For all of you Brad Pitt stans out there, chances are you’ve probably seen Fight Club, Meet Joe Black, Oceans 11, Oceans 12, and Oceans 13 — even I Heart Huckabees, but odds are good that there’s one that’s slipped underneath your radar: The 2006 epic, Babel, directed by Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu.
The film features an impressive all-star cast, with Pitt starring alongside Cate Blanchett, Gabriel García Bernal, Elle Fanning, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, among others (via IMDb). And while Pitt is not quite the star of the film in a traditional sense (Babel weaves together narratives from four different countries — Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the United States), his performance as a man on a Moroccan sojourn with his wife (Blanchett) is still worth seeing.
Babel came as the third and final installment in what’s known as Iñárritu’s “Death Trilogy” (via MovierDo.com), following his breakout film Amores perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003). Each of the films features non-linear, interconnected stories, with narratives that force the audience to consider our increasing disconnect despite our rampant globalization (via Diggit Magazine) — and set the stage for his continued ambitious films.
Why Pitt chose Babel
While Pitt is known for the films he has starred in, perhaps more so than any actor, he’s also notorious for the films he’s said no to (via Cinema Blend). He passed up the role of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity (hopefully Matt Damon sent him a thank you note for that), Hugh Grant’s part in About a Boy, and in the early aughts, chose to work with Iñárritu on Babel rather than appearing alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed (the role instead once again went to Damon, who hopefully sent another thank you note Pitt’s way). Yes, Pitt and DiCaprio’s bromance would have to wait another 13 years (via Vogue) — but Pitt had good reasons for wanting to star in Babel.
“It’s kind of a global idea that the world that I agreed with and thought was really bold,” Pitt told Interview Magazine in February 2012. “I liked how [the director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s] ideas had really coalesced into this piece. I liked what it said.”
While it’s hard to argue that working with a critically acclaimed, ambitious director is a risk, the decision still paid off — Pitt’s role in Babel netted him one of his seven Golden Globe nominations.
Iñárritu's vision behind Babel
If filming a film in multiple languages, in multiple countries sounds labor intensive, well, that’s because it was.
“As a production, we were running very close circumstances to what the film was about, the lack of communication, the impossibilities of dialogue,” Iñárritu said at the time (via NPR). Shooting the film took nearly a year, but Iñárritu was deeply committed to its message.
“All the things that I talk about in the film are things that I am very committed to and want to talk about. In some way or another, I want to discuss them and it is a great privilege that I am in a line of work where I can express my own fears and anxieties in my work. My life and my work are not very separated, making films is a need that I have and an extension of what I really believe,” Iñárritu told E Film Critic.
And his hard work and passion paid off: Iñárritu won Best Director at Cannes, earned seven Golden Globe nominations and seven Academy Award nominations (via Reuters).
Watch Babel on Netflix if you haven’t yet; although based on a biblical tale (via Guardian), its message is as timely as ever.
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