I didn't report on Brad Pitt dropping out of State of Play last week because, primarily, it is a much bigger story than a lot of the folks third-partying it are making it out to be. This is more than just a "Brad Pitt drops out of movie" story. In fact, this has a lot to do with the writers strike and while it may seem like a dick move on Pitt's part, it is in actuality a smart move and a move that the majority of A-list actors that can afford to drop films should do.
The new story regarding the state of State of Play is that Universal is presently chasing down Russell Crowe to replace Pitt, and then there is the idea that Johnny Depp also has an opening in his schedule since the production for Shantaram crumbled as well as Tom Hanks who say Angels and Demons suffer a setback due to the strike.
The film was originally penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs) and then rewritten by Peter Morgan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. The film stars the likes of such big names as Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman and is being directed by Last King of Scotland helmer Kevin Macdonald. Not a bad list eh?
Pitt was set to play a politico-turned-journalist who spearheads his newspaper's investigation into a killing that leads to a fast-rising congressman (Norton). He then becomes conflicted since he was once the congressman's confidant and at the same time he develops a relationship with the pol's estranged wife (Wright Penn).
So why did Pitt leave? This is the question, and if you believe what the trades are saying it is because, during the rewrite process, the film wavered from Pitt's vision.
The "NY Times" cites anonymous sources saying that "the producers asked Mr. Pitt for a speedy answer about its latest version of the screenplay several days before the writers’ strike, but that he registered his dissatisfaction with the script only several hours after the strike had begun — and just 10 days before filming was to have started." Another "NY Times" source said Pitt "had rejected the last version of the script on Nov. 3, two days before the strike, and had tried to work out a compromise with the director, Kevin Macdonald, before pulling out."
Already things aren't looking good, but the "NY Times" comes next with the sentence that describes what is wrong in Hollywood:
The project was delayed while the studio tried to cajole Mr. Pitt into proceeding with some version of the script.
"Some" version of the script? Does anyone involved with this production over at Universal realize there is a writers strike? If they do realize this do they realize that nothing can be changed now that the strike is in place and until it ends?
I can only assume Pitt realized there were problems with the script and wasn't willing to shoot something that was already set in stone. I am already anxiously awaiting when all these strike films hit theaters and the writers scream that they changed the shooting script. It isn't going to be a pretty picture.
I can only assume, even though Hollywood trade rags aren't openly saying it, that most of Hollywood knows the real reason Pitt pulled out of the production and if they do and if my speculation is even remotely correct I don't see Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp or Tom Hanks jumping aboard a ship that still needs work to be righted.