Brad Pitt Addresses ‘Toxic Masculinity’

While promoting his highly anticipated new "cerebral" sci-fi film "Ad Astra" at the 2019 Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, superstar actor Brad Pitt commented on one of the hot button issues of the day, so-called "toxic masculinity," though the star avoided specifically using the loaded phrase.

The actor's comments were prompted by one of the key themes of his new film, which has been three years in the making and which will make its world premiere at the festival Thursday. The film focuses on the journey of Pitt's character, Roy McBride, to a colony in Neptune to try to save the solar system from a potentially cataclysmic event. The man behind the threat, as the trailer reveals, appears to be his highly celebrated astronaut father, played by Tommy Lee Jones.
The film, directed by Pitt's long-time friend James Gray, who directed "The Lost City of Z," is heavily psychological, the Freudian father-son theme playing a dominant role. In comments during a press conference alongside co-star Liv Tyler at the film festival Wednesday, Pitt addressed the theme, framing it in terms of the "definition of masculinity."
"In retrospect, what James and I were digging at was that definition of masculinity," said Pitt, in comments reported by multiple outlets, including Variety and Deadline. "Having grown up in an era where we're taught to be strong, not show weakness, don't be disrespected. There’s a certain value in that, but there's also a barrier that's created with this kind of embracing of the self, because you're denying, in a sense, those pains or the things you feel shame, whether real or imagined."
"We were asking the question, is there a better definition for us?" he continued. "Does being more open provide you with a better relation with your loved ones and with yourself? At the end of the day, that’s certainly what we were after."
Pitt also offered some comments about his relationship with Gray, which he describes as not a "normal male relationship."
"James and I don't have the normal male relationship," Pitt added. "He would send really personal emails, exposing ideas from his own life. That really would define the day's work and the scenes were honed by it, and it's something I still value. It was a unique experience."
As noted by Deadline, Tyler was also asked about how little time she actually appeared on screen in the film, and pushed back, explaining her character is supposed to walk the line between real and imagined. "He’s alone so much and you see so much playing in his mind," she said. "You don’t always know if it's real or not real." The "connections" between the characters, she stressed, are certainly "real."
She then tied that desire for connection to the "vulnerability" theme raised by Pitt. "Up there you’re still thirsty for human connection," she said. "For both of them, they provide a need which has been absent, maybe. I loved the way she reached out to connect with him. I feel like she galvanizes him on his mission. When I saw it I felt a huge warmth there. Although he doesn’t know it, their fates are intertwined."
Pitt also addressed how "challenging" the film was to complete, describing it as a film hinging on a "subtle, delicate" approach.

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