Brad Pitt

BACKGRID

Remember the first half of 2017, when figuring out how Brad Pitt was adjusting to life apart from Angelina Jolie and what that meant for their family felt very important?

What a simpler time it was, indeed—a time that, in Hollywood at least, we now look at as pre-.... all the stuff.  

The two of them are probably glad that the microscope has since moved on to zoom in on other petri dishes full of celebrity activity, but at the same time, being the huge stars that they are, they couldn't help but get sucked into the post- ...all the stuff portion of the year, either.

Pitt happens to be celebrating his 54th birthday today, the holiday-season, end-of-year date also making it a natural time for reflecting on one's journey thus far and what a difference a year can really make. 

For instance, Pitt's year began with Jolie claiming in court documents that her ex was "terrified the public will learn the truth" about him. Not exactly the jolliest of new year greetings, but rather a shot fired at the same time she was technically meeting him half way by agreeing that their future custody proceedings should be kept under seal.

"There is little doubt that [Pitt] would prefer to keep the entire case private, particularly given the detailed investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Dept. of Children and Family Services into allegation of abuse," her lawyer stated in the filing. (Upon concluding their investigations, both the FBI and DCFS determined that no action was needed on their parts.)

But though that was Jolie's most blatantly antagonistic public comment to date, it actually ended up being more of a parting shot as the two of them very quietly commenced improving their relationship for the kids' sake. Or at least the door to Pitt's reconciliation with his kids was opened far wider than it had been when Jolie first filed for divorce and requested full custody.

Brad Pitt, Pax, Shiloh, Maddox, Jolie-Pitt

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Pitt had flown back and forth to be with the family in Cambodia in 2016, when Jolie was directing her based-on-a-true-story drama First They Killed My Father, for which son Maddox Jolie-Pittalso notched his first producing credit. She later talked about that time as the period when "things got bad."

To be sure, the family of eight had always been known for their international ways, with Jolie and Pitt alternating projects so that at least one of them was always home (wherever home happened to be at the time) and turning their children into world travelers from the time they were babies.

The end of their 11-year relationship in September 2016 had come as enough of a shock, even before it became public record that authorities were investigating Pitt's actions aboard a plane ride from London to L.A. So in the wake of the so-far contentious proceedings, it was surprising to find out that Pitt also traveled to Cambodia in February when Jolie was there doing press so he could spend some time with the kids as well.

A lot of their communication was still taking place through their attorneys, but still, obviously a huge step for the exes in the wake of their domestic implosion.

We didn't know Pitt had been in Cambodia until about a month later, however. Before that, he was starring as the poster boy for post-split wound-salving, movie star addition.

Looking noticeably thinner than in recent years, he received an infusion of confidence from his peers when he made a surprise appearance at the Golden Globes on Jan. 8 to present clips from best dramatic film nominee (and eventual winner) Moonlight (produced by Pitt's Plan B) and was met with an especially enthusiastic round of applause. Pitt looked pleasantly moved by the reaction himself, which came just a few days after he was alleged to be "terrified" about the truth coming out.

Brad Pitt, Sting, Chris Cornell

Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for EBMRF

A few weeks later he hung out with longtime friend Chris Cornell, as well as Sting and other stars, at a ROCK4EB! benefit. A smattering of sightings led to rumors that he was dating first Kate Hudson and then his Lost City of Z co-star Sienna Miller, all of which was eventually debunked. He opted not to go to the Oscars, where Moonlight again won the night in most memorable fashion.

He went to Cambodia in February, unbeknownst to the masses at the time. Upon his return he continued on with his largely solitary pursuits, such as buzzing around town on his motorcycle and retreating to an artist friend's L.A. studio to work on what he would call his "sculpture folly," the muses aided and abetted by a moody soundtrack of tunes by the likes of Frank Ocean.

Art is "something he's always been into, but he's been more inspired lately and has more energy and is happier now," a source told E! News in April.

Angelina Jolie, Pax Jolie-Pitt, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, Zahara Jolie-Pitt, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt

AP Photo/Heng Sinith

Jolie, meanwhile, had settled on a $25 million Hollywood mansion, located just over a mile from their old family house where Pitt still lived, as a starting-over home. As the public drama with Jolie subsided and he started having more frequent interactions with the kids, Pitt continued to turn over his new leaf.

And at some point in the March-April time-frame, he spilled his guts for the summer issue of GQ Style, revealing—among other things—the many ways in which he felt he had contributed to the end of his marriage.

"...I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family," Pitt said in the interview, which was published May 4. "But even this last year, you know—things I wasn't dealing with. I was boozing too much. It's just become a problem. 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."

He had also developed a newfound appreciation for therapy and was fully engaged in the process of—he joked, as an architecture enthusiast like him would—renovating himself.

"You strip down to the foundation and break out the mortar. I don't know," Pitt said. "For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street. I'm an a--hole when it comes to this need for justice. I don't know where it comes from, this hollow quest for justice for some perceived slight. I can drill on that for days and years. It's done me no good whatsoever. It's such a silly idea, the idea that the world is fair. And this is coming from a guy who hit the lottery, I'm well aware of that. I hit the lottery, and I still would waste my time on those hollow pursuits."

Ultimately he cut himself off emotionally from Jolie, part of his tendency to compartmentalize and run in the opposite direction instead of dealing with real issues. 

"I'm really good at cutting myself off, and it's been a problem. I need to be more accessible, especially to the ones I love," Pitt admitted.

But lately, he also said, "For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy. Yeah, the avoidance of pain is a real mistake. It's the real missing out on life. It's those very things that shape us, those very things that offer growth, that make the world a better place, oddly enough, ironically. That make us better."

About still living in the house that had once been full of kids at all hours, Pitt admitted it was too hard to stay there at first, so he decamped last fall to a friend's place across town, on L.A.'s West side. Then he embarked on the "lonely, lonely occupation" of making art in British sculptor Thomas Houseago's studio.

Pitt also admitted to GQ Style that he thought his scandal days were behind him.

"I remember literally having this thought a year, a year and a half ago, someone was going through some scandal," he recalled. "Something crossed my path that was a big scandal—and I went, 'Thank God I'm never going to have to be a part of one of those again.' I live my life, I have my family, I do my thing, I don't do anything illegal, I don't cross anyone's path. What's the David Foster Wallace quote? Truth will set you free, but not until it's done with you first."

Brad Pitt

WCP/BACKGRID

Pitt's immersive interview (and accompanying high-fashion photo spread) was easily considered to be a truth-setting-him-free moment as he edged into "what a guy!" territory. 

But Pitt's revamped approach to dealing with his emotions would end up being tested almost immediately after the interview came out, when his longtime friend and co-founder of Plan B Entertainment Brad Grey died of cancer on May 14 and then, four days later, Chris Cornell committed suicide.

Understandably, according to a source, Pitt was "devastated and in shock" as he processed the loss of two dear friends in quick succession. He was among the mourners at Cornell's funeral, and in late May he took the late Soundgarden artist's two young children to Universal Studios.

Brad Pitt, Stephen Colbert, The Late Show

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

Because everything always happens at once, that was also right when Pitt's newest movie War Machine premiered on Netflix. He had been busy doing press earlier in the month, slowly easing back into a more prominent spotlight by way of lighthearted fare such as "Big Questions With Even Bigger Stars" segment on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

As June got underway, Pitt was busy with the kids and continuing the course set by therapy and the terms of his temporary custody arrangement. He also resumed his cool-movie-star-dad comeback by appearing as "The Weatherman" on Comedy Central's Jim Jeffries Show, and in July he made a high-profile appearance in the middle of a Frank Ocean set at L.A.'s FYF fest. 

And then it was Jolie's turn to tell her side of the story in Vanity Fair's September issue. The cover story hit in late July (as Pitt did for her with his GQ Style interview, Jolie apprised him of her sit-down plans) and she revealed, among other things, that she had suffered high blood pressure and a bout of Bell's palsy brought on by stress. She also emphasized that pretty much every choice she had made regarding the handling of the breakup was made with the children's best interests in mind.

The kids also made cameos in the article, the interview having been conducted at Jolie's new Hollywood home, where the children would pop in to ask her something or she'd need to take a break to attend to them. "We're all just healing from the events that led to the filing...They're not healing from divorce," Jolie said, referring to their kids. "They're healing from some...from life, from things in life."

Brad Pitt, GQ Style, Angelina Jolie, Vanity Fair

Ryan McGinley for GQ Style/Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Vanity Fair

Though of course Pitt referred to the existence of his kids in his own first in-depth interview post-split, he didn't necessarily love that the Vanity Fair piece included observations about what they were up to (aside from Maddox's involvement in his mom's movie) and how they were processing the divorce.

"Brad has consistently refused to ever discuss anything about them publicly," a source said. "He has not and will not ever discuss them." 

But at the end of the day, another source told E! News, "he feels the same way Angelina does, that they are working toward the same goal. Brad pit totally on board with trying to mend the family and heal."

And then, in August, E! News confirmed that the Jolie-Pitt divorce was "not moving forward" anymore. "They are taking a breather and seeing what happens...They don't take divorce lightly and want to make sure they are doing the right thing," an insider said.

Of course that led to speculation that a reconciliation was in the works, though it was just as likely that they were merely putting the hassles of the legal process aside to focus on the actual, at-home healing process.

Pitt then got to work shooting his next movie, the sci-fi thriller Ad Astra, with Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland. Conveniently for him, the shoot was pretty local, only about three hours outside of L.A., so he hasn't been too far away from the kids. Next up, however, he'll need to go to London for the World War Z sequel, so discussions will need to be had about splitting time with the kids under those circumstances. He and Jolie have owned a home in the U.K. for years, and she started as a guest lecturer at the London School of Economics in March.

Angelina Jolie

BlayzenPhotos / BACKGRID

First They Killed My Father screened again at the Toronto International Film Festival ahead of its September premiere on Netflix and as award season chatter got underway, Jolie was everywhere, giving interviews, participating in director panels and talking about giving talks on the human rights violations that she chronicles in her film and the ones still going on now. While it was recently left off the Academy short list for a foreign-language film Oscar, it won Foreign Language Film of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards, has been honored by numerous critics associations and is nominated for a Golden Globe.

But before award season got underway, there was the earthquake.

Prolific film and TV producer Harvey Weinsteinstands accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape, going back years, the allegations at first reported by the New York Times and The New Yorker and then surfacing from all corners of the media landscape. (Weinstein has denied any and all allegations of nonconsensual sex). Not only was the number of women pouring forth with personal stories staggering, but it was chilling to find out just how many huge stars—men and women alike—had seemingly been waiting for the gust of wind that would finally knock Weinstein off his pedestal.

Five days after the New York Times offered that first damning gust, Jolie told the paper in an email that she, too, had a run-in with Weinstein earlier in her career and refused to ever work with him again.

"I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did," she said in a story published Oct. 10. "This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable."

Pitt appeared in two Weinstein Company-distributed films, Inglourious Basterds and Killing Them Softly, while he was with Jolie. (He wasn't personal friends with the man, though Basterds director Quentin Tarantino was and has since admitted he knew plenty about Weinstein's behavior over the years.) But a lot of people continued to work in Weinstein's orbit, including women he allegedly preyed on, like Pitt's ex-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow.

In the same article that quoted Jolie, Paltrow told the Times that, when she was 22, Weinstein had requested a meeting in his hotel suite, only to ask her to give him a massage and try to get her into the bedroom. She got out of there, but "I thought he was going to fire me," Paltrow, who was working on Emma at the time (a Miramax distribution), said. Paltrow says she told her agent and a few friends and family members, after which Weinstein angrily screamed at her. "I was expected to keep the secret," she added.

Brad Pitt

BACKGRID

Among the handful she told about the experience was Pitt, whom she was in a serious relationship with at the time, after which he duly confronted Weinstein at a premiere and warned him never to touch Paltrow again.

Yet while everyone from George Clooney and Meryl Streep to Judd Apatow and Jennifer Lawrencehas commented and Weinstein's downfall has since led to the most prolific, widespread discussion about sexual harassment this country has had since Anita Hill testified at Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991—only this time resulting in the firing, resignations and downfalls of dozens of men in positions of power—Pitt has exercised his right to remain silent.

There weren't even any Brad Pitt sightings for several weeks, and toward the end of October he hopped on the same private jet as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossiand flew to his Santa Barbara-area ranch (Ellen and Portia have a place in nearby Montecito) for a weekend getaway. On Oct. 26 he was photographed on the Ad Astra set for the first time since all the news broke.

At first his silence seemed a little weird, considering his personal brush with Weinstein's awfulness 20 years ago. Many of the comments made about Weinstein and the oft-toxic, male-dominated and female-denigrating culture in Hollywood came from people who were going to be in the public eye doing press (Clooney, for instance, opened up first to the Daily Beast but he was about to be out promoting Suburbicon), and Pitt didn't have any immediate projects to promote—but it's not as if he needed an invitation. Everyone would've been all ears.

But Pitt will inevitably be asked about all of this—and he knows it. By now he's also seen that some of the men who have offered opinions on the subject, as well as those who while going about the business of promoting their movies have found themselves involved in one conversation after another about it, aren't faring so well the more they try to explain their takes on the issue. Everyone's fairly united in their horror and condemnation, but god speed to those who venture a "but."

So after an extremely eventful and high-profile start to 2017, the last quarter of the year has been a quiet one for Pitt. He's just reporting to work and hanging out with his kids and keeping his head down. 

He's been on a few dates here and there (none of them with Jennifer Lawrence, contrary to the latest rumor). He's also been sober now for over a year. And he's still not divorced. But, a source told E! News last month, he and Jolie are "co-parenting well together and communicate for the sake of the children."

As for everything else, there's always next year.

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