Very few contemporary names conjure, not just the classic template of a movie star, but an overarching effect on a movie-watching generation, quite like the name Brad Pitt.
George Clooney, of course, is another.
It's never been because these two have been in one box office hit after another. The fiftysomethings are almost tied in the lifetime box office arena, each one's movies having grossed more than $2 billion. Pitt's biggest hit ever is World War Z, though his most devoted fans through the years may hold a special place in their hearts for Legends of the Fall. Clooney's No. 1 film is Gravity, and both basked in the ensemble glory of Ocean's Eleven.
They're even friends, though not exactly of the caliber that the level of gallivanting in Lake Como in the mid-'00s during the shooting of Ocean's Twelve would seem to imply. Brad said in October 2014 that he owed George a gift after missing his wedding. And when news broke that Pitt was getting divorced, Clooney first heard about it from a reporter.
But the kinship is there, and they have a number of things in common whether they spend much of their free time doing those things together or not.
There's the obvious: iconically famous, super rich and dashingly handsome. They've expanded their business portfolios. They've also been exercising their altruistic sides, devoting time, money and their good names to a variety of causes. And since last summer, they're both dads. Of twins! (Among Brad's six children are Knox and Vivienne, who somehow are going to be 10 already this year.)
Their personal lives, meanwhile, have been like ships in the night. Pitt spent the better part of the past 28 years as part of a couple, first with Jennifer Aniston, one of the biggest stars in the world, and then Jolie, one of the other biggest stars in the world. Jolie filed for divorce in September 2016 and he hasn't been on a high-profile date since. Clooney, divorced since 1993 after a four-year marriage, continuously had girlfriends, but mainly with women who left the relationship more famous than when they entered into it. Only when he met wife Amal Clooney in 2013 did he consider getting married again.
But while Amal certainly qualifies as someone who's more famous now (she's only on the May 2018 cover of Vogue, no big deal), she already had international renown—and a select celebrity following—as a London barrister and tireless human rights advocate.
Her life has changed since she and Clooney were fixed up by a very discerning mutual friend, but the job remains the same. Once you sift past the headlines about her enviable leopard-print dress or flawless leather trench, you can read all about how she'll be representing two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar who were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act while there reporting on the ongoing humanitarian crisis affecting the country's Rohingya minority.
So, Amal Clooney's wearing a few hats. And George Clooney couldn't admire her more.
"She's the professional, and I'm the amateur," George told Vogue with regard to his estimable spouse. "I get to see someone at the absolute top of their game doing their job better than anybody I've ever seen."
Brad Pitt couldn't be blamed for admiring the route Clooney has taken in romance—both because his fellow actor and filmmaker is settled down and happy, and also because he's found someone who couldn't be less Hollywood (but who then fits in and steals the show when the occasion calls for it).
In fact, has Pitt found a decidedly non-Hollywood woman, whose day job trumps his as far as civic importance goes, to call his own?!
A source tells E! News that Pitt's friendship with MIT professor Neri Oxman is nothing but that—a platonic friendship—but even his casual interest in the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab has of course become a source of intrigue.
Oxman, born in Israel to architect parents, first went to medical school for two years before determining that architecture was for her. She has a PhD in design computation and, according to her MIT faculty bio, coined the research field of "Material Ecology."
As many know, architecture has been one of Pitt's great passions for ages, whether he was renovating his own home or helping to build sustainable housing in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward.
Pitt, who visited one of Oxman's classes last fall, "thinks she is brilliant," the source tells E! News. "He's interested in getting to know her more and learning from her, but they are strictly friends."
Moreover, the insider added, "She's not interested in the whole Hollywood scene at all and she is happy in her current relationship."
A June 2016 story in Surface magazine stated that Oxman was "previously married" to Argentinian composer and professor Osvaldo Golijov. She told the magazine that Golijov had an "incredible influence" on her work but, keeping the focus on her professional endeavors, no other details were forthcoming.
"A great dream of mine would be to run a design studio full of scientists who think about science as creatively as if they were doing art," Oxman told Interview magazine in 2011. Creating her own signature furniture or product line, or embarking on splashy collaborations, were not on her to-do list, she reportedly said.
Oxman's star in the international design world only continued to rise over the past decade—and maybe Pitt's ears were burning.
Talking to W a year ago, Oxman was asked about working in a profession that is still considered a male-dominated field. Her not-so-simple answer: "For the same reason we have the Brad Pitts and the George Clooneys, it's just part of human nature to idolize stereotypes. Such singularities are useful to the common perception of heroism. But it's not only true for architecture; it's true in musical composition, for females working in theater, for film directors. This isn't just a disease of the architecture profession; it's a phenotype of human culture and how we develop stereotypes and perceptions."
But in response to a Page Six story that said Oxman and the Brad Pitt, singular, were "spending time" together, which prompted a flurry of "dating?!" stories, another insider told E! News, "Some people seem to be exaggerating this into something that doesn't exist."
Should they indeed just be a man and a woman (she can't help it that she's brilliant and looks like every bit the film star that Pitt is) who are friends, that doesn't mean Pitt isn't done with the Hollywood dating scene for good. The introspective actor has always had interests—such as architecture, design, sculpting and, apparently, furniture making—apart from the game. Form and function matter to him.
"As an architect and a designer I feel a responsibility to ask how can we use this technology and contribute something of value to the world and not just create a beautiful luxury item," Oxman also told W. "That's my moral compass."
So Dr. Oxman's just a pal, but maybe Pitt is still looking for someone who doesn't have any real use for the Hollywood scene, because there's a big world out there to make better.
That did work out awfully well for George Clooney, after all.