McCain election, it’s obvious that Dominik means for Killing to stand as a metaphor for the financial free fall that has hit the United States hard. Naturally, journalists used the high-minded allusions as cover to ask questions about Pitt’s relationship with Angelina Jolie.
“My question is two-part,” said one reporter. “Is it a coincidence that this movie is coming out in an election year, and I understand Angelina Jolie will be with you here tonight. Are you two ever going to work again in a movie?” The moderator tried to step in, but Pitt seemed perfectly happy to answer for his fiancée: “Actually, we’d love to. She’s not here now. She’s prepping for a movie that she starts very soon. Uh, what was the first question? I should say, I don’t think we should have press conferences before 1 p.m. in Cannes. I’m going to start that movement. I’ll sign a petition or something.”
Later, a Hong Kong reporter went one better: “As one of the hottest and hardest-working actors on the market today, I can imagine how busy your schedule is, but now with the rumors about your wedding, will that change your working schedule?” Once again, the moderator tried to lay down the kibosh, and once again Pitt confidently talked over him: “We have no date. We actually really, truly have no date. It’s something that makes sense to us … and we’re still hoping we figure out marriage equality in the States before then, before that date.”
He even gamely answered a question about that recent incident where Will Smith slapped a male reporter who tried to kiss him. “I wouldn’t want to slap anyone,” Pitt said with kindness in his voice, though he wasn’t aware of the incident in question. “That’s mean. I don’t want anyone to get hurt or feel too bad or do any of that.” Really, he’d rather just make people feel safe and then shoot them in the face. What’s wrong with that?