Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt talks ‘Bullet Train,’ his first lead role in three years

Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt talks ‘Bullet Train,’ his first lead role in three years
“Bullet Train” is Pitt’s first lead role in three years. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 July 2022

Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt talks ‘Bullet Train,’ his first lead role in three years

Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt talks ‘Bullet Train,’ his first lead role in three years
  • The Hollywood actor used his real-life experience of therapy to inform his performance as an assassin trying to maintain inner peace

DUBAI: We all hit rock bottom at some point. If you’re Brad Pitt — perhaps the most famous actor on Earth — it’s just a lot more public. While the lows of Pitt’s personal-life may have been covered in painfully intimate detail on every gossip page going, his journey to self-betterment has been a lot more private. Over the last six years, he has done the work — exhaustively — and now, with “Bullet Train,” his first lead role in three years, he’s ready to make fun of it.

“I think that’s what drew me to the role, honestly,” Pitt tells Arab News. “This man who’s trying to grow — but also somewhat regressing — on his way to being a better person. My own experience with self-help and therapy allowed me to take the (mickey) out of that.

“There are moments when you have one epiphany and you think you have the whole egg figured out, and then you step in a pile of crap the next day. This was making fun of that, and I took great pleasure in it,” he continues.




Brad Pitt accepting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2020. (Supplied)

Pitt is, of course, one of the world’s premiere box-office draws and has been for 30-odd years. He’s one of Hollywood’s most-admired actors too, and received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2020 for his role in the Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” in which he played the stunt double for a famous actor.

It’s fitting, then, that he’s followed that up by teaming up with his old stunt double David Leitch, who stood in for Pitt on films including “Fight Club,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and “Troy” back in the 90s and early 2000s and has gone on to become one of the most sought-after directors in the world, helming “John Wick,” “Deadpool 2,” “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw,” and now “Bullet Train.”

“We saw that relationship in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ and it’s not untrue that actors and their stunt doubles can have great bonds. Brad and I had that. We were friends,” says Leitch. “Now, we’ve come full circle where I’m at a place in my career where I’m an artist too, and he appreciates my work. I, of course, already appreciated his work. Doing this together was such a great experience.”




Brad Pitt and David Leitch promoting “Bullet Train” in France in July. (Getty Images)

“It was really nice to come back together with him, but this time with him as the boss,” says Pitt.

“Bullet Train” is based on a best-selling Japanese novel. It tells the story of five assassins who all find themselves on the express train from Tokyo to Morioka with little chance of them all surviving to the end. Pitt plays ‘Ladybug,’ a perennially unlucky man fresh off a mental-health sabbatical who is trying to keep his inner calm in a situation that refuses to allow it, spouting as many positive aphorisms as he can muster.

“Ladybug’s lines really do sound like a 22-year-old going through a self-discovery,” Pitt’s co-star Joey King says to him.

“Exactly. The sad thing is, that's pretty much where I am in life,” Pitt replies.

Pitt and company shot the film during lockdown in 2020. While “Bullet Train” is set in Japan, it was shot on a single soundstage in southern California, inside a purpose-built train set that was flanked on either side by LED screens that showed footage shot on the actual bullet train in Japan. It was so realistic that some people on set reportedly got motion sickness.

For Pitt, the film wasn’t just a chance to reconnect with his old friend Leitch, it was also an opportunity to create a surrogate family to help each other through the crushing loneliness of COVID isolation, with each taking turns trying to make the others break into laughter and ruin another take with constant improvisation.

“This was pre-vaccination, so we had all these protocols and gauntlets we had to run through just to be able to shoot this. We were essentially in a bubble. It worked because of the high degree of talent everyone had, which led to so many good laughs,” says Pitt.

Pitt even recruited some of his own friends to come along, including Sandra Bullock, whom he called up personally to ask her to appear in the film.




“Bullet Train” is set in Japan. (Supplied)

“Sandy is a dear old friend; someone I can call on for any favor and she's always there. She'll drop whatever she's doing, she's done me some really big favors,” says Pitt. “When this came along, we thought it'd be really cool to call her again for another favor. She did it, but this time she said I had to do something in return — which is how I ended up appearing in her enchanting film ‘The Lost City.’ I liked this idea that we could cross-pollinate each other’s projects.”

Beyond the jokes, the self-deprecation, and the reunions with old friends, Pitt even quietly found himself connecting with the deeper themes of the seemingly wacky action comedy.

“There’s this undercurrent that questions the nature of fate, and the constant battle between self-will and manifestation versus the larger powers at play. That really hit me. It was combined, of course, with the David Leitch language of filmmaking — this mashup of comedy and ultra-violence,” says Pitt.

Pitt wasn’t just focused on himself, however. Part of his journey, both professionally and personally, has been to establish meaningful connections with others and to help raise them up, whether they be people he meets briefly or his co-stars. In a quiet way, it may be his life’s mission at this point.

King, for example, found in Pitt a true mentor, she says. As a 22-year-old Hollywood sensation with nearly 20 million followers on Instagram, King was grateful to have someone to help her navigate the increasingly complicated contours of fame at a time when apps such as TikTok have made things more emotionally taxing for megastars than ever before.

“I was going through a tough time one day, and I was expressing that to some of my castmates. Brad is someone who has been through a lot in his life. He’s been around the block. I was very lucky to have someone like him, with his life experience — specifically his experience with people having opinions about his life,” King tells Arab News. “It was really helpful to hear from someone like him about why that noise should be drowned out and how he does it. It was really, really nice to talk to someone like that.”

And Pitt’s performance in “Bullet Train” contains a lesson for us all: Not to take ourselves too seriously.

“I play a chump,” he says. “And the chump is the most fun role to play, hands down.”


Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 
Updated 10 August 2022

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

DUBAI: Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer released on Tuesday the trailer to his upcoming Netflix show “Mo.” 

The eight-episode series, which will be released on Aug. 24, centers on a Palestinian immigrant family living in Houston, Texas. It follows Mo Najjar, played by Amer, who straddles the line between two cultures, three languages and a pending asylum request, all while hustling to support his family, which includes his mother, sister and older brother. 

Jordanian-Kuwaiti-Palestinian actress Farah Bsieso stars as Mo’s mother Yusra Najjar, while Egyptian-American actor Omar Elba portrays Sameer Najjar, Mo’s older brother, who has social anxiety. 

Rapper Tobe Nwigwe plays Nick, Mo’s oldest, most loyal friend and Mexican-American actress Teresa Ruiz stars as Mo’s girlfriend Maria. 

Amer also serves as executive producer in the series, along with his “Ramy” co-star and friend Egyptian-American Golden Globe-winner Ramy Youssef, who also appears in the show. 

In December, Amer told Arab News that he is at a point in his career where he is able to share his stories with a wider audience than ever before through an artistic medium that allows viewers to experience both his perspective and that of the Palestinian people in an intimate way.

“That’s why I think the art of stand-up is so liberating. It’s never been about the money,” he said. “Making money is great, and I want to make what I can, but it’s about telling great stories. I’m less concerned about money, and more concerned about punching above my weight. Creating a masterpiece is a worthy trek. That’s how I feel. That’s where I’m at right now with my stand-up, and my TV show.”

Amer began his career in comedy in his early teens and soon discovered that no one was telling stories about his experience or that of Arabs in general.

“I first got on stage at 14 years old, and I started touring when I was 17. Immediately, I started noticing that there was this huge gap,” he said. “There was no real representation at all on any of those stages of Arabs or Muslims. I said to myself, ‘OK, why don’t I introduce it?’”

With “Mo,” “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas,” “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” and “Ramy,” the comedian has and still is sharing the stories of both his family and his people. 


Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022
Richard Serra's 'East-West, West-East.' (Supplied)
Updated 10 August 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

DUBAI: Ahead of the fast-approaching FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Qatar Museums has announced an expansive public art program that will be rolled out not just in the capital city of Doha but throughout the country. The nation’s public spaces — parks, shopping zones, rail stations, hotel plazas, cultural institutions, Hamad International Airport and the eight World Cup 2022 stadiums — will be transformed into a “vast outdoor art museum,” with 40 new pieces being added to the already existing 70 pieces across the country.

Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairperson of Qatar Museums, said in a statement, “The addition of 40 new, major works of public art this fall is a significant milestone for Qatar’s public art program. Public art is one of our most prominent demonstrations of cultural exchange, where we present works from artists of all nationalities and backgrounds. From the arrivals at the best airport in the world — Hamad International Airport — to every neighborhood in our nation, public art is there to make your experience unique."

 

 

Comprised of more than 100 artworks, the public art extravaganza will feature 40 new and commissioned pieces. New works from international heavyweights will include artists Olafur Eliasson, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, KAWS, Rashid Johnson, Ernesto Neto, Lawrence Weiner, Faye Toogood, Katharina Fritsch, and others.

Qatari and MENA region artists whose work will be presented in the public art program include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Al-Bahrani, Shouq Al-Mana, Shua’a Al-Muftah, Salman Al-Malek, Monira Al-Qadiri, Simone Fattal and Faraj Daham.

 

 

According to a press release shared by Qatar Museums, the country was among the first in the region to establish a public art program, which currently includes works from Richard Serra, Tom Claaseen, Bruce Nauman, Louise Bourgeois, Urs Fischer, Subodh Gupta, Dia Al-Azzawi and others.

“Qatar Museums’ public art program, more than anything else, serves as a reminder that art is all around us, not confined to museums and galleries, and can be enjoyed and celebrated whether you are going to work, or school, or the desert or the beach,” said Abdulrahman Ahmed Al-Ishaq, Qatar Museums’ Director of Public Art, in a statement.

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off on Nov. 21.


Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns
Updated 10 August 2022

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

DUBAI: US designer Tory Burch is spotlighting Arab models in the fashion label’s latest campaigns. 

Moroccan Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi posed for the brand’s activewear Tory Sport, while Dutch Egyptian Moroccan star Imaan Hammam was spotted in the label’s latest beauty campaign.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tory Sport (@torysport)

In a series of images shared on the brand’s Instagram page this week, 23-year-old runway star El-Maslouhi wore a pleated laser cut tennis skirt with a white tank top and a blue and beige cross body bag from the fashion house’s Summer 2022 tennis collection. 

In other pictures, the model wore a monogram jacquard anorak, a matching red-and-yellow yoga set and a white polo shirt. 

This is not the first time El-Maslouhi has collaborated with the US label.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tory Sport (@torysport)

In May, the designer tapped the model to showcase her eponymous brand’s pre-Fall 2022 collection via a series of campaign images.

The catwalk star, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father, also featured in the brand’s 2022 beach edit, sporting an array of summer-ready looks in the form of floral maxi skirts, romantic dresses, crochet bucket hats, strappy sandals and printed bikinis.

El-Maslouhi made her modeling debut when she was 18 and went on to captivate the industry.

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses that most models can only dream of — such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus, among others — the fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Off-White, Calvin Klein and Lanvin.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tory Burch (@toryburch)

Meanwhile, Tory Burch also released five new fragrances for its beauty collection this week. For that campaign, the designer, who launched her brand in 2004, worked with Moroccan Egyptian Dutch model Hammam, who starred alongside US actress Havana Rose Liu, Romanian model Alexandra Micu and more. 

For the all-white beachside shoot, Hammam wore a crochet plunged maxi dress. Her hair was tied in a bun and her makeup was kept simple and fresh. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tory Burch (@toryburch)

According to the brand, Burch’s five new fragrances — cosmic wood, divine moon, electric sky, sublime rose and mystic geranium — represent five dreams: freedom, peace, magic, love and joy. 


Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar heads to Dubai to promote new film ‘Raksha Bandhan’

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar heads to Dubai to promote new film ‘Raksha Bandhan’
Updated 10 August 2022

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar heads to Dubai to promote new film ‘Raksha Bandhan’

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar heads to Dubai to promote new film ‘Raksha Bandhan’

DUBAI: Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar jetted to Dubai to promote his new film “Raksha Bandhan” and opened up about his inspiration for the movie in a conversation with newspaper Khaleej Times.

The actor stopped by the newspaper’s office in the city, along with director Aanand L. Rai, to discuss the new movie, which celebrates the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan — a day to honor the bond between brothers and sisters.

Kumar — who was recently revealed by the Indian government to be the country’s highest tax payer from the entertainment industry — opened up about the special relationship he shares with his own sister, Alka Bhatia.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar)

“I remember when my sister was born, we were taught (to) remember to take care of her! Whatever she asks for, don’t refuse, we were told. So, highest taxpayer or not, whatever is mine is my sister’s as well. There are no two opinions about this,” said the 54-year-old actor.

In “Raksha Bandhan,” Kumar stars as the only brother in a family of five siblings. Actresses Sadia Khateeb, Smrithi Srikanth, Deepika Khanna and Sahejmeen Kaur star as the four sisters. Actress Bhumi Pednekar features as his childhood sweetheart.

Kumar also stressed that he wanted to make the film because Rai was helming the project.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar)

“The kind of film I want to do is the kind of film he makes. The kind of humor I have, is the kind of humor he has. We both have that very quirky kind of mindset when it comes to making films, and he also has an agenda while making a film; there should be some learning, some takeaways. I want to do the same kind of films and whether it is ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha,’ ‘Pad Man’ or ‘Airlift,’ I have done many films like this,” said Kumar. “I have ruined his habit because he makes one film in three years and now, in two years, he has made two films with me. And we’re preparing for a third…”

Rai, meanwhile, said he’s attracted to the actor’s simplicity which exists despite his megastar status in India and beyond. “It’s fantastic for a director to have somebody without any complexes, going all out and living the moment without any fear that there are so many films he has to live up to. He lives up to that moment. That’s very important,” said the filmmaker, famous for his films like “Tanu Weds Manu,” “Ranjhanaa,” “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” and “Manmarziyaan.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar)

The film, Rai said, was a product of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I realized that in those few months when we were all not moving out and didn’t really know where it (Covid) would end or where it would go, we were quite insecure, living with a lot of fear. The only thing that was consistent at that moment was your family. You were eating together, sitting together, playing together; that was the only way to get rid of the fear,” said the director.

“Raksha Bandhan” releases in cinemas in the GCC on Aug. 11.


US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month
Updated 56 min 44 sec ago

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month
  • The 29 year old achieved 10 billion streams on Spotify and Apple Music without the backing of a major label and was listed in Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list in 2019
  • He emerged during the 2010s from the Atlanta-area underground music scene, releasing dozens of independent singles and albums, all of which he made freely available to download

RIYADH: Rapper Russ Vitale is set to perform live at the world heavyweight title rematch between boxers Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk on Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Commonly known simply as Russ, the 29-year-old American rapper, singer, songwriter and author, who first performed in the Kingdom in 2019, lists other American rappers and the classic rock he listened to as a youngster among his inspirations.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RUSS (@russ)

One of the most popular rappers in the world, he achieved 10 billion streams on Spotify and Apple Music without the backing of a major label, has performed sellout global tours, and was listed in Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list in 2019.

Russ emerged during the 2010s from the Atlanta-area underground music scene, releasing dozens of independent singles and albums, all of which he made freely available to download. His mainstream breakthrough came in 2017 with the platinum-certified top 10 album “There’s Really a Wolf,” before he cracked the top five of the Billboard 200 with “Zoo” in 2018 and “Shake the Snow Globe” in 2020, followed by the release of companion albums “Chomp” and “Chomp 2.”

Most recently, he collaborated with Ed Sheeran for new single “Are You Entertained,” on which Russ switches between singing and rapping.

The heavyweight title rematch between Usyk and Joshua is considered one of the biggest in the history of the sport. When they met in September 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Usyk dominated the contest, earning a unanimous decision victory and three world heavyweight titles to become unified Heavyweight World Champion.