Last month we discovered Anne Hathaway is the queen of book-to-film adaptations, and now we've found our king. Brad Pitt has been in fourteen movies that started life as books, over half of which are based on true stories! Since today (December 18) is Pitt’s birthday, we're celebrating with a chronological rundown of his book-based movies.
“Less Than Zero”
This film is very loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel about wealthy and spoiled teens living in LA in the early 80s. It barely makes the list, since Pitt was only an uncredited extra ‘partygoer’ (earning a whopping $38), but it made the cut because it’s one of his first ‘roles.’
“A River Runs Through It”
Norman Maclean didn’t start writing until he was 70, which is pretty freakin’ amazing. The story is a semi-autobiographical novella about Norman growing up with his Presbyterian minister father and brother Paul in Montana in the early 20th century. Pitt plays the troubled-but-talented Paul, who rebels against their stern upbringing with gambling and liquor.
“Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles”
Pitt is the title’s interviewee vampire in this adaptation of Anne Rice’s sensuous novel. Louis spends the interview trying to convince us that being a vampire sucks, but with such beautiful people having sexy fun times, it’s hard to take him seriously.
“Legends of the Fall”
Hmmm … this seems a bit familiar. This movie is also based on a novella set in Montana during the early 20th century about brothers and their father. Pitt again plays the wild brother, but this time he’s his dad’s favorite. Jim Harrison’s story tells how the lives of this family are affected by nature, war, and love.
Pitt portrays the adult Michael Sullivan in this disturbing and heartbreaking memoir by Lorenzo Carcaterra. When a prank goes wrong, four boys are sent to a juvenile home where they are brutalized by the guards. As adults, they set out to get revenge and expose the horror they suffered, and since Michael has grown up to be an assistant AD, he is able to use his position to help them.
“Seven Years in Tibet”
Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer wrote this autobiography about his travels in Tibet between 1944 and 1951, which included escaping a British internment camp in India and becoming a tutor and friend of the 14th Dalai Lama. Pitt stars as Heinrich Harrer and makes climbing the Himalayan Mountains look sexy.
We all know the first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club, so we’ll just say that Pitt plays the mysterious Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel.
“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”
This film is the adaptation of Chuck Barris’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography,” in which the wacky host of “The Gong Show” claims he was also a covert assassin for the CIA for two decades. Yep, the same man who also created “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” was apparently out there killing enemies of America. Pitt has a cameo as a bachelor on “The Dating Game.”
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Ron Hansen retells the classic Wild West story in his historical novel with a ridiculously long title. Pitt stars as the notorious outlaw Jesse James, and his laidback swagger is a perfect fit for the charming yet notorious bandit.
The book by Michael Lewis has a title that’s a bit more of a mouthful: “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” It’s the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and his use of statistical analysis to assemble a strong team. Pitt earned his third Oscar nomination with his performance as Billy Beane.
“Killing Them Softly”
This movie is an adaptation of “Cogan's Trade” by George V. Higgins. Pitt is Jackie Cogan, the hitman who prefers shooting his victims from a distance, without warning, so they don’t feel fear or despair. He uses his talents to clean up after the robbery of an illegitimate poker game.
“World War Z”
Zombies! Lots and lots of zombies! Pitt faces undead hordes as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator searching for a way to stop the zombie apocalypse, in this very loose adaptation of “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks.
“12 Years a Slave”
This memoir by Solomon Northup is his harrowing account of being kidnapped and sold into slavery despite being a freeman. He worked on plantations for 12 years before getting a letter to friends and family so he could be freed. Pitt portrays Samuel Bass, the Canadian laborer who mails the letter for Solomon.
“The Big Short”
This movie will not be released until December 23, but it’s close enough to count for our list. Just like “Moneyball,” it’s an adaptation of a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis with a much longer title: “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.” Pitt’s character is based on Ben Hockett, who made millions with his partners when the US housing market collapsed.
In addition to acting in many movies based on books, Pitt also starred in a couple of other literary adaptations. He was the bizarre Benjamin Button in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which was loosely based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And he played Achilles in “Troy” which pulls story elements from two epic poems: the “Iliad” by Homer and the “Aeneid” by Virgil.
Happy birthday, Brad!