How Brad Pitt rose to fame — from Midwestern teen athlete to one of Hollywood's most recognisable actors

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesBrad Pitt is an actor and producer.
  • Brad Pitt is one of Hollywood’s most recognisable actors, thanks to roles in the “Ocean’s” franchise, “Twelve Monkeys,” and “A River Runs Through It.”
  • He was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Missouri before making it big.
  • Pitt is also a producer with his own production company called Plan B Entertainment. His credits include “The Departed” and “Moneyball.”
  • Next, he’ll star in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Brad Pitt arrived in Hollywood two decades ago.

Today, he’s one of the most recognisable faces in the world.

While looks may have nabbed him some early roles, it took great ambition, talent, and the ability to swivel between acting and producing to create a career that could stand the test of time.

Even today, as he’s moved more to producing rather than acting in films, his name is recognisable everywhere.

Pitt has starred in many of the most enduring and beloved movies in entertainment history, including “Thelma and Louise,” “Interview With the Vampire,” “Moneyball,” “A River Runs Through It,” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”

As with any Hollywood heart throb, Pitt’s personal life has sold a great number of magazines. He has been attached to some of the biggest actresses in the entertainment business, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jennifer Aniston, and his ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

Here’s how this Missouri kid found his way to Hollywood and rose to fame:


Brad Pitt was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma on December 18, 1963 and grew up in Springfield, Missouri. He was the eldest of three children in a conservative household of parents, truck company owner Bill Pitt and family counselor Jane Pitt.

Bio ChannelBrad Pitt was born in Oklahoma.

Brad Pitt attended Kickapoo High School, where he was a member of the golf, swimming and tennis teams.


Just two credits shy of a journalism degree at the University of Missouri, Pitt gave in to his love of films and set off for Los Angeles in the late-1980s.

Kickapoo High School/Public DomainBrad Pitt attended the University of Missouri.

Pitt originally aspired to be an advertising art director.


In LA, Pitt worked as a limousine driver for a few months, while taking acting classes. Within seven months, he found an agent and began booking acting work, including the soap opera “Another World”in 1987, and “Growing Pains” in 1987 and 1989 (in two different roles).

Kickapoo High School/Public DomainBrad Pitt had odd jobs before his acting career took off.

In his early Hollywood days, Pitt worked as a limo driver, a furniture mover, and a costumed mascot for El Pollo Loco.


Pitt’s big break was a small, but memorable role in 1991’s “Thelma and Louise,” in which he played a charming hitchhiker and one-night-stand to Geena Davis’ character.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)Ridley Scott directed ‘Thelma and Louise.’

After doing a few more films after “Thelma and Louise,” Pitt landed the part of a gambling, fly-fisher in Robert Redford’s 1992 film “A River Runs Through It.” This would earn Pitt respect in Hollywood for his dramatic acting chops.

Columbia PicturesBrad Pitt starred as Paul Maclean in ‘A River Runs Through It.’

Source: Bio Channel


By 1992, Brad Pitt had been romantically linked to actresses Jill Schoelen, Robin Givens, and Juliette Lewis. He would go on to co-star with Lewis in “Kalifornia,” about a couple on a cross-country murder spree.

Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis first co-starred in the NBC made-for-television movie “Too Young to Die” in 1989.


His next major career step would be the coveted lead role in “Interview With the Vampire” opposite one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, Tom Cruise, and a young Kirsten Dunst in 1994.

Warner Bros.‘Interview with the Vampire’ was nominated for two Oscars.

Anne Rice, the author of the book “Interview With the Vampire” was based on, was unhappy about the casting of Cruise and Pitt. She later changed her mind after watching the film.


In 1995, People magazine named Pitt that year’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

People1995 is also the year that Brad Pitt starred in ‘Seven’ and ‘Twelve Monkeys.’

Officially part of Hollywood’s A-List, Pitt followed “Interview” with 1994’s “Legends of the Fall” and David Fincher thriller, “Seven.” But it was Terry Gilliam’s 1995 psychological thriller “Twelve Monkeys” that would earn Pitt his first Oscar nomination and first Golden Globe win.

Source: Bio Channel


In 1995, Pitt began dating Hollywood it girl Gwyneth Paltrow. They dated for two years and became engaged. In 1997, they called off the engagement and broke up for unknown reasons.

Pitt and Paltrow co-starred in the movie “Seven.”


Pitt shot in Argentina for his most ambitious film to date, 1997’s “Seven Years in Tibet.”

Mandalay EntertainmentBrad Pitt played Heinrich Harrer in ‘Seven Years in Tibet.’

“Seven Years in Tibet” got Pitt banned for life from returning by China.


In 1998, Brad Pitt and “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston were set up on a date by their agents. They married two years later with a huge wedding in Malibu.


Pitt did several big films between 1998 and 2001, including David Fincher’s “Fight Club,” Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch,” “The Mexican,” opposite Julia Roberts, “Meet Joe Black,” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” co-starring George Clooney and Matt Damon.

Warner Bros.Brad Pitt and his ‘Ocean’s’ co-star, George Clooney, used to play pranks on each other.

In 2000, People once again named Pitt its “Sexiest Man Alive,” making him the first male to hold the title twice.

PeopleIn 2000, Brad Pitt starred in the movie ‘Snatch.’

The 2004 movie “Troy” would become Pitt’s next big role, but its box office didn’t meet expectations and it got mixed reviews from critics.

Warner Bros.Brad Pitt played Achilles in ‘Troy.’

It has a critics rating of 54% and an audience score of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.


But “Troy” was important for another reason: It was the first film under Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment. “The Departed” was the first film Pitt produced to win a Best Picture Oscar, in 2007, but Pitt wasn’t personally eligible for the award.

Warner Bros.Through Plan B, Pitt has been producing some of Hollywood’s most beloved movies, like ‘The Departed.’

2004 would be a big year in Pitt’s life. He began shooting “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with Angelina Jolie. At the same time, there were reports of a romance between the co-stars and marital problems between Pitt and Aniston.

FoxAngelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith.’

In 2008, Pitt told Rolling Stone that “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” was his favourite Jolie movie because he “fell in love.”


Aniston and Pitt announced their separation in January 2005 and their divorce was finalised in October.

Bruno Vincent/Getty ImagesJennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt at the ‘Troy’ premiere at Cannes in 2004.

He started dating Jolie afterward.


Over the next several years, Pitt would star in several well-received films, including “Babel” (2006), the Coen brothers’ “Burn After Reading” (2008), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” (2011), and “Moneyball” (2011).

Warner Bros./Paramount PicturesIn ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ Pitt played a man who ages backwards.

In 2014, Pitt would win his first Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” – but not for acting. It was for producing the epic historical drama, under his production company, Plan B Entertainment.

Twentieth Century FoxBrad Pitt in ’12 Years a Slave.’

After dating since 2005, Pitt and Jolie married in 2014 in a private ceremony in France.

Getty ImagesAngelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards in 2014.

Pitt and Jolie have six children together, including three adopted children: Maddox, Pax Thien, and Zahara.


In 2015, Pitt co-starred with Jolie in the art house film, “By the Sea.” Jolie also wrote and directed the film about a couple trying to repair their marriage while staying at a hotel in France.

Universal PicturesBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in ‘By the Sea.’

In 2015, Pitt produced and appeared in “The Big Short,” a movie about the housing market bubble. The film earned him another Oscar nomination for producing.

Paramount PicturesPitt sometimes appears in the movies he produces to give them star power, like in ‘The Big Short.’

In September 2016, Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt after two years of marriage and 11 years together. She requested sole physical custody of their six children.

Junko Kimura/Getty ImagesBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at Narita International Airport with their children, from left, Maddox, Vivienne, Zahara and Knox in 2009.

The couple’s children and hundreds of millions of dollars in assets are part of the negotiations. In late 2018, Jolie’s lawyers told Reuters that the two stars finally reached a custody agreement.


While his acting career has slowed down — his Netflix film “War Machine” got mixed reviews — Pitt is actively producing movies like Oscar winner “Moonlight” and the well-received “Lost City of Z.” He remains one of the most recognisable stars in the world.

NetflixBrad Pitt in ‘War Machine.’

Next, he’ll star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which takes place in Los Angeles, California in 1969. The movie hits US theatres in July 2019.

SonyBrad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio star in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’

Pitt plays a fictional TV actor named Rick Dalton and DiCaprio portrays his stunt double, Cliff Booth. Margot Robbie stars as real-life actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson and his followers in California in August 1969.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.