HOLLYWOOD — The biggest movie star in the world,
"Yes I am," he laughed on the red carpet at Monday's "Inglourious Basterds" premiere, flashing one of the most photographed smiles in the world. "And yes it is."
In the early '90s, names like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh reinvented the notion of the "independent film," combining attitude, originality and commercial appeal as few had before. In the years that followed, huge names like Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Bill Murray took a break from big blockbusters to embrace the indie spirit. The careers of Tarantino and Pitt could be looked at as bookmarking the phenomenon.
"Yeah, we started about the same time," remembered the actor, thinking back to 1993's "True Romance," a now-classic that received a small release as a Christian Slater vehicle since few knew the names of the film's writer (Tarantino) and supporting actor (Pitt) at the time. "[In the time since], we've had numerous peripheral run-ins and mutual admiration bumps. And it was nice that something came together."
As the years went by, Tarantino masterminded such masterpieces as "Pulp Fiction" and the "Kill Bill" movies, working with bigger stars but always maintaining the relatively low budgets and quick turnaround times of his independent film roots. Meanwhile, Pitt ascended to the top of Hollywood with films like "Interview with the Vampire," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and the "Ocean's" trilogy — but sought out and supported such visionary auteurs as Steven Soderbergh, Alejandro González Iñárritu and the Coen brothers.
Now, nearly two decades later, Tarantino and Pitt have closed the circle with "Basterds" — a high-concept, indie-minded film about a group of soldiers on a mission to take down Nazi soldiers through a campaign of slaughter, psychological warfare, and scalpings.
"He's one of the greatest directors in the world," Pitt told us of the reason why he's always kept a close eye on Tarantino's progress — and why he threw his considerable Hollywood weight behind the filmmaker's latest effort. "He's one of our auteurs; he's got a very specific voice."
In the film, which hits theaters August 21, Pitt is a long way from the warm, supportive arms of the Hollywood mainstream. Rather than remaking a TV show or taking an easy paycheck for a mindless sequel, Pitt chose to ugly himself up for the role of Lt. Aldo Raine — the ruthless, scarred leader of the Basterds. And although some may have thought it odd that Brangelina — the most powerful couple in Hollywood — brought all the cameras, tabloids and attention that follows them everywhere to the premiere of a Quentin Tarantino movie, Pitt sees it as simply using his star-power to support an important American filmmaker.
"There's no one like him," Pitt explained. "He's changed the game a few degrees, and continues to do so."
Check out everything we've got on "Inglourious Basterds."
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