‘Killing Them Softly’ was one of the most talked about films at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film, which reunites director Andrew Dominik with his Jesse James star, Brad Pitt, follows the story of Jackie (Pitt) a professional enforcer who is called in to clean up after a mob protected poker game is robbed… Movies Plus (M+) Magazine was on the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival, and caught up with Brad Pitt at the film’s press conference.
Q: Brad, as well as lead actor you’re also producer on this film, what is the importance of the film to you? A: First and foremost, Dede Gardner (Brad’s producing partner) and I focus on films that might have a hard time getting made and get them made, and to get behind film makers like Andrew Dominik, who we believe in very strongly and have great admiration for. That would be the first impetus, but we are also looking for stories that say something about our time and who we are, and I certainly felt, on reading this, that this was making a commentary. Again, we were certainly at the apex of the mortgage debacle and people were losing homes right and left and it was forefront in the newspapers – as our economy still is. This commentary and the way it is done in this film, where you believe that you are watching a gangster film, I felt I was reading a gangster film and it wasn’t until the end that things coalesced for me and the direction the film was heading in. This microcosm was saying something about the macro world.
Q: Was it difficult for you to play the role of a killer on screen? A: Not in any way because violence is an accepted part of the gangster world. Murder is an accepted possibility when you are dealing in crime. I would have a much harder time playing something like 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 [laughs]… I admire his survival instincts and that he can stay dispassionate.
Q: A lot has changed in your career since you last worked with Andrew on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, did that effect your working relationship? A: Absolutely no difference…Working with Andrew was just a continuation of the conversation where we left off and I really enjoyed it. I have great respect for him… He has got such a finely tuned radar for human behaviour and I love disagreeing with him too. What I am saying is that I enjoyed that exchange with Andrew specifically. It can go either way; we both come around to each other’s points of views.
Q: Does a genre film like this, with more layers than a typical action and comedy film help to get a political statement across to the audience? I think if we look back over our favourite films, that is always happening; there is always something going on underneath them that is not necessarily in your face. This was an interesting way to look at the financial crisis rather than going straight through the crisis. After that we jumped into a zombie film (World War Z) and we are trying to do the same there. Historically these films do the exact same thing but other than that I put trust in Andrew.
Q: How does the whole culture of the economic crisis affect the business that you are in? A: It’s the age-old battle of art versus commerce. I don’t really wrestle with the relationship of the two; they are not meant to get along, yet they are symbiotic. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and it’s cantankerous and it will always be that. There is something noble about making something that says something, uncovers something and being able to do it within that system where it has to be profitable or the thing doesn’t get made. I just find that an interesting relationship. I don’t argue with it through.
Q: Has video game violence influenced the style of the film? A: The violence… We live in such a violent world. I grew up hunting, and this is such a violent act. Have you ever had a hamburger? Have you ever seen how they butcher a cow? It is very violent, it’s barbaric. This is the world we live in so I see it absolutely important to the film. Is how it’s shot moralised or romanticised in any way? I think that’s a fair question, but I don’t see a world without it. Words : Brogen Hayes
KILLING THEM SOFTLY is now showing at Irish cinemas