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November 28, 2012
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Liotta: Pitt kills it in 'Softly'
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


Brad Pitt stars in "Killing Them Softly."

NEW YORK -- Veteran tough-guy actor Ray Liotta has a theory on why movie star Brad Pitt is so intriguing. It is because Pitt doesn't operate like a real movie star, on-screen or off.

"The thing about him -- and I don't mean this as a negative -- he is a big movie star but name a BIG movie he's been in," Liotta offers. "Aside from the movies with the other guys," he adds.

Liotta means "the Ocean's things," three popular crime comedies Pitt filmed with pals, among them George Clooney. Otherwise, Pitt routinely goes off the beaten path, choosing roles in films such as Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and Malick's The Tree of Life.

Pitt now co-stars with Liotta, and a healthy roster of other singular character actors, in Killing Them Softly. Director Andrew Dominik, who cast Pitt as Jesse James in his reflective anti-western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, has Pitt playing a mob hitman.

"The movies that he picks are really good, interesting things," Liotta says of Pitt. "I don't think Moneyball was an intended home run, but it was an interesting character. This is an interesting character. He doesn't hide behind a cape!"

Liotta, like many mature actors, is fed up with superhero movies.

He is also wary of stars acting like stars. Pitt does not, Liotta says in admiration. "I just think he's a casual guy. He's like a regular person. He's not all affected, at least not like I could see. He's just like guys I grew up with. So there was a nonchalance about this part that he had. He didn't strain or force anything."

For his side of things, Pitt cancelled New York print interviews for Killing Them Softly. That is a lousy movie-star move. But, at the Cannes Film Festival when Killing Them Softly made its world premiere to an enthusiastic reception, Pitt did support the film with more gusto.

Pitt said then that he and producing partner Dede Gardner deliberately look for unusual projects, such as his two films with New Zealand-born Dominik. "First and foremost, Dede and I have focussed on films that might have difficulty getting made and help those get made, and (we) get behind filmmakers like Andrew that we believe very strongly in and have great admiration for. But we're also looking for stories that are about our time and who we are."

Killing Them Softly qualifies. Dominik adapted George V. Higgins' 1974 Boston crime novel, Cogan's Trade, transferred it to New Orleans, and turned it into a contemporary crime thriller set against the current U.S. economic crisis. That caught Pitt's attention and also propelled Dominik.

"I've always kind of thought the appeal of crime stories is that they're about capitalism,' Dominik says. "They're always about chasing a dollar. It's the one genre where all the characters can just give a s--- about money and do whatever it (takes) to get money -- and no one holds it against them."

Pitt approved of the theme, Dominik says. "He certainly liked that. But Brad's playing a character in the movie, obviously. He's not necessarily expressing his own concerns."

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

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