Cannes 2011: Brad Pitt talks The Tree Of Life

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain headed up a stuffed press conference this morning to talk about the freshly screened The Tree Of Life , but there was one notable absence – director Terrence Malick.

Not that anyone really expected him to turn up, but producer Bill Pohlad assured us he was busy working on his next project in Haiti.

“I think one of the reasons Terry shies from forums like this is he wants the work to stand on its own,” said Pohlad. “He doesn’t want to say what it’s about or whether it’s autobiographical or not.”

Luckily Pitt was on top form, answering the barrage of questions with intelligence and a wry sense of humour.

Unsurprisingly, most of the questions revolved around the enigmatic director. “Does he laugh? Does he talk? Is he stern? Is he jovial? Does he like food?” demanded the host.

“Yes, and he even goes to the bathroom,” deadpanned Pitt.

“He’s quite jovial, he’s incredibly sweet, he’s laughing most of the day,” the actor continued. “I think this is the difference between good directors and great directors, but he truly loves all his characters in a very passionate way – he respects and appreciates them.”

Talking about working with the man himself, co-star Chastain described the shoot as “all about capturing an accident.”

“It was really a huge lesson in just completely letting go of all control of what you expect an outcome to be,” she recalled. “That was a great lesson I took away from it – about absolutely being in the moment.”

For Pitt, working with Malick has had just as profound an effect. “It’s changed everything I’ve done since because I’ve found in the past that the best moments were not preconceived or planned – they were the happy accident,” he explained.

“So the things I’ve done since I’ve tried to go more in that direction – going off script and seeing what happens.”

Pitt also spoke about his reasons for signing onto the project, both as producer and star. “I think the marriage of the micro and the macro I found most interesting,” he said.

“Terry tells this micro story of this small town in Texas and juxtaposes it with the macro of the birth of the cosmos and cells splitting… It’s quite extraordinary.”

Not that his recent penchant for more interesting character pieces has dulled his enthusiasm for the odd blockbuster, though…

“Don’t count me out of Mission: Impossible ! I’ll be there – I’m not that highbrow!” he joked.

“Like the film itself, you just want to find something new – that’s been my focus. I started to think about my favourite films and they weren’t the big commercial things, they were things that had a little more depth and were asking bigger questions.”

The Tree Of Life opens later this year.

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