Yesterday, I got a long hard look at myself in the TV set. It was not by any means a pretty sight.
Brad Pitt returned to the set of Oprah plugging the Christmas Day release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie about a New Orleans man who ages backwards. I hear the special effects are to die for. Heck, the movie was in post-production for almost a year.
Aside from styling reminiscent of the late Clark Gable, Pitt filled the studio with the twinkle of Hollywood stardust, what I call the magic of Hollywood. He’s a person, yes, like everyone else, but with killer good looks and notable acting talent. I hardly ever watch daytime television, but this was one show I wanted to see as it aired.
That Oprah, I have to hand it to her. She’s now peppering celebrity interviews with home audience questions via Skype. These are not your grandmother’s cheesy call-ins with background pictures but real time webcam "I see you, you see me" exchanges. Skype definitely made the show more engaging. One bride-to-be appeared in her bedroom with a bed full of family and friends.
Top of the heap in clout and earning power, Pitt stands toe to toe with the greats, actors admired for craft and popularity not necessarily due to peer recognition, but for opening movies and resonating with a crowd. He’s a big fish in a huge pond glutted with wannabes. Everyone wants a piece of him no matter how those pieces are derived.
The Q and A ran rather smoothly until Christina from Ontario questioned Pitt about his body tattoos. At that point, the exchange turned on its head.
(video may be removed due to copyright and if so, don’t count on a replacement)
In the first place, Christina knew way too much about Pitt for comfort, like prey studied by stalker before ambush. Clearly, Pitt became very uncomfortable, refusing to divulge any personal information or put his tats on display. It was comical, really, in a "Lady, who are you and why do you know so much about my ice man tattoo?" kind of way. Then suddenly, it felt kind of scary. Poor Christina, I could see she felt it too.
At that moment, I glimpsed my reflection. Figuratively speaking of course, but no less startling. I too feed off Hollywood minutiae, petty details of lives steeped in fantasy glamour. What’s the harm in wanting to see a decorated body part? Why even decorate if not to show off?
As Pitt lamented the ever present din of paparazzi, as well as fences and walls he would rather remove but requires for privacy, I too wanted the inside scoop. As if answering Christina’s question might reveal the essence of this movie star’s shine, I really wanted to know about his tats. So did Oprah, though immediately after gentle prodding she backed down.
Despite being offensive or intrusive, Pitt owed a better answer to his fans. He chose acting for his livelihood and should expect people crossing the line. Without fans who feed off his star power, he’s like any other bit player on Broadway.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a fish bowl. The constant presence of cameras and strangers approaching wherever one goes must be unnerving. Can a fan’s desire to connect go too far?
At the end of the day, none of it matters, gossip tidbits or glitterati lives. Hearing Pitt speak about his children, life with Angie, or his Benjamin Buttons co-star, the fabulous Cate Blanchett, another guest on the show, won’t change the world or cure cancer. It’s entertainment like a good book or a day at the races, nothing more than fleeting fancy to pass the time.