Brad Pitt was known for ‘chair-throwing’ volatility on 1990s film set, the director has opened up in a new memoir about the emotion roiling deep

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 17: Brad Pitt, star of the upcoming Formula One based movie, Apex, walks in the Pitlane prior to qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Twenty-two years before Brad Pitt’s seemingly happy family life with Angelina Jolie fell apart when he allegedly became violent with her and his children on a private plane ride from Europe, the actor was known to turn “volatile when riled” while working on the 1994 film “Legends of the Fall.”

The film’s director, Ed Zwick, reveals Pitt’s inner turbulence, masked by an outwardly “easygoing” demeanor, in his explosive new memoir, “Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood,” which is excerpted in Vanity Fair.

Zwick wrote about discovering the “deep springs of emotion roiling inside Brad,” while they worked together on the Western, in which Pitt played the ethically-compromised middle son of a Montana rancher, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Pitt, at the time, was in his early 30s and gaining notice for being incredibly handsome and in possession of the indefinable charisma that makes a movie star.

204937 03: Brad Pitt in the film "Legends of the Fall." (Photo by Liaison)

Brad Pitt in the film “Legends of the Fall.” (Photo by Liaison)
Zwick said that Pitt “seems easygoing at first, but he can be volatile when riled, as I was to be reminded more than once as shooting began and we took each other’s measure.”

In the excerpt, Zwick, who also directed “Blood Diamond” and “The Last Samurai,” admitted that his relationship with Pitt could become tense because the “Fight Club” actor “would get edgy whenever he was about to shoot a scene that required him to display deep emotion.”

Zwick also suggested that Pitt threw a chair at him after he became angry during a particularly difficult scene they were shooting. The director, who said he also could be “bloody-minded” and eager to assert control on his film set, said he was pushing Pitt to reveal more emotion, as he was playing an outwardly tough-guy character.

Zwick said, “I gave him direction out loud in front of the crew — a stupid shaming provocation.” Pitt, indeed, was provoked, and he wasn’t “about to give in without a fight,” Zwick wrote.

“In his defense, I was pushing him to do something he felt was either wrong for the character, or more ’emo’ than he wanted to appear on-screen,” Zwick wrote. “I don’t know who yelled first, who swore, or who threw the first chair. Me, maybe? But when we looked up, the crew had disappeared.”

Zwick also said that this wasn’t the first time that he and his male star exploded in anger at each other, forcing the crew to quietly retreat from the set, as if they didn’t want to be around their “parents” fighting.

But Zwick also is at pains in his book to say that the anger Pitt directed at him wasn’t personal, and that they both came to recognize that their conflicts were part of the creative process.

“Yet, after each blowup, we’d make up, and mean it,” Zwick said. “Brad is a forthright, straightforward person, fun to be with and capable of great joy. He was never anything less than fully committed to doing his best.”

But Pitt’s vocality could be seen in less generous terms, when considered in the context of news about his turbulent personal life. In recent years, the Academy Award winner has opened up in interviews about his struggles with so-called toxic masculinity, as well as his efforts to stop drinking. Pitt’s revelations came in the wake of his 2016 divorce from Jolie, which has devolved into bitter and protracted legal battles over the custody of their six children and the division of assets.

Brad Pitt was known for 'chair-throwing' volatility on 1990s film set

The battle is ongoing. In 2022, Jolie made explosive claims in court papers, alleging that a drunken Pitt mistreated her and their six children on the 2016 plane ride from France to Los Angeles, which prompted her to file for divorce.

The “Maleficent” actor alleged that Pitt choked one of their children and struck another across the face, as he terrorized his entire family for hours on the flight. Pitt has long denied being abusive, though he has given multiple interviews in which acknowledged his struggles with alcohol and anger management.
The FBI investigated Pitt in 2016 for alleged child abuse but decided against pursuing criminal charges, Page Six reported. Sources close to Pitt have long suggested that the domestic abuse allegations were part of a “smear campaign” by Jolie to gain an advantage in the custody battle and to alienate him from his children.

More recently, though, Pitt has faced reports that he is estranged from his three oldest children, Maddox, Pax and Zahara, who all are now adults. Maddox, 22, reportedly was the focus of Pitt’s alleged ire during the highly publicized plane ordeal.

A recent Vogue profile of Jolie also suggested that Pitt doesn’t have much of a role in his children’s lives, as it refers to Jolie as a “single mother of six.” Jolie also is often seen in public with the children, photographed by paparazzi while shopping or appearing together at red-carpet Hollywood events. Pitt, on the other hand, hasn’t been photographed with them since 2016, Page Six reported.

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