Michael Pitt, who intriguingly mixes a faun-like physical delicacy with achingly young verbal cloudiness, echoed some of the points director Gus van Sant made about how his starring role as Blake in “Last Days,” changed over time.
“This was weird. Gus told me about this film maybe four years ago and I thought, ‘He’s crazy,’ but it’s more a film about someone like Cobain than actually him,” he said. “I was, like, a really big fan of his.”
Asked about the death scene, a quiet 180-degree turn from, say, Bette Midler’s Joplin-esque demise in “The Rose,” Pitt used the word “scary” seven times:
“I was kind of nervous about how that was gonna be perceived because I would assume that any actor who was doing it would go, ‘Okay, this is the big moment where I break down,’ and I knew that was the way that most people instinctively would do it,” he said. “I just kind of tried to make it more real.”
I asked if he knew exactly how he was going to do it and Pitt responded, “I tried not to know, which is scary. I did insane research for this and we talked for years, but I tried not to have any preconceptions or have the character mapped out or manipulate his journey. I wanted it to come organically and was able to do it because we were shooting in sequence. But it’s scary for an actor because you don’t know if it’s gonna work.”
When I bring up Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” which had Pitt fully exposed in every way (something that led Jake Gyllenhaal to bail from the role), the actor said “The nudity was hard to do, but that’s kind of why I wanted to do it. And I knew that, as far as people who were making movies, I was probably the only American actor who would do that in the way that Bertolucci wanted it to be.”
Pitt even lamented the edits the film has suffered on recent cable showings.
“Yeah, a couple of shots that are really beautiful, they cut. You know, people are so fucking uptight. I mean it’s not ‘Showgirls,’” he said. “There’s this double standard with nudity. You can show a woman’s full anatomy, but it’s threatening and uncomfortable with guys. Gay, straight, bi or whatever, these particular people who run the country are afraid to see the beauty in things that aren’t necessarily what they think is right or whatever.”
Pitt added an interesting vignette about the Italian filmmaker.
“But the strange thing was that when I had my first meeting with Bertolucci, he asked me questions about what kind of films and music I liked,” he recalled. “He was a really big fan of Harmony Korine [who is in ‘Last Days’] which I thought was kind of amazing, based on the fact that he was nearing 60 and knew about this really young, obscure filmmaker. He also brought up Kurt Cobain and when he first saw him he said he thought, ‘This is like a fallen angel.’ I thought that was very strange, coming from Bertolucci, and this was before I even knew about this project.”