But, of course, he’s been campaigning all along, going as far back as 2017. To ever stand a chance of winning an Academy Award, Pitt, 56, had to rehabilitate his image after Angelina Jolie filed for divorce in 2016, and her side leaked allegations that he was an angry, hard-drinking and possibly abusive husband and father to their six children.
So Pitt gave a series of self-lacerating interviews, in which he opened up about overcoming the drinking problem and “toxic masculinity” that led to the breakup of his family. Once the 2020 awards season ramped up, Pitt gave widely acclaimed speeches that helped him to come across as thoughtful and happy to laugh at himself, including on matters related to his heavily scrutinized romantic life.
But Pitt tended to stay away from two key areas that could be sensitive, even among his fans: Politics and his kids. That is, until Sunday night when he finally achieved his long-sought prize: the Academy Award.
With his Oscar in hand, Pitt took the opportunity to let the world know what he thinks about Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, and he finally made mention of his children, Maddox, 18, Pax, 16, Zahara, 15, Shiloh, 13, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
“This is for my kids, who color everything I do,” he said on the Dolby Theatre stage. “I adore you.”
Certainly, Pitt had to know that, in our polarized political climate, a movie star like him, looking for broad appeal for his films, could risk alienating conservative viewers by criticizing the president and his policies.
“They said I have 45 seconds,” Pitt began his speech. “Which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.”
“I’m thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. And in the end the adults do the right thing,” Pitt continued, referring to the director making films that revise history by letting his protagonists eliminate bad guys like Adoph Hitler and the Manson family killers.
While Pitt’s impeachment joke drew laughs and applause from the Hollywood crowd at the Oscars, his comment wasn’t received well by Trump supporters online. Some said they would no longer go see Pitt’s movies, while others criticized him for being another “liberal” celebrity who has no business commenting on politics.
Meanwhile, Pitt’s relationship with his children has been a sensitive issue in other ways. Reports have said that Pitt’s relationship with his oldest son, Maddox, was severely strained by the divorce. Other reports say Pitt decided to not mention his children in his speeches, as awards recipients often do, in order to protect their privacy.
Pitt’s omission was first noticed after he failed to thank his children in his speech at the Golden Globes in early January, while mentioning other family members.
Sources told TMZ, “We’re told he feels this is the best way to maintain their privacy, because he knows that simply acknowledging his children in a speech could attract unwanted attention.” The sources added to TMZ that Pitt has never wanted to use his children as a publicity tool — as Jolie has been accused of doing at times.
“The children come before anything,” a friend of Pitt’s also told Page Six.
After Pitt received his Oscar, he went backstage to talk to entertainment reporters, who asked him about why he finally got political in his speech and why he finally mentioned his children.
“I was really disappointed with this week,” Pitt told reporters about Trump’s impeachment trial. “I think when gamesmanship trumps doing the right thing, it’s a sad day, and I don’t think we should let it slide. I’m very serious about that.”
As for his children, Pitt hesitated when asked about what his children, especially Maddox, thought about “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
“I just keep that indoors,” Pitt said. He also demurred when asked how he would celebrate winning his Oscar with them: “I don’t know yet.”
But when asked if he would encourage his children to pursue careers in film, Pitt spoke a little more easily. “We can have that conversation once they turn 18,” he said. “I want them to follow their bliss, follow their passions, whatever what they’re most interested in. Then I think it’s about guiding them as you can.”