True, esoteric pondering about the cosmos isn't exactly up everyone's alley, but it has Plan B written all over it. Pitt has never been afraid to headline a big studio project as an actor (see Paramount's "World War Z" coming in June, or several billion dollars-worth of other tentpole fare), but as a producer he has almost exclusively put his weight behind indie-minded projects such as "Voyage of Time," "Tree of Life," and, most recently, "Killing Them Softly," the chatty, bloody crime drama that opened this weekend to a disappointing $7 million domestic gross.
Despite the frequent anemic returns on his producing efforts, Plan A for Plan B remains the literary, the obscure and the challenging. As Pitt told the Associated Press, he specifically goes out on a limb with these projects because "there's such an investment of time and thought, I wanted to find stories that were more personal to me and that I believed I could add something to that was unique." So while we should expect to see him in more movie-star roles — the Ridley Scott-Cormac McCarthy thriller “The Counselor” is set for a November 2013 release through Fox — Pitt is equally committed to the fringier tastes of Plan B.
Below, how 10 past and future projects stack up on the Pitt/Plan B timeline:
"A Mighty Heart," 2007
Topical and tense, "A Mighty Heart" centered on the disappearance and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. Angelina Jolie starred as Pearl's wife Mariane, who fought to get her husband back and wrote the memoir upon which the film is based. It grossed nearly $19 million worldwide and earned the film three Independent Spirit nominations.
"The Tree of Life," 2011
Pitt also starred in this Best Picture Oscar nominee, which competed against Plan B's more commercial "Moneyball," as well as "Midnight in Paris," "Hugo" and eventual prize winner, "The Artist," for the Academy honor. "Tree of Life" captured the Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or but didn't catch fire Stateside, making only 25% of its total grosses in North America. No matter: it's Malick the artiste whom Pitt admires. "Someone called Terry a perfectionist, and I said no, he’s an imperfectionist; he’s trying to mess it up,” the actor-producer told Time.
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," 2007
Ouch. Andrew Dominik's period meditation on celebrity and the outlaw's demise grossed only $3.9 million in the U.S., but it did score two Oscar nominations. More importantly, it cemented the "Killing Them Softly" writer-director's relationship with his A-list backer. Dominik told Yahoo Movies' Thelmas Adams, "We became very close through the whole 'Jesse James' situation because it was difficult. It wasn't what the studio was expecting. We had to fight for it. We were like a couple of soldiers in a foxhole. When you find people that you trust, you want to keep going with them if you can.”
"The Private Lives of Pippa Lee," 2009
Robin Wright starred in writer-director Rebecca Miller's look at the increasingly irrational actions of a fortysomething woman married to a much older man in suburban Connecticut. Blake Lively, Keanu Reeves, Alan Arkin and Winona Ryder co-starred in the effort, which film critic Peter Rainer dismissed as "unconvincing — emotionally, dramatically, and filmically."
"Running With Scissors," 2006
Augusten Burroughs' best-selling 2002 memoir received a big-screen treatment from writer-director Ryan Murphy in the midst of his "Nip/Tuck" heyday. Annette Bening took on the thankless role of the novelist's unhinged mother, who ships him off to live with her psychiatrist. The film registered neither with filmgoers nor critics and lasted only five weeks in theaters for its $7 million domestic take.
Click through for 5 of the most interesting Plan B projects in development...