How Brad won the war against Angelina
Typically, Hollywood's awards season is laden with worthy speeches about pet causes, sermons about politics and faux-naïf "I never expected this" tears.
And then there's Brad Pitt.
"I've gotta add this to my Tinder profile," he quipped at the Screen Actors Guild Awards while accepting a trophy for his role in Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood.
"Let's be honest, it was a difficult part," he continued, cracking up the crowd. "A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn't get on with his wife. It's a big stretch."
Over the past month, Pitt, 56, has delivered a series of hilariously self-deprecating acceptance speeches - which, insiders told The NY Post, he pens himself - as he's won a Golden Globe, SAG and several Critics Circle awards for his role as stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino's film. He also charmed the internet with photos of his affectionate SAG Awards reunion with first ex-wife Jennifer Aniston.
Now Pitt - up for Best Supporting Actor - is seemingly a sure bet to win his first Oscar today.
And he's finally won the war waged by his second ex-wife, Angelina Jolie. In August 2018, sources told Page Six that the actress had started a whisper campaign to paint Pitt as a deadbeat dad amid a custody fight for the couple's six children.
"I felt - and so did lots of us - that Brad was muted during his relationship with Angelina. He was distant," said a Hollywood insider. "And now we have him back."
"I wouldn't say muted, because they did a lot of really good work together internationally," said a close Pitt colleague. "But Angelina did more of the talking and was more aggressive in setting agendas and priorities."
A Pitt insider told The Post it was not all sunbeams for the actor while filming Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood in 2018.
"It was a tough shoot. Brad was in the middle of his divorce from Angelina and he wasn't getting to see his kids as much as he wanted to," the insider said. "Part of the reason Brad took the part was so he could stay in LA and see the kids."
Jolie shocked the world when she filed for divorce in September 2016. It reportedly came days after an alleged private-jet altercation between Pitt and oldest son Maddox, now 18, in which the teen is said to have stepped in to defend his mother. In a video of the incident, Pitt was reportedly yelling and appeared drunk.
The FBI was dragged into the matter but did not press charges after Pitt was quickly cleared by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
By the time Tarantino started filming in 2018, Jolie was reportedly on a mission to shame Pitt, filing a court claim that the actor had failed to pay any "significant" child support even as his camp revealed he had paid more than US$9 million (A$13.5 million) since the 2016 split.
"He was filming with all the legal stuff going on in the background," said the colleague. "It was a really difficult time in his life and he had great support from everyone on set."
He formed a strong bond with co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. In the movie, their characters spend every day hanging out on sets, watching TV, sharing meals. In real life, a Pitt pal said, DiCaprio - whom Pitt calls "LDC" and "Lover" - was a great source of moral support and friendship.
"They have a good bond," a Pitt pal said. "The shoot, although difficult, was something Brad needed."
During that time, the divorce judge scolded Jolie for trying to drive a wedge between Pitt and the children. Now Pitt gets to see his children for four hours every other day and 12 hours on weekends.
"The children come before anything," said the colleague. In fact, the actor bowed out of the BAFTA Awards in London last week due to a "family obligation." Co-star Margot Robbie read his speech.
Despite reports that he skipped the BAFTAs to work on his relationship with Maddox, insiders told The Post that it wasn't the case - but said Pitt does not have much of a relationship with the teen, a student at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.
Jolie and Pitt are not officially divorced as they continue to iron out custody and finances, but they are legally single after a "status-only" dissolution of marriage. The two rarely speak, revealed Pitt's pal, adding: "It's not easy."
Pitt's friends confirmed to The Post that the actor is sober, and he has openly spoken about his drinking and how AA helped him.
"I had taken things as far as I could take it, so I removed my drinking privileges," he told The New York Times.
When Bradley Cooper presented him with a Best Supporting Actor honour at the National Board of Review Awards in January, Pitt revealed: "I got sober because of this guy. And every day's been happier ever since."
But that happiness doesn't include serious romance.
"He's not a monk, but he's not jumping into another serious relationship," said the colleague.
The world went wild at the sight of Pitt and ex-wife Aniston warmly greeting each other backstage at the SAGs in January - 15 years after their split. Although Pitt reportedly attended Aniston's holiday party and 50th-birthday bash last year, that's as far as their relationship goes.
"They spoke a few times after Jen's divorce (from Justin Theroux in 2017), but it's simple friends stuff," said the insider. "Nothing more."
When Pitt hits the red carpet today, he'll likely be joined by parents Jane and Bill. It's a far cry from the 2017 Oscars, which he spent at enjoying a spaghetti dinner with friends while the awards played on TV in another room.
Up next, Pitt is producing a documentary about the late singer Chris Cornell, as well as a movie adaptation of the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and an HBO adaptation of the novel Americanah.
And sources say he's savouring his peers' love from his peers right now.
"He's really enjoyed the focus on his acting," said the Pitt pal.
"There's a lot of love and respect from Hollywood because of his talent and how supportive he has been of others and how easy he is to work with.
"He's a good guy - that will be his legacy."
This article originally appeared in the NY Post and was reproduced with permission.