Brad Pitt

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Why would Brad Pitt say he's retiring from acting? He's not that old.
—Chad P., via the inbox

Famous people love to hint that they might stop working; it makes the whole world freak out. And nothing pleases a self-involved celebrity more than freaking out an entire planet. But is that why Pitt said he'd retire in three years...only to backtrack almost immediately?

Well, stars do pull this stunt all the time. In the sports world, basketball legend Michael Jordan retired in 1993 only to...not. He retired again, for real this time, a decade later. In music, Jay-Z did it, saying circa 2003 that he would never make a studio album again. That plan fell through three years later.

Among actors, Anthony Hopkins has toyed with audiences several times in this vein. In 1998, Hopkins announced after 35 years in the business he found it "tiresome, disturbing and deeply distasteful." Fans will be pleased to know that Hopkins plays Ernest Hemingway in a movie set for a 2012 release.

All that said, hinting at a retirement usually isn't a game played by well regarded A-listers such as Pitt.

"If it was to get out of or renegotiate a long term contract, like a TV series or franchise film," threatening to retire is a common ploy, manager Marrissa O'Leary tells me. Or, she says, "It could be a cover story for someone off to deal with rehab or a major illness they want to keep off the radar.

"Or, in some cases, it might be the only way to get any attention in the first place."

None of that seems to apply to Pitt, however. So what might be going on?

Industry vets tell me they're stumped. But there is one possibility: money.

Pitt's last film, Moneyball, cost an estimated $50 million. That's not much in Hollywood terms. However, its opening weekend brought in less than $20 million. Worldwide, the film has made its money back, with a total of about $80 million. But that's far from a mega-huge hit. If Moneyball is seen by future producers as a disappointment, Pitt may think he needs to hint at a retirement to keep his asking price high.

Or there's this: Maybe he just really does want to retire.

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