Brad Pitt–clever script evaluator or just too darn picky?
Brad Pitt’s dropped out of State of Play, the big screen version of the British miniseries about journalists, politicians, and murder. According to Variety, Pitt had an issue with the script and couldn’t resolve his differences with the studio.
The split has been acrimonious and could have far-reaching implications, both for Pitt and the film. Originally set to begin filming on November 15, the date was pushed back while Pitt and the producers tried to work things out. Now, though, if Pitt’s part isn’t recast, the whole film might be in jeopardy.
Other cast members include Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, and Robin Wright Penn, many of whom have other commitments that could cause them to drop out if this film falls further off schedule; Mirren has a stop date in her contract that allows her to leave the production without penalty in order to make Love Ranch, directed by her husband Taylor Hackford. Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks are possible replacements for Pitt (wow, that’s three very different visions of a role, huh?) now that their next films (respectively Shantaram and Angels & Demons) have been strike-postponed, but it might be a tough job to get such high-profile actors in place in time to get the production going.
Pitt had originally been a huge proponent of State of Play, but as the original Matthew Michael Carnahan adaptation of the miniseries went through revisions by several high profile writers (Tony Gilroy, Peter Morgan), he became increasingly unhappy. Reportedly he wanted to hold out for another rewrite that would bring it back closer to the Carnahan original, but with the tight schedule involved, that’s impossible unless the writer’s strike is resolved like, today, and the next scribe is a really fast typist. Not to mention that the producers liked the current version better and didn’t want another revision.
The studio, Universal, believes Pitt is violating a pay or play commitment and is considering suing. Pitt’s camp, meanwhile, says he never gave final script approval and never wanted to drop out of the film. This could get ugly.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Pitt dropped out of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain after being involved with the production for a long time, due again to script differences. So the immediate reaction is to say, “Who the heck is Brad Pitt to be the arbiter of quality scripts?” But you know, if you take a look at his credits, he actually hasn’t been involved in a lot of clunkers, at least compared to many other actors of his stature.
The Mexican and Meet Joe Black are probably the outright worst of the bunch; other failures, such as Seven Years in Tibet, Full Frontal, Troy and the recent The Assassination of Jesse James… have been more failures of ambition rather than just outright stupidity or incompetence. So maybe Brad’s got something. Then again, with this movie, if he’d just hung around long enough, Edward Norton would have rewritten the script anyway, and everything would have been fine.