An actor, model, and musician, Michael Pitt has established himself in Hollywood as a man after the art of cinema. Known for his controversial films, which (as he mentioned in an Elle magazine interview) those around him have constantly called career suicide roles, Pitt boasts over a decade’s worth of acting experience under his belt, with over thirty movies and award-winning television appearances in his filmography. And with a last name like Pitt, people can’t help but wonder if he’s related to world-renowned actor Brad Pitt. Nevertheless, Michael Pitt has earned his stripes all by his effort. So, how did it all start?
This is How Michael Pitt’s Story Begins
With only two cents and no place to sleep, a 16-year-old Michael Pitt left the comfort of his home in West Orange and moved to New York City. To get by, Pitt found himself a job as a bike messenger before he began to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1998. Relentless in his bid to make a name and a living for himself, Pitt was eventually discovered by casting director Lori Eastside, who watched Pitt in the play, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek at the New York Theatre Workshop. This also happened to be Pitt’s debut in Off-Broadway productions.
Originally mistaking Eastside for a police officer who wanted to arrest him, Pitt eventually got a guest role on the TV series, Dawson’s Creek, thanks to the director’s recommendation. Michael played the part of Henry, a high school football player, for 15 episodes of the show (between 1999 and 2000).
Together with Alexis Dziena, Bennie Slay, and Ryan Donowho, Pitt is part of The Eastsiders; a group of actors all discovered by Lori Eastside. Eastside is well known for being the female lead singer for Kid Creole and the Coconuts, as well as being a choreographer for Mick Jagger. She appeared in the 1983 film, Get Crazy, alongside Lou Reed. After his discovery by Eastside, Pitt’s career began to flourish.
His Major Roles in Movies and TV Over the Years
Pitt’s Supporting Cinematic Roles
Appearing in supporting roles since his movie debut in 1998, Michael Pitt earned his big break when he was cast as Tommy Gnosis, the lover of a trans rock star named Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. His performance as Tommy put him on the map and soon more roles in several controversial yet acclaimed films would come his way.
Pitt was cast as Donald ‘Donny’ Semenec, Jr., a pot-smoking and an acid-dropping teen who joins a plot to kill a high school bully in Bully. A controversial movie, it received mixed reviews from critics but was recognized for its straightforward way of portraying teen violence and murder. Pitt followed this up with a part in Murder by Numbers. A psychological thriller released in 2002, Pitt stars alongside Ryan Gosling as the introverted Justin Pendleton. The movie also stars Sandra Bullock and Ben Chaplin. The movie, based on the Leopold and Loeb case, follows classmates Richard Haywood (Gosling) and Justin Pendleton who spend months planning the perfect crime.
He was in The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as the character Buddy and appeared in M. Night Shyamalan period horror, The Village. Though it received mixed reviews, it was a commercial success, making $256.7 million on a $60 million budget. In Last Days, a movie about the last days of a musician that is loosely based on Kurt Cobain, Pitt starred in the lead role of Blake, the character loosely based on Cobain. Pitt performed all songs in the film. On the set of the movie, he met Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and the two developed a close friendship.
Michael was in Delirious, a movie about a homeless man who befriends a celebrity photographer and falls in love with a pop singer. The movie also stars Steve Buscemi and Alison Lohman. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. In 2007, he starred alongside Keira Knightley in Silk, the film adaptation of Italian author Alessandro Baricco’s novel of the same name. In it, Pitt plays Hervé Joncour, a French silkworm smuggler, who—while in Japan—falls in love with the concubine of a baron. Knightley stars as his wife, Hélène.
Pitt grabbed several other supporting roles. In Finding Forrester, a drama film about a black teenager invited to attend a prestigious private high school, Pitt stars as the character John Coleridge. In the short film, The Yellow Bird, he played the character Stuff. The movie was based on the short story by Tennessee Williams and was written, produced, and directed by Faye Dunaway. He was Fred in the 2006 film The Hawk is Dying, based on Harry Crews’ 1973 book of the same name. The film also stars Michelle Williams, Paul Giamatti, Robert Wisdom, and Ann Wedgeworth.
Pitt had a supporting role as John McKenzie in the French comedy-drama film, Macadam Stories (named Asphalte in French). Also starring Isabelle Huppert, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Gustave Kervern, the movie was based on the first volume of Samuel Benchetrit’s autobiography Les Chroniques de l’Asphalte. It was screened at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a César Award and a Prix Jacques Prévert du Scénario award.
The same year, he appeared in the crime thriller movie, Criminal Activities alongside John Travolta, Christopher Abbott, Rob Brown, Edi Gathegi, and Jackie Earle Haley. The movie follows the story of four young men who have to pay back a high-powered mobster a debt after the money they borrowed from him is lost in an investment.
Michael Pitt’s Leading Cinematic Roles
2003 saw Pitt in the lead role of Chep for the drama film, Rhinoceros Eyes. He then showed up as the lead in the romantic drama film, The Dreamers. Based on Gilbert Adair’s novel, The Holy Innocents, The Dreamers follows American university student Matthew (played by Pitt) who gets entangled in an erotic triangle after meeting a brother and sister in Paris. The movie was met with generally positive reviews.
Pitt then appeared in Funny Games, a psychological thriller written and directed by Michael Haneke. Like the other movies Pitt starred in, Funny Games was met with mixed reviews; with some calling it lackluster and others calling it brilliant. Nevertheless, Pitt was awarded the Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor.
After a hiatus from cinematic roles, Pitt returned in 2014 to the big screen in his major role as Tommy Uva in the comedic American crime drama film, Rob the Mob. The movie is based on the real-life story of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva, a young Queens couple who decided to hit up and rob Mafia-friendly social clubs in a bid to solve their money problems. Pitt scored his next major role as molecular biologist Ian Gray bent on finding out the truth of the evolution of human eyes in I Origins.
He starred in, co-wrote, and directed the 2015 short film, The Driver before he appeared as hacker Jan ‘the Dutchman’ Strook in the action thriller, Criminal, the following year. Criminal as stars Gal Gadot, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Alice Eve, and Ryan Reynolds. In 2017, Pitt starred opposite Scarlett Johansson in the sci-fi action film, Ghost in the Shell, adapted from the Japanese manga of the same name. He appears as villainous hacker Kuze, also known as the Laughing Man.
The Actor’s Television Roles
Michael Pitt had a few guest appearances in TV shows until he was picked up for Dawson’s Creek as Henry Parker, a recurring role he played for 15 episodes. He was mostly involved with cinematic roles right up until 2010 when he got his major role in the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. The series is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the 1920s Prohibition era. In the series, Pitt played Jimmy Darmody, the protégé of corrupt politician Nucky Thompson, who is played by Steve Buscemi.
He was in the show’s first two seasons, with a total of 24 episodes. Pitt was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award, a Golden Nymph Award, and an Online Film & Television Association Award for his role. Before his departure, Pitt did win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series along with the other cast members.
Regarding his departure from Boardwalk Empire, Pitt revealed in a NY press interview that the reason he didn’t stay on the show was because of artistic differences and disagreements over the production’s direction. Even though Pitt and the producers wanted Jimmy to remain in the series, the best cause of action was to discontinue being a part as the disagreements were negatively affecting production.
By 2014, Michael Pitt was cast in the recurring role of Mason Verger, the main antagonist in the NBC horror-thriller series, Hannibal. Pitt played the role for three episodes and was nominated for a Saturn Award and an Entertainment Weekly Award.
What Else is Michael Pitt Known For?
Besides his rather successful and fulfilling acting career, Pitt is also a successful model who has modeled for several designer campaigns. He became the face of the Italian fashion house, Prada, in 2012, modeling for their menswear line. He is also a model for Rag & Bone, modeling for two separate campaigns; he modeled beside French actress Léa Seydoux for Fall/Winter 2013, and then alongside Winona Ryder for Fall/Winter 2014.
He is also a director, making his directional debut in January 2015 for Rag & Bone’s campaign for their Spring 2015 collection. The campaign film features Pitt and the face of Rag & Bone’s womenswear, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. It also features British actor Stephen Graham. Astrid and Graham are prior co-stars of Pitt from the movies I Origins and Boardwalk Empire, respectively. He has also directed several music videos for his music band, Pagoda.
And that leads to Pitt’s third talent; music. The actor and model is also a musician and was a vocalist and guitar playing in Pagoda, who released its self-titled debut album in 2007 through Ecstatic Peace and Universal Records. Going with the stage name of Jimi Pitt and the Twins of Evil, he performed the song, Hey Joe, with the Twins of Evil for the soundtrack of The Dreamers.
Is He Related to Brad Pitt?
With a last name like his, you’d imagine that Michael Pitt got bombarded quite a number of times on whether he’s related to acclaimed award-winning actor, Brad Pitt. While they do have the same last name, there is no blood relation of any kind between them as the two actors are from different places and different homes.
Our subject was born Michael Carmen Pitt on April 10, 1981, in the suburban township of West Orange, New Jersey. Born to parents Donald and Eleanor (nee DeMaio) Pitt, Michael was born the last of four children; his older siblings are sisters, Allison and Stacey, and brother, Brian. Pitt is of English, Italian, and Irish ancestry.
William Bradley Pitt, better known as Brad Pitt, is an American actor and film producer born on December 18, 1963. Pitt was born in the city of Shawnee, Oklahoma, to parents William Alvin Pitt and Jane Etta (nee Hillhouse). His parents were a trucking company owner and a school counselor respectively. Brad Pitt was born the eldest in a family of three kids and grew up with younger siblings Julie Neal and Douglas Mitchell in Springfield, Missouri, where his family moved to shortly after his birth.
Brad Pitt in the course of his career has been nominated for several awards over eighty times, with him winning 63 of those award nominations. Some of his wins include two British Academy Film Awards, two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, four American Film Institute awards, as well as several others including Critics’ Choice Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.