On-Set Romances, Unauthorized Nudes and a Love of Jackass: 55 Fascinating Facts About Brad Pitt

In honor of the A-lister celebrating a big birthday on December 18.

By Billy Nilles Dec 18, 2018 12:00 PMTags
Brad PittOkauchi/REX/Shutterstock

Movie Star. Sex Symbol. Humanitarian. Tabloid Fixture.

Brad Pitt is all of those things and more.

And while it seems like, over the course of his storied career and high-profile romances, we've learned just about all there is to know about the actor, we're here to let you know that you don't even know the half of it. 

Take, for instance, the time he took a break from acting to study architecture under the tutelage of famed architect Frank Gehry. Or the time he walked into the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards in a relationship with Christina Applegate and walked out a scorned man, dumped mid-show. Or the car commercial that got banned in Malaysia because his beauty left government officials worried locals would wind up feeling inferior. Or the woman initially attached to Mr. & Mrs. Smith who made him back out of the project. Or the great lengths he took when committing to his role in Fight Club. (Warning: Intentionally chipped teeth are involved.)

Fascinating Facts About Brad Pitt's Life and Career

In honor of Pitt big birthday—the actor turns 55 on Tuesday, Dec. 18—we present 55 of the most fascinating facts about a life well lived. Enjoy!

1. Brad isn't his real name! He was born William Bradley Pitt in Shawnee, Oklahoma on December 18, 1963.

2. His parents are William Alvin Pitt, the proprietor of a trucking company, and Jane Etta, a school counselor, and he has two younger siblings, Douglas and Julie.

3. Raised in a conservative Southern Baptist home in Springfield, Missouri, Pitt has since claimed that he doesn't have a "great relationship" with religion. "I oscillate between agnosticism and atheism," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012.

4. After failing to make the middle school basketball team, he created the Cherokee Rejects, a team of kids who had similarly failed. His dad was the coach.

5. Despite his later role in Moneyball, Pitt claims that baseball is the only sport he did not play in high school. "Baseball and I didn't get along that well," he told Sports Illustrated in 2011. "I wrestled one year [in high school]. I dove one year. Everything but baseball."

6. A rumor still lingers, claiming that Pitt and David Spade had gone to school together thanks to a bit in the comedian's stand-up that claimed the two had, with Spade's grandma getting hot for Pitt thanks to his yearbook photo. However, as revealed in a 1998 Rolling Stone profile on Spade, the two did not grow up together.

7. After graduating from Kickapoo High School, he enrolled in the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism. With only one paper left to write before graduation, he quit, worked a couple of weeks on the docks of his dad's company to earn gas money, and then followed an itch out west.

8. Upon arriving in Los Angeles with only $325 in his pocked, Pitt slept on Melissa Etheridge's couch.

9. To make ends meet, he worked as a limo driver for strippers and dressed as a chicken to advertise El Pollo Loco. During the former, he made an important show business contact just before quitting. As he told Newsweek, a girl he drove was in an acting class taught by famous acting coach Roy London. "I went and checked it out, and it really set me on the path to where I am now," he said in 2007. "Strippers changed my life."

10. His first leading film role was in a Yugoslavian-U.S. co-production called The Dark Side of the Sun, about a young American taken by his family to the Adriatic to find a remedy for a skin condition. Director Bozidar Nikolic picked Pitt out of 400 candidates and paid the young actor $1523 for seven weeks of filming in 1988. When the Croatian War of Independence broke out in 1991, the film was shelved and not released until 1997, when it went directly to video.

11. His breakout role came in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise, a role that he almost lost to future BFF George Clooney. "The funniest thing is, I didn't watch that movie for a long time," Clooney told THR in 2011. "I was really stuck doing a lot of bad TV at that time. And I had auditioned and auditioned, and it got right down to Brad and I, and he got it. And I just couldn't watch that movie for a couple of years."

12. When he landed a role in Robert Redford's 1992 film A River Runs Through It, it was Etheridge who helped him prep. "I taught Brad Pitt Opens a New Window. how to fly fish….he had this audition, that's back when they auditioned Brad Pitt," she said on her radio show in 2011. "He had an audition for A River Runs Through It. For the audition he came to my house because I had a swimming pool, and I taught him how to fly fish on the swimming pool."

13. Pitt reportedly turned down a lead role in Apollo 13 to appear in David Fincher's 1995 classic Seven. As he told the Chicago Sun-Times that year, his intention was to move on from "this ‘pretty boy thing'…and play someone with flaws."

14. And his injury in the film, a broken arm? Written into the script so as to not delay production.

15. Pitt's first major Hollywood relationship was born on set, as he fell in love with Gwyneth Paltrow, who played his doomed wife in the film. During their relationship, which resulted in a broken engagement in 1997, they had a policy to never be apart for more than two weeks despite their growing careers.

16. For his role in 12 Monkeys, which would earn him his first Oscar nomination, he spent a day in a Philadelphia psychiatric ward.

17. For his role in Fight Club, aside from studying boxing, taekwondo and grappling, he consented to having pieces of his front teeth chipped and removed. "Brad's willing to go to great lengths for a character," his publicist told Entertainment Weekly in 1998. "Most people hate to go to the dentist." After filming wrapped, his teeth were restored to their original state.

18. After starring in Seven Years in Tibet, a film that was condemned by China for its positive portrayal of the Dalai Lama and conversely negative representation of the People's Republic of China, Pitt was banned from ever entering the country. After nearly 20 years, the ban was lifted and he visited the country to promote his 2016 film Allied.

19. In 1997, Playgirl obtained nude photos of Pitt, taken two years earlier by a photographer who trespassed on the grounds of a hotel where he was staying with Paltrow, and released them in their August issue, putting the actor on the cover. The actor quickly sued, earning a restraining order against the publication, forcing a total recall of the issue.

20. Set up by their agents, Pitt met Jennifer Aniston on a dinner date in 1998. He later joked that their 2000 marriage was a "merger."

21. In 1999, a fan broke into Pitt's house shortly after midnight, crawling through an open window, dressed in his clothes and remained for 10 hours before an alarm went off. Athena Rolando, then 19, was ordered not to contact Pitt and to stay 100 yards away from him for three years.

22. When he was named People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2000, he became the first person to win the honor twice. He previously graced the publication's annual cover in 1995.

23. When Pitt designed Aniston's wedding ring with Italian jewelry company Damiani, the couple believed that the designs would never be reproduced. But when the company began doing just that, selling copies and profiting off the couple's ties to them, Pitt and Aniston filed a $50 million lawsuit, which was later resolved amicably. Under the agreement, Pitt was to design an exclusive collection for the company, with Aniston appearing in Damiani advertising.

24. A fan of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Pitt asked Guy Ritchie to be in his next film. However, because he was unable to master an English accent, he landed the role of Mickey, an Irish fighter who spoke with an unintelligible accent that left the rest of the Snatch characters just as confused as the audience watching.

25. A fan of architecture, Pitt did an informal apprenticeship at architect Frank Gehry's L.A. office after he renovated the wine cellar in Pitt and Aniston's home.

26. Pitt's love of architecture and design runs so deep that in 2012, he collaborated with luxury furniture maker Frank Pollaro on a dozen limited-edition pieces that he sketched himself before overseeing production. "This is not a licensing situation," Pollaro made clear with The New York Times that year. "This is not Pollaro pays Pitt for his name. This is Brad Pitt controlling every single line. I gave him assistance with engineering and materials selection, but the reality is, the man is a great designer."

27. He once took Greek lessons to surprise Aniston and her family, who are of Greek ancestry.

28. Other celebrities Pitt dated early in his career include Robin Givens, Juliette Lewis and Christina Applegate. He accompanied Applegate to the 1989 MTV Movie Awards, but ditched him for a non-celeb mid-show, effectively ending that relationship.

29. Ironically, Pitt tore his Achilles tendon while playing Achilles in the 2004 blockbuster Troy.

30. Pitt actually dropped out of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, despite bringing the script to director Doug Liman, because Nicole Kidman was originally attached as his co-star. According to producer Arnon Milchan's 2011 book Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon, the actor felt he had no chemistry with the Big Little Lies star and only returned to the project once Angelina Jolie had signed on.

31. For the birth of their first biological child, Pitt and Jolie traveled all the way to Swakpomund, Namibia for the delivery to ensure it would happen far away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. They sold the first images of Shiloh through Getty Images, netting over millions from the sale. "So we just thought that maybe, since there's such a bounty and that bounty is so obnoxious, we could take that money and funnel it into something good," he told Larry King. "And that's what we did. It's still a bit uncomfortable to do such a thing but I know it's right in the end." Proceeds were donated to charities serving African children.

32. In 2006, Pitt founded the Make it Right Foundation, which organized housing professionals in New Orleans to finance and construct 150 sustainable, affordable homes in the city's Ninth Ward following the devastating Hurricane Katrina.

33. That same year, he and Jolie established the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which aimed to aid humanitarian caused around the world, with initial donations of $1 million each to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders.

34. When Pitt met Jolie, she had already become a licensed pilot, which encouraged him to get a license of his own.

35. After the 2008 birth of twins Knox and Vivienne, the couple sold the rights for the first images jointly to People and Hello! for $14 million, making them the most expensive celebrity pictures ever taken. The proceeds were donated to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

36. Researchers from the New England Historic Genealogical Society discovered in 2008 that Pitt shared a distant relative with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. They are ninth cousins, connected by Edwin Hickman, who died in Virginia in 1769.

37. Prior to their divorce, Pitt and Jolie slept in a "family bed" with their six children, constructed with special sheets and a two-couch extension to make room for everyone.

38. A massive fan of the Jackass, Pitt appeared on the MTV stunt show twice. Once in a gorilla costume and then, on the final episode, he participated in his own staged kidnapping.

39. Pitt has starred in three films with the number seven in the title (Seven, Seven Years in Tibet, and the animated film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas) and three with the number 12 (12 Monkeys, 12 Years a Slave, and Ocean's Twelve).

40. He believes he suffers from prosopagnosia, which is the inability to remember faces. "You get this thing, like, 'You're being egotistical. You're being conceited.' But it's a mystery to me, man," he told Esquire. "I can't grasp a face and yet I come from such a design/aesthetic point of view. I am going to get it tested."

41. Despite Cameron Crowe writing the lead role of Russell Hammond in Almost Famous for Pitt, he dropped out of the film after working with the director for months before finally admitting, so Crowe claimed, "I just don't get it enough to do it." The role went to Billy Crudup.

42. Other roles Pitt came this close to landing in his career include: J.D. in Heathers, Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Will Freeman in About a Boy.

43. Pitt was among the list of celebrities to book a $250,000 ticked to travel into space on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, whenever the SpaceShipTwo might be ready.

44. In 2002, a Toyota commercial starring Pitt was banned in Malaysia with officials saying it was "an insult to Asians" and could give Malaysians an inferiority complex. "Aren't our own people handsome enough" depuyt information minister Zainuddin Maidin was quoted as saying.

45. As an actor, Pitt has been nominated for only three Academy Awards, none of which he's won. His sole Oscar comes from a Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave, which he also produced.

46. He and Jolie blocked their names on their kids' computers, as he told Germany's Bild in 2012. "They can't Google their mom and dad," he said. "I don't want to make myself dependent on what other people think."

47. In 2008, he and Jolie leased Chateau Miraval in the south of France with an option to buy. By 2012, they had released their first wine, a rosé. The estate currently produces three wines, one rosé and two whites, as well as an organic extra virgin olive oil.

48. As fans of long-running British soap EastEnders, Pitt and Aniston were among those in the U.S. who petitioned BBC America to bring the series back stateside after it was canceled in 2003.

49. His nickname in high school was "Pitt-bull."

50. He earned $4.5 million for a Heineken commercial directed by frequent collaborator Fincher that aired during the 2005 Super Bowl.

51. He and Jolie once proclaimed that they would only get married when gay marriage was legal in all 50 states. However, due to pressure from their children, they got married 10 months prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down all state bans on June 26, 2015.

52. He didn't step on a plane until he was 25 years old.

53. He enjoys going to museums after hours, telling Esquire, It's a lovely experience walking around a museum by yourself."

54. The film that had a major influence on him? Saturday Night Fever. "I snuck in to see it when I was underage." he told Parade in 2007. "It wasn't the dancing and the music I'm referring to, it was this culture of families who argued at the dinner table and popped each other in the face! It was this whole other way of people relating to each other that I found really interesting."

55. And he doesn't consider himself an actor. If asked to list his occupation on a form, he'll write "self-employed." "I learned that from Bruce Paltrow," he told Esquire, referring to his famous ex's father. "I always liked it. It's a humble way to describe what we do."