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Brad Pitt Was "Volatile" on "Legends of the Fall" Set, Director Says

Ed Zwick opens up about his clashes with the young heartthrob in his new memoir.

Brad Pitt found success early in his career with the 1994 western Legends of the Fall, which cemented him as a '90s heartthrob. Now, the director of the film, Ed Zwick, has opened up about what went on behind the scenes of the romantic drama, including the fights he would get into with his young star, who he referred to as "volatile." The filmmaker writes about his often contentious relationship with Pitt in his new memoir, Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood.

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In the book, excerpted by Vanity Fair, Zwick writes that Pitt's agent said that the then-31-year-old actor wanted to quit after the first table read of the script. The director says that because of "the script's dependence on narration and visuals, it didn't play very well in the sterile conference room." He calls Pitt's desire to leave "the first augury of the deeper springs of emotion roiling inside Brad," adding, "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."

Obviously, Pitt ended up sticking with the film, though Zwick also claims in his book that he "would get edgy whenever he was about to shoot a scene that required him to display deep emotion." The director blames this on Pitt having "grown up with men who held their emotions in check … the more I pushed Brad to reveal himself, the more he resisted. So, I kept pushing and Brad pushed back."

The Glory director describes one argument with Pitt in particular, in which he gave the actor directions in front of the crew. He calls this "a stupid, shaming provocation" on his part, but explains that neither him nor Pitt wanted to back down.

"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 onscreen," Zwick writes. "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. And this wasn't the last time it happened. 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."

Zwick also writes that Pitt wasn't happy with the final cut of the film, because of "a shot he dearly loved" being cut, which Zwick admits he should have left in. He adds that Pitt "was also unhappy when People named him 'Sexiest Man of the Year'—something for which I take neither credit nor blame." Pitt was named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine in January 1995, a month after Legends of the Fall was released.

But Zwick didn't have just negative things to say about Pitt. He writes that they always made up and calls him "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 also writes that before recording a commentary for the movie together, they "smoked a joint and talked for hours." When they were leaving afterward, Zwick says Pitt told him, "Man, I didn't know what I was doing half the time on set." Zwick responded, "I don't know what I'm doing most of the time on set." He adds, "We hugged. It was a nice moment. We've never worked together again."

Best Life has reached out to representatives for Pitt for comment.

Pitt previously spoke out about his time making Legends of the Fall, and his account is similar to Zwick's. "I really liked the story, and it speaks to my roots. But I was battling a lot of my own stuff on this one, and I took it out on [Zwick] sometimes," Pitt told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. "I don't think I was the most delightful human being to be around." He added of the western U.S.-set film, "Having come from that area, what I was trying to impart on the piece was that these guys don't show their feelings." Pitt also mentioned in the EW interview that his favorite moment in the film had been cut due to a marketing report that showed test audiences didn't like it.

Pitt went on, "Let me just say for the record, though: Ed's a friend of mine. We've had these conversations, and debated it. I learned something very valuable from that experience, and he will tell you he learned something too. I don't lament the failures. The failures prepare you for the next one."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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