Pitt's biggest hit is certainly his most identifiable "blockbuster." Under the direction of "Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman, Pitt and his would-be wife Angelina Jolie square off in a spy thriller shoot-em-up that's 75 percent gunplay, 20 percent wisecracking, and five percent steamy chemistry. It's escapism through and through -- and not just for the audience. Pitt looks like he's having a blast. Getting the actor to crack a smile may be the secret to making his tentpoles work.
Pitt's only franchise is Steven Soderbergh's star-studded heist series that sees the actor sharing equal screentime with the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts. Of course these were huge -- but how much of the lifting did Pitt do? He smothers "11" with charm, but his presence seems to dissipate with every installment. The first movie is a slick, artful piece of entertainment, though it's hard to consider it a true Pitt blockbuster.
Remember the posters for "Troy?" A giant Brad Pitt, golden and muscular, ready to take the summer of 2004 by storm. Director Wolfgang Petersen made it clear from this footage that he had, what he considered to be, an Olympian actor worthy of the Gods at the lead of his film, so he surrounded Pitt in only the grandest imagery imaginable. "Troy" was huge -- and it capped at a reasonable $133.4 million. Unfortunately, it's considered a failure, flying below its reported $175 million budget and giving Pitt little to do in the way of acting. The star gets his killer moments -- his first duel sequence is stunning -- but it's surrounded with the fluff of the epic tale.
Judging animated films as high points on an actor's resume is always difficult. Dreamworks' "Megamind" did big business and touted Brad Pitt as the main hero -- er, nemesis -- but there wasn't much Pitt to be found in the performance. It's another cartoon movie chock full of stars and Pitt was a good name to top the marquee.
Pitt defies "stardom" conventions because he's been able to avoid blockbusters and turn movies without easy marketing strategies into bona fide hits. "Inglorious Basterds," "Se7en," "Fight Club," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," even "Moneyball" -- all movies that could have peaked early but kept going because of Pitt's knack for digging deep into characters, escaping his real-life personality. "Interview with the Vampire" is a perfect example. Is it a "blockbuster" coupled with a huge star or is it material elevated by Pitt? Based on Anne Rice's best-selling novel, the movie -- co-starring Tom Cruise -- is a grim tale of bloodsucking and family life. There isn't much action, no real romance, and Pitt sucks the life out of rats for half the movie. Yet it did substantial business. History may show that Pitt's never made a great tentpole, but rather that he's capable of turning small-scale material into a borderline blockbuster.
Teaming up Pitt and blond-haired, blue-eyed predecessor Robert Redford in an espionage thriller sounds like gold. Yet it didn't quite click with audiences. (The same can be said for "The Devil's Own," his 1997 action flick with Harrison Ford.) It may have been before Pitt hit a real groove of fame, perhaps that Redford was unrecognizable to younger audiences, or that the material was dense. For whatever reason, "Spy Game"'s middling performance sent Pitt chasing after bigger blockbusters with huge potential, including "Troy" and "Ocean's 11."