Why Brad Pitt Won the Jolie-Pitt War by Throwing Himself on His Sword

Actor's introspective, fairly self-flagellating interview with GQ Style was a dose of raw reality that should only endear him further to his already adoring public

By Natalie Finn May 03, 2017 7:32 PMTags

Raw is a good look for Brad Pitt.

While we're fairly used to female stars turning the hindsight light inward in order to publicly purge the demons of a failed relationship, fewer and far between are the moments when a man willingly steps up and flays himself for all to savor.

And Pitt didn't have to do that. All signs pointed to him having built up enough of a pre-split reputation, both among his Hollywood peers and his fans, that even the zero-to-100 breakdown of his marriage to Angelina Jolie and the custody issues that ensued would only be a temporary blip in the court of public opinion.

His warm reception at the Golden Globes, the ovation that even the star himself looked surprised by, was an indicator back in January that no one was buying the idea of Brad-as-villain, as someone who was "terrified" for the truth to come out, as Jolie's court documents claimed.

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Jolie was the first to publicly address their divorce back in February, when she and Pitt were actually far further along on the road to rapprochement than it seemed, but Jolie's comments had all the hallmarks of a most reluctant return to the spotlight.

Which is entirely understandable, of course. She wanted to talk about her latest directorial effort, the Cambodian-set First They Killed My Father, which son Maddox also worked on with her, and it would have been a glaring omission had she forbid the BBC or ABC News' George Stephanopoulos from asking about her divorce.

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So, she gamely yet reservedly answered a few questions about the state of her family and, more memorably, whether she still thought Pitt was a wonderful father.

"Of course, of course," she replied, shaking her head slightly. "We will always be a family, always."

While no one doubted that the devoted parents of six would ultimately pull it together for the sake of their kids, eventually, Jolie's initial comments on the matter still struck a somewhat mournful tone, as if she was finally providing the proof that the Brangelina era was dead and buried.

Going from the couple who fell in love practically at first sight and remained the couple for 11 years (aka a celebrity eternity) to two removed acquaintances, communicating mainly through lawyers and headlines... it was just a sad moment.

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It was also a fairly calculated moment, as Jolie also knew that speaking out first would give her—upper hand is such a cold term—the momentum in readjusting the divorce narrative so it wasn't all about her seemingly trying to stand between Pitt and his kids.

Jolie had her reasons for initially pursuing full custody of Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Pax, Knox and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, but it couldn't have been more of a bombshell move to those on the outside. Yet the notion that Pitt must have done something really bad to deserve it—even when he was being investigated (and ultimately never charged) over the argument that occurred aboard their private plane days before Jolie filed—never took off in the public's hearts and minds.


It wasn't that people thought Jolie was making anything up, but for whatever reason, her actions were largely perceived as punitive rather than absolutely necessary. Perhaps it was the enduring portrait of Angelina-as-villainous-vixen still lingering from a decade ago, or just the remaining problematic issue with he-said, she-said, in that it's still easier for a lot of people to give the "he" the benefit of the doubt. That happens all too often with celebrities.

But there was also the unspoken inclination not to pile on a guy with a substance issue—as Brad has now since admitted to in his unprecedentedly revealing, literally sober look at what went so horribly wrong between him and Jolie.

Ryan McGinley exclusively for GQ Style

Which brings us to today and his bombshell interview with GQ Style for its Summer 2017 issue that went public Wednesday.

Pitt's in therapy now ("I love it," he said twice) and has quit drinking after realizing he was self-medicating with alcohol to numb himself.

"I was boozing too much. It's just become a problem," he acknowledged. "And I'm really happy it's been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I've got my feelings in my fingertips again. I think that's part of the human challenge: You either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve."

"Them" being his feelings, which, despite the iconic vessel they're kept in, are just as human as anybody's.

Tony Barson/Getty Images

But despite his recent anger at Jolie for the initially public airing of their dirty laundry, even if it was confined to the hopelessly vague terms of legalese ("He was furious with her in a way he has never been furious before," a source told E! News), Pitt noticeably did not take the opportunity with GQ to tell an "it takes two to tango" story.

Or not on the record, anyway.

Yet this could have been that time, Pitt's version of ex Jennifer Aniston's infamous "sensitivity chip missing" post-split analysis of him.

Instead, Brad willingly took the blame for the implosion of Brangelina, calling the tortuous road he's traveled since September "self-inflicted."

Not that anyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as Angelina's parenting went, the 41-year-old Oscar winner's devotion to her family never being in doubt for one second since she adopted Maddox in 2002 and rerouted her famously alluring intensity toward motherhood. But this interview could have been a more obstinate denial of wrongdoing on Pitt's part.


Yet it was quite the opposite. Throwing caution to the wind—and simultaneously capitalizing on 30 years of good will built up in Hollywood—Brad went for it, translating what he's gleaned from his newfound love of therapy into a painfully self-aware, self-deprecating, oft-poetic (building a fire "makes me feel life") and at times rambling discourse on a charmed life that veered off course and what he's doing to right the ship.

The spilling of his guts also makes for a fairly humorous juxtaposition with the accompanying photo shoot (it's a style magazine, after all), including a pic of Pitt partially buried in the sand wearing a $240 Rick Owens tank top and $790 Bottega Veneta pants.

And we have no doubt that the humor is not lost on Brad Pitt, the guy who grew up surrounded by cornfields in Missouri who became one of the most famous humans on the planet and is now starting over in a way at 53.

Ryan McGinley exclusively for GQ Style

His public has never wavered, though. He's part of the Hollywood firmament. So long as Pitt continued to produce (his Plan B Entertainment was behind both 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight), act (a "very small slice" of his life pie these days, he said) or do just about anything publicly, barring some truly disastrous revelation, his future success was never that much in question.

And neither was Jolie's, for that matter, her public image having been incrementally set in stone over the years on its own, as she went from self-destructive wild child to full-fledged movie star, earth mother and humanitarian and came out stronger and more fascinating at every turn.

But Pitt's come-to-Jesus interview is what people are going to remember now—for its sheer length (there's plenty more to read aside from the divorce portion), for its introspection and philosophizing, for the mild tinge of celebrity self-indulgence, for lack of f--ks given, for the moment when he admitted that being Brad Pitt's partner in life wasn't always the stuff dreams are made of.

At least, this is what people will remember until Jolie digs deep. She could be talking, or sitting in hair and makeup for the accompanying glamour shoot, right this minute. Just as it's been every time she's gone away for a bit and then reemerged with fresh insight into a harrowing chapter in her life, the result should be nothing short of spectacular.