When Brad Pitt stepped onto the screen as a cowboy hitchhiker in Thelma & Louise, he cemented his place in Hollywood, and he’s only continued to build his legacy with films like Fight Club, Ocean’s 11 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Yet for all his rugged good looks and acting chops, his life has been as full of ups and downs as his critically-acclaimed films. Here are 45 little-known facts about Hollywood golden boy Brad Pitt.
1. Willy Pitt Doesn’t Have the Same Ring to It…
Brad isn’t even his first name! Pitt’s birth name was William Bradley Pitt. Born December 18, 1963, he is the son of Jane Etta, a school counselor, and William Alvin Pitt, a truck company manager.
2. Humble Beginnings
Before he became successful at acting, Brad Pitt supported himself by moving refrigerators, dressing as a giant chicken while working for “El Pollo Loco,” and working as a limo driver for exotic dancers.
3. Sorry George!
After many, many small parts in TV shows and on film, Brad Pitt finally gained widespread attention with his supporting role in 1991’s Thelma & Louise, where he played J.D., a sexy criminal who befriends Thelma, Geena Davis’s character. George Clooney had auditioned for the role of J.D. multiple times before it went to the Pitt, who was relatively unknown.
For years, Clooney couldn’t bring himself to watch the film, joking in 2011 that he was still “upset.”
4. Not Into Murders & Executions, Mostly
On the advice of his management, Brad Pitt declined the lead role in American Psycho (2000), which eventually went to Christian Bale. It was thought that the heartthrob’s fan base might not have responded too fondly to him attacking women with a chainsaw.
5. Simply Irresistible
Pitt and Nicole Kidman were initially cast as the happy couple in the stylish spy-versus-spy flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), but the film was almost never made because of Pitt. At first, Pitt nearly pulled out due to the lack of chemistry between himself and Kidman. When he learned Angelina Jolie was to play the female lead, he signed on immediately—whether or not it raised eyebrows at the time, it certainly would once the film came out…
On July 18, 2001, Brad Pitt sued Damiani International, the company that created the wedding ring he gave to Jennifer Aniston. According to Pitt, the ring was his design and was supposed to be exclusive. Afterward, the company sold replicas that indicated they were endorsed by Pitt and Aniston.
7. The Birth of Brangelina
It was on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith that Pitt, who had married Jennifer Aniston in a highly publicized ceremony in 2000, met Angelina Jolie. Pitt and Aniston went on to divorce in 2005. A month after Aniston filed for divorce, Pitt was spotted vacationing with Jolie and her adopted son Maddox—setting off a saga that would keep the tabloids in business for the next decade and beyond…
8. Dress You Up in My Love
In 1999, a woman went to Pitt’s Hollywood-area home shortly after midnight and crawled in through an open window—but it gets even creepier. The woman then dressed in Pitt’s clothes and stayed for 10 hours before the alarm system went off. Athena Rolando, 19, was ordered not to contact the actor and to stay 100 yards away from him for three years.
We wonder if he had a word with the alarm company after their delayed reaction.
9. Movin’ On Up
What better to do with the cash earned from Interview with the Vampire than to purchase a home fit for one? In 1996, Brad Pitt purchased a mansion in Southern California from Cassandra Peterson, the actress who portrays horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The house was filled with Gothic antiques and has a “vampirish” look. He reportedly paid $1.7 million for it.
10. Greetings & Salutations
Pitt made his name as a criminal named J.D. in the cult classic Thelma & Louse—but in a strange coincidence, he almost played a character with the same name and profile three years earlier. He auditioned for the role of J.D. in the cult classic film Heathers (1988) and, though he showed talent, casting directors thought him to be “too sweet” for the role.
It later went to Christian Slater.
11. Same Difference, Right?
After watching the 1998 British crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Brad Pitt asked director Guy Ritchie if he could be in his next film. Pitt could not master the English accent, so Ritchie gave him the role of “One Punch” Mickey Pikey, an Irish fighter, in his 2000 film Snatch.
12. Getting Into Character
In 2003, Brad Pitt tore his Achilles tendon during the production of Troy, in which he plays, ironically, Achilles. His injury caused the production of the hotly-anticipated sequel Ocean’s Twelve to be pushed back to April 2004.
13. Waiting for #3
Pitt was the first man ever to be named “Sexiest Man Alive” twice by People magazine. He was awarded the title in 1994 and 2000.
14. Three for Seven and Twelve
Pitt has appeared in three movies with the number seven in the title: Se7en (1995), Seven Years in Tibet (1997) and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003). Strangely enough, Pitt has also appeared in three movies with the number twelve in the title: 12 Monkeys (1995), Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Someone call a numerologist and tell us what this means.
15. Talk About High-Profile
Brad Pitt’s dating history has made him tabloid fodder for basically his entire career. In 1990, he dated Juliette Lewis when he was 27 years old and she was 17. He was briefly engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow in the mid-90s—they broke up in 1997. He met Jennifer Aniston in 1998 after their agents set them up on a blind date.
Is it really a blind date when you’re two of the most famous faces in Hollywood?
16. They’ll Be There for You
Ocean’s Eleven/Ocean’s Twelve co-stars Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Elliott Gould have all guest-starred on the sitcom Friends, though not in the same episodes. In his episode, which was filmed when he was married to Jennifer Aniston, Pitt played a childhood friend of Ross’s who hated Rachel and started a vicious rumor about her.
I’m pretty sure if you were a megastar in the 90s or early 2000s, you were contractually obligated to make a guest appearance on Friends.
17. A Helping Hand
Pitt is a prolific philanthropist and humanitarian. Among his causes are fighting AIDs and poverty in the developing world, funding for embryonic stem cell research, Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign, and DATA, a third-world lobby group co-founded by U2’s Bono.
18. “Hello? I’d Like to Report a Kidnapping…”
Surprisingly, Pitt is a huge fan of the MTV reality show Jackass. He even asked the cast if he could join them during one of their stunt jokes. At first, host Johnny Knoxville had no idea how to include him, but then he came up with an outrageous—albeit disturbing—idea. Pitt was filmed standing in line at a restaurant in L.A. when, all of a sudden, he was thrown into a van by a group of masked men in front of a crowd of shocked onlookers.
Some in the crowd began to call the police to report the “abduction,” while others tried to stop the van before it sped off.
19. Can’t Win ‘Em All
When Brad Pitt didn’t make it onto his middle school’s basketball team, he got creative. He put together his own unofficial squad whom he jokingly named the Cherokee Rejects, and even enlisted his father, Bill Pitt, as coach.
20. The Long Shot
While attending the University of Missouri, Pitt was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He was studying to become a journalist, but he dropped out of college just two weeks shy of graduation to pursue his dreams of acting. He moved to Los Angeles in 1986 with $325 in his pocket and slept on singer Melissa Etheridge’s couch.
21. Gotta Start Somewhere
It may have taken him a few years to make a name for himself, but he did get some steady work in the form of small roles and extra work. In 1987, he was cast in the film Less Than Zero,where he appeared as a preppy guy who got into a fight at a party. Robert Downey Jr., James Spader, and Andrew McCarthy all starred in the film, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. He was uncredited. His salary? $38. Yikes.
Around the same time, he also had other uncredited roles listed as things like “Waiter,” “Black tie party guest,” and “Guy at beach with drink.” Hey, I’d play that last one for free.
22. I Am Jack’s Two Front Teeth
Everyone makes a big deal of Nicolas Cage having two of his teeth taken out for a role, but he’s not the only one to go to extreme lengths. Pitt went to a dentist to have his front teeth chipped for the role of Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Okay, fine, I guess that’s not quite as extreme as Cage (is anyone as extreme as Cage?) Pitt’s teeth were then fixed after he finished making the movie.
23. Going Method
To help Pitt get into character for his 1995 movie Twelve Monkeys, he spent a day at a Philadelphia psychiatric ward. He went on to win a Golden Globe for the film.
24. Get Out and Stay Out (For Now)
After the release of the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet, Pitt was banned from entering China. The Chinese government apparently had a problem with the way they were portrayed in the film, and the way the movie positively showed the 14th Dalai Lama. While it was initially announced as a lifetime ban, Pitt has since visited China twice. Guess that when the movie was a flop, they forgave him.
25. Think They Went Splitsies on Wedding Decorations?
Pitt once joked during an interview that he would only marry Angelina Jolie when friend and fellow Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney could marry a man, poking fun at the rumors surrounding George’s orientation. Pitt has donated money to support same-sex marriages and opposes California legislation banning such unions.
Funnily enough, they actually both ended up getting married within one month of each other. Pitt and Jolie wed on August 23, 2014, while Clooney and Amal Alamuddin were married on September 27, 2014.
26. Time Is a Flat Circle
It may all seem like a distant memory now, but Brad Pitt was actually married to Jennifer Aniston longer than he was married to Angelina Jolie. While Jolie and Pitt had been a couple since 2005 (perhaps longer if you believe the rumors about them), they only married in August 2014, and their divorce was made final in April 2019, just under five years.
Pitt and Aniston were married in July 2000 and their divorce was finalized in October 2005, just over five years.
27. Need a Housesitter? Or a Taste Tester?
Jolie and Pitt share a sprawling French estate and winery Chateau Miraval, located in a village called Brignol, near Aix-en-Provence, France. The estate is estimated to be worth upwards of $60 million and sits on 1,000 acres. They also own a vineyard in Italy called Villa Costanza, which is worth $41 million, a $16 million home in West London, and a $5.65 million mansion in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
They both still own Miraval, and despite the divorce, they will be releasing a wine together in 2020.
28. Party of Eight
Pitt and Jolie’s six kids include Maddox, 18, Pax, 16, Zahara 15, Shiloh, 13, and Knox and Vivienne, their 11-year-old twins. Maddox, Pax, and Zahara were all adopted by Jolie, with Pitt officially adopting them later. Shiloh and the twins are their biological children. When the pair finally got married, it was their kiddos who helped the process along.
Their children helped them write the vows for their ceremony, Jolie said in Vanity Fair: “They did not expect us never to fight, but they made us promise to always say, ‘Sorry,’ if we do. So they said, ‘Do you?,’ and we said, ‘We do!’”
29. Fingers Crossed for 2020
Like his friend Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt has been nominated in the acting categories at the Academy Awards a number of times, but unlike Leo, he has yet to win. Pitt’s been nominated for Best Actor twice, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Moneyball, and for Best Supporting Actor the same amount of times, for 12 Monkeys and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
However, just because the acting Oscars have eluded him doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have one sitting on his shelf at home. He received a Best Picture statuette for his work as a producer on 12 Years a Slave.
30. Bursting the Bubble
Pitt appeared in The Big Short in 2015, a film that focuses on the housing market bubble that fueled the 2008 financial collapse and a group of men who’d predicted the turmoil to come. Pitt was also a producer on the film, which was based on the nonfiction bestseller by Michael Lewis—and to round it all out, the actor had some strong words for the financial industry.
After the film was released, he said that he was shocked to learn the truth about the predatory behavior of banks, saying that “Things need to be regulated and it can’t go on like this.”
31. What About His Movies?
A Toyota commercial featuring Brad Pitt was once banned in Malaysia. Authorities there concluded that if the commercials with Pitt in them ran for too long, Malaysian men would start feeling inferior. There are no more words to describe this man’s global charm.
32. The Lost Film
Pitt’s got his first starring role in a feature film in 1988, but what was supposed to be his big break turned into an absolute disaster. The Dark Side of the Sun was shot in pre-war Yugoslavia during the summer of 1988. As editing neared completion, civil war broke out in the region, and much of the footage was lost. In 1996, after a five-year search, all of the lost footage was found and returned to producer Andjelo Arandjelovic.
In the film, Pitt played a young American taken by his family to the Adriatic Sea to search for a cure for a rare skin disease. The movie was eventually released direct-to-video in 1997.
33. Is That About $1 for Every Zombie in the Film?
World War Z is now Brad Pitt’s highest-grossing movie. Paramount Pictures said the zombie flick, which was produced by Brad’s company Plan B, has crossed the $540 million mark, surpassing Troy to become his highest-grossing film to date. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was planned, but as of 2017 it was delayed indefinitely.
When Pitt was in kindergarten, he got a disturbing gift: his grandfather’s shotgun. He also fired his first handgun when he was 8. The actor acknowledged that it’s simply a rite of passage to inherit your ancestors’ guns in Missouri, where he grew up.
35. Brad Pitt: Adult Intern
Brad Pitt loves architecture to such a degree that he once did an informal apprenticeship at the office of renowned architect Frank Gehry. In 2001, Gehry also renovated the wine cellar in Pitt’s and Aniston’s Los Angeles $4 million home.
36. Parental Warning
When Fight Club came out, Brad Pitt’s parents wanted to watch the film, but he warned them away. They were adamant about it until he showed them the infamous hand-burning scene, and then they agreed to skip it.
37. Once Upon a Time…
In 2019, Pitt appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, sparking a bromance for the ages. Both actors have shared that they have nicknames for each other. Pitt calls DiCaprio “LDC,” while DiCaprio calls Pitt “lover.” Are they accepting new members into their friendship?
38. Fan Service
At the 2020 Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, Pitt and his ex-wife Aniston were two of the night’s big winners—but it wasn’t their wins that got audiences going that night. The former couple’s interactions set the internet ablaze with rumors. First, there was the moment when Pitt watched Aniston’s acceptance speech from backstage and could be seen saying “Oh, wow.”
Then, there was the camera cutting to Aniston wryly smiling when Pitt made a joke about his performance in Once Upon a Time, saying “Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part—a guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It was a big stretch.” Then there were the photos of them talking backstage, with Aniston comfortably placing a hand on his chest and him holding her wrist as she turned away.
While it’s likely the pair are just pals, this will surely add fuel to the fire of rumors about a reconciliation.
39. Pattern Recognition
When Brad Pitt starred with Marion Cotillard in the war drama Allied in 2016, rumors began to spread that Pitt was having an affair with his co-star. Of course, as many would remember, the same rumor had plagued Pitt when he was married to Jennifer Aniston and working alongside Angelina Jolie on Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The rumors reached a fever pitch when Angelina Jolie filed for divorce on September 16, 2019—but the truth was much darker.
40. Up in the Air
The story—much of which was speculated on—is as follows. It’s alleged that Pitt was drunk on a private flight with his family, and that he was having an argument with Jolie when his adopted son Maddox, 15 years old at the time, stepped in to defend his mother. It’s said that Pitt struck the boy. Five days later, Jolie filed for divorce—but that’s not all.
41. So Much for a Happy Ending
The Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services and the FBI were called in to investigate the matter. Pitt was ultimately cleared, but a long custody battle ensued—with a heartbreaking ending. While Pitt and Jolie agreed to joint custody of their six children, Pitt and Maddox remain estranged.
42. Going Clean
After the divorce, Pitt admitted that alcohol abuse had been a problem throughout his life and his marriage, and that he’d begun to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. In GQ, he shared that there’d rarely been a day since his time in college where he didn’t have a drink or a toke, but that when he had kids, he stuck to alcohol.
As Pitt said, at one point he could’ve easily “drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka,” but he stopped drinking in 2016.
At the beginning of the film Fight Club, the character played by Edward Norton is unable to relate to his own feelings unless he visits support groups or goes to meetings. Ironically, his co-star Pitt admitted in 2019 that he also had trouble getting in touch with his emotions until he visited Alcoholics Anonymous, saying that “You had all these men sitting around being open and honest in a way I have never heard.”
Pitt spent 18 months attending AA meetings and remains sober.
44. Let it Fall
It’s no wonder that he found the empathy and tenderness he experienced at Alcoholics Anonymous freeing—in a 2019 interview, Pitt said that “I hadn’t cried in, like, 20, years, and now I find myself, at this latter stage, much more moved.” He continued, “Moved by my kids, moved by friends, moved by the news. Just moved.”
45. A Little Help From a Friend
In January 2020, after Bradley Cooper presented him with an award at the National Board of Review Annual Awards Gala, Pitt thanked him and revealed that he had Cooper to thank for his sobriety. In his stirring speech, Pitt said, “I got sober because of this guy, and every day’s been happier ever since.”