James Gray Called David Fincher for Advice on Directing Brad Pitt in ‘Ad Astra’

Brad Pitt has been a producer on James Gray films in the past, but "Ad Astra" is the first time he's worked as an actor for the director.
Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.
“Ad Astra”
Francois Duhamel

After an extensive post-production process and a couple release date changes, James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is finally set to launch at the Venice Film Festival before its theatrical release next month. Gray recently joined the Los Angeles Times for an interview on his character-centric space drama and revealed that he called David Fincher before production to consult on what it’s like working with Brad Pitt. “Ad Astra” stars Pitt as an astronaut who sets out on a mission to Neptune to figure out what happened to his missing father.

Pitt and Gray knew each other well prior to making “Ad Astra, as Pitt and his production company Plan B were behind Gray’s Amazon epic “The Lost City of Z,” but the new space film is the first time Pitt is working for Gray as an actor. The director knew Fincher was the right person to dole out advice on what it’s like directing Pitt. The actor has worked with Fincher on three films: “Seven,” “Fight Club” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Pitt earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor with “Benjamin Button.”

Gray did not divulge Fincher’s advice, but their conversation seems to be the first step in getting Gray to realize Pitt is a much deeper actor than his tabloid movie star image suggests.

“He is an unbelievably subtle actor in a way that I didn’t even anticipate,” Gray said. “And he’s extremely intelligent, very shrewd, understands human behavior very well. In some sense, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Pitt is kind of an underrated actor. On a technical level, underrated. And it’s a pleasure to work with someone like that.”

Gray added, “The expression is he can fill it up, which means you give him some tidbits and he does the work. He thinks about it, you roll the camera, all of a sudden you can see the inner workings, the turmoil. It’s, I think, an incredible performance. It’s not showy at all. I have no idea what the world will think, but it is for my money great work.”

“Ad Astra” is opening in theaters nationwide September 20.

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