https://www.foxnews.com-By Caroline Thayer
Brad Pitt starred as Tristan Ludlow in the 1994 Western drama “Legends of the Fall.” (TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Thirty years ago, Brad Pitt starred in the dramatic Western “Legends of the Fall,” playing the tortured and bereaved Tristan Ludlow, the middle brother in a military family living in rural Montana.
His performance was powerful on screen, but according to the movie’s director, his behavior behind the camera was riddled with angst and combativeness.
Edward Zwick is recounting it all in his upcoming book, “Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood.” In excerpts obtained by Vanity Fair, Zwick shares his intense experience with Pitt on the set of the film.
Describing an awkward table read before production began, Zwick said Pitt wanted out of the project. It was his producing partner, Marshall Herskovitz, who was able to assuage Pitt of his stress, but it seemed to be a sign of things to come.
“It was the first augury of the deeper springs of emotion roiling inside Brad,” Zwick wrote of the situation. “He 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.”
Zwick went on to describe the combative dynamic between himself and his leading man, adding that Pitt’s anxiety “never quite went away.”
“Sometimes, no matter how experienced or sensitive you are as a director, things just aren’t working. You think the actor is being oppositional, while he finds you dictatorial. Some actors have problems with authority, but just as many directors are threatened when intelligent actors ask challenging questions that reveal their lack of preparation. Both are right and both are wrong,” he explained.
“There are all sorts of reasons an actor might pick a fight. Most likely he’s afraid. Insecurity manifests as arrogance and fear precipitates bad behavior — on the director’s part as well as the actor’s. Brad would get edgy whenever he was about to shoot a scene that required him to display deep emotion. It was here that his ideas about Tristan [his character] differed from mine. Brad had grown up with men who held their emotions in check; I believed the point of the novel was that a man’s life was the sum of his griefs.”
Zwick said the film’s editor was having difficulty “cutting scenes where Brad’s stoicism appeared more blank than internal,” which prompted him to say something to the actor.
“The more I pushed Brad to reveal himself, the more he resisted,” he recalled.
“There’s a bright line between strong direction and dominance, especially when a male director is directing a male star. At times it risks becoming what a shrink and friend once called ‘an issue of phallic identity’ — in other words, d—-measuring. A strong director working with a strong actor can be like two dancers who are both trying to lead. But such tension can also yield very good work,” he wrote, before detailing the tense environment of the set.
“So, I kept pushing and Brad pushed back. One afternoon I started giving him direction out loud in front of the crew — a stupid, shaming provocation — and Brad came back at me, also out loud, telling me to back off. The considered move would have been to tell the crew to take five and for the two of us to talk it out. But I was feeling bloody-minded, and not about to relent,” Zwick said.
“I was angry at Brad for not trusting me to influence his performance. Also for the reluctance he’d shown after the first table read.”
Zwick confessed he could have been in the wrong, asking Pitt to act in a way in which he wasn’t comfortable.
“I don’t know who yelled first, who swore, or who threw the first chair. But when we looked up, the crew had disappeared. And this wasn’t the last time it happened,” he admitted. “Eventually the crew grew accustomed to our dustups and would walk away and let us have it out. ‘We hate it when the parents fight,’ said one.”
“Eventually the crew grew accustomed to our dustups and would walk away and let us have it out.”
— Ed Zwick on his and Brad PItt’s squabbles in his book ‘Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood.’
But Zwick clarified that there was always a rainbow following the storm.
“After each blowup, we’d make up, and mean it. It was never personal. 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,” he said of the Academy Award winner.
“When all was said and done, the movie Brad and I made reflected the depth of our passion. Was it worth it? I’d have to say yes,” Zwick concluded, adding he and Pitt have not worked together since.
The two reunited at the AFI Awards Luncheon in 2015, along with Herskovitz.
Representatives for Pitt did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Caroline Thayer is an entertainment writer for Fox News Digital. Follow Caroline Thayer on Twitter at @carolinejthayer. Story tips can be sent to [email protected].