William Bradley Pitt was born Dec. 18, 1963 to parents Jane and Bill in Shawnee, Okla. The Pitts relocated to Springfield, Mo., where Dad was a manager at a trucking firm. Brad is the eldest of three, as brother Doug followed in 1966 and sister Julie in 1969.
Pitt graduated from Kickapoo High School in 1982. While a student there, he got into sports, debating, student government, school musicals and various clubs.
He attended the University of Missouri, where he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He majored in journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, with a focus on advertising. But he never graduated — he moved to L.A. with only two credits to go.
By this time it was 1986, Pitt worked as a chauffeur, a furniture mover and a costumed mascot for the restaurant chain El Pollo Loco (in other words, he dressed up as a chicken) to support himself in his early days in Hollywood. While struggling in L.A., he began studying acting with the late renowned acting coach Roy London.
Finally, in the late 1980s, Pitt scored bit parts in several television series and starred in a few television movies, which may come as a surprise to many fans, who likely remember him only from “Thelma and Louise” in 1991 and onward, since that was undeniably his big break. He played Chris on “Another World” in 1987 and appeared on “Growing Pains” in 1987 and 1989 (as two different characters).
He also was an extra in two films in 1987, “No Man’s Land” and “Less Than Zero.”
Pitt starred as Peter in an episode of “21 Jump Street,” played Randy on “Dallas” and appeared in the TV movie “A Stoning in Fulham County” in 1988.
In the summer of 1988, he acted in his first movie role in “The Dark Side of the Sun,” about a boy taken by his family to Yugoslavia to find a cure for a rare disease. During filming, civil war broke out and most of the footage from the film was lost, only to be found in 1996. The movie was released in 1998.
In 1989, he continued his TV work, starring in episodes of “Head of the Class,” “thirtysomething” and “Freddy’s Nightmares.” In that same year, Pitt continued to launch his film career with roles in movies like “Happy Together” and “Cutting Class." He also dated Robin Givens, his first celebrity girlfriend, that year.
Pitt starred in the series “Glory Days” and appeared in two TV movies in 1990: “Too Young to Die” and “The Image.” It was during “Too Young to Die,” an NBC Movie of the Week, that he met actress Juliette Lewis, whom he dated when she was only 16.
Pitt appeared in another TV movie, “Two-Fisted Tales,” in 1991, and “Tales from the Crypt” in 1992, but his life and the lives of many women in America would never be the same once “Thelma and Louise” hit theaters in 1991.
The role of J.D. wound up being a scene-stealing one for Pitt, who was actually the third choice for the part. The shy but sly con-artist wooed a naïve Thelma (Geena Davis) into the sack, only to steal her and Louise’s getaway cash, which ultimately lead to their demise. The sex scene between Pitt and Davis sizzled and exalted Pitt into the spotlight, and the two dated briefly off-camera. The guy with the pretty face would see several film roles a year for the next decade at least.
“Thelma” was followed with “Johnny Suede” and “Across the Tracks” in 1991, but another notable role for him was of Paul Maclean in “A River Runs Through It” in 1992, directed by Robert Redford. “River” caused Pitt to relentlessly practice fly-fishing in preparation for the role. He starred in a couple more films in 1992, including “Cool World” and “Contact.”
Even though Pitt couldn’t shake the effect of his looks on his career, he spiced things up a bit with the crime drama “Kalifornia,” in which he plays a paroled criminal (also starring on-again-off-again flame Juliette Lewis), and a part in “True Romance” in 1993.
“Legends of the Fall,” starring Anthony Hopkins, came in 1994, and came to be known as one of the ultimate showcases of the screen magic of Brad’s physicality and the visual fixation he generates. The story hinged on the same idea, with his rebellious and wild character Tristan always overshadowing the well-meaning older brother Albert, played by Aidan Quinn.
Not surprisingly, following the film, People magazine named Pitt the Sexiest Man Alive, in 1994.
Pitt also starred in “The Favor” and “Interview with a Vampire” in 1994, where his character famously kissed a 12-year-old Kirsten Dunst.
Again Pitt sought to stray from the pretty boy image, starring in the psychological thrillers “12 Monkeys” and “Se7en” in 1995, in which Gwyneth Paltrow played his wife and Morgan Freeman played his detective partner. Pitt began dating Paltrow at this time, and the two maintained a relationship for almost two years.
Also in 1995, Pitt was named as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history by Empire magazine.
In 1996, Pitt starred in “Sleepers,” a drama costarring Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Minnie Driver, Jason Patric, Kevin Bacon and Billy Crudup. “Sleepers” was about a group of boys who are sent to a detention center and are brutalized, and are able 10 years later to get their own justice. In December of the same year, Pitt and Paltrow became engaged.
People magazine again put the spotlight on Pitt, including him in their 50 Most Beautiful People issue in both 1996 and 1997. He has always been a philanthropist, and donated $100,000 in June 1996 to The Discovery Center in Springfield, Mo., a children's learning museum in his hometown.
In 1997, he continued his atypical film choices with “The Devil’s Own” and “Seven Years in Tibet,” a film that won acclaim from supporters of the movement to free the country and got Pitt and his co-star banned from entering China for life. (China viewed the movie as portraying their army in a bad light, and treating the Dalai Lama like a hero, while China views him as a traitor.)
Pitt took the role of Heinrich Harrer in "Tibet" to prove he could carry a film of that magnitude and depth, but didn’t let it turn into an opportunity to grandstand about Tibet. In fact, he told Time magazine, “Who cares what I think China should do? I'm a f***ing actor ... I'm a grown man who puts on makeup.”
In June 1997, personal drama for Pitt took the front burner as his engagement to Paltrow dissolved during the making of “Meet Joe Black.” Much mystery surrounded the breakup as the two remained mum about the reasons for the split, and both Paltrow and Pitt broke down in subsequent interviews about the pain it caused them.
Despite the difficulty, Pitt’s status was unchanged as Empire magazine named him one of “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” in October 1997.
In 1998, “Meet Joe Black” was released, and viewers tried to wrap their minds around the concept of a gorgeous, tuxedo-clad Brad Pitt as the human embodiment of Death. The movie was met with mixed reviews, as many critics thought it too long and boring, even though some admitted that somewhere within the three-hour drama there was a good 90-minute movie.
Also in 1998, Pitt began dating “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel on the popular NBC sitcom. The two became the target of paparazzi, who followed them on trips to Italy and staked out their property in California.
Pitt teamed up with “Se7en” director David Fincher again for the hugely popular and extremely violent film “Fight Club.” The film was released in 1999, with Pitt playing the volatile soap-salesman Tyler Durden, who forms an underground society to help vent male aggression.
Unfortunately for Pitt, in January 1999, a female stalker crawled through an open window and broke into his Hollywood home shortly after midnight on Jan. 7. She wore his clothes and hung out in his house for 10 hours before an alarm went off and she was caught by police.
A restraining order was granted against 19-year-old Athena Rolando on Feb. 10, and she was ordered not to contact the actor and to stay 100 yards from him for the next three years.
In 2000, People magazine again named him the Sexiest Man Alive, making Pitt the only man ever to be given the title twice. It proved to be an even bigger year for Pitt, who spent a reported $1 million on a lavish wedding to Jennifer Aniston in Malibu on June 29.
The two became Hollywood’s new golden couple, staying happy for the next few years and making various highly-anticipated appearances at awards shows and around Hollywood. Also in 2000, Pitt appeared in the movie "Snatch," directed by British director (and Mr. Madonna) Guy Ritchie.
After Pitt’s wedding to Aniston, the company that made their original wedding rings, which they designed themselves, began manufacturing replicas of them. Damiani International started selling them as “Brad and Jennifer” rings, 18 karat gold rings featuring 12 diamonds, at $1,000 apiece.
The Pitts sued and reached a settlement under which Pitt would design new jewelry for the company that Aniston would model in ads, in exchange for an agreement that Damiani would cease selling the couple’s original wedding ring designs.
It was a busy time for Brad as the dark comedy “The Mexican” starring Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini, the CIA drama “Spy Game” co-starring Robert Redford and the ensemble hit “Ocean’s Eleven” all came out in 2001.
“Ocean’s” was a remake of the Rat Pack hit from 1960, only starring an all-star modern version of the group with George Clooney (as Frank Sinatra’s Danny Ocean), Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan and Don Cheadle.
Pitt delved more into his humanitarian efforts in 2001, traveling to Turkey with the “Ocean’s Eleven” cast to visit U.S. troops and becoming an outspoken supporter of stem cell research, AIDS research and the eradication of poverty and disease in third-world countries.
Also in 2001, Pitt made a highly-anticipated cameo on his wife’s TV show, playing a formerly overweight friend of Monica’s (Courtney Cox) who always disliked Rachel (Aniston). He also did cameos in projects like "Ocean’s Eleven" director Steven Soderbergh’s “Full Frontal” in 2001, MTV’s "Jackass," in which he plays himself being kidnapped by Johnny Knoxville’s gang of pranksters and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in 2002.
He also dabbled in ads — but only overseas — for products like Edwin Jeans in Japan, the Toyota Altis and ROOTS, a Japanese canned coffee product. In 2002 he was replaced in these ads with Kevin Costner. The only domestic commercial featuring Brad has been a Heineken commercial directed by "Fight Club" director Fincher, which aired during the 2005 Super Bowl.
In 2003, Pitt was the voice of Sinbad in the animated feature “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas,” and also had a voice-cameo on the FOX show “King of the Hill” that same year.
During his marriage to Aniston, the two spoke publicly about starting a family, especially as rumors about the end of “Friends” began and Aniston suggested that the end of the series might be the opportunity the couple had been waiting for. Pitt made it clear that he admired his brother Doug’s family and longed to be a dad himself.
Rumors of marital stress came though during Pitt’s long absence from the U.S. while filming the epic “Troy” in Mexico, in which he played the lead character Achilles.
Despite having gotten into phenomenal shape and gaining over 20 pounds for the role, Pitt also suffered a severe injury during production, tearing his Achilles tendon and forcing the production of the sequel “Ocean’s Twelve” to be pushed back to 2004.
“Troy” debuted to mixed reviews in 2004, with some critics calling it void of any meaning or passion. “Ocean’s Twelve,” while highly anticipated due to its predecessor’s success and creation of a new hot Hollywood band of brothers, also was less successful than expected.
The year 2004 brought about a sea change for Pitt, who began filming “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with sultry Angelina Jolie. Rumors swirled of an affair between the two stemming from affection and flirting on set, but the rumors were vehemently denied.
Compounding the situation were augmented reports of marital trouble for the Pitts, with Aniston launching a film career and speculations that she was putting off motherhood.
Jolie was quite the opposite, having receded from the limelight in favor of her adopted son Maddox, charity work and humanitarian efforts in over a dozen other countries. It seemed a likely match for Pitt, especially since both were considered to be two of the most beautiful and successful stars in Hollywood.
Pitt and Aniston announced their separation in January 2005 after four and a half years of marriage, and Pitt began spending his nights in various L.A. hotels.
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” was a box-office hit, as audiences relished the steamy scenes between Pitt and Jolie. Rumors of a romance had so far had been unconfirmed and the two maintained that there was no infidelity during Pitt’s marriage.
The moniker “Brangelina” was born as the press followed the scandal and the former (and new) couple’s every move.
Aniston filed for divorce on March 25, 2005. According to Wikipedia, she claimed, “their personal reasons for entering the marriage were not completely honest and they could not sustain the deceit, both in their private and public lives.”
In April, Pitt and Jolie were spotted on the shores of Kenya with her son, and paparazzi photos exploded all over tabloids. There were even rumors that bellhops were summoned to their hotel room on reports of late-night lovemaking noises. Pitt became very much the surrogate father, and reports surfaced that Jolie’s son referred to him as “Daddy.”
Pitt went to Ethiopia with Jolie in July 2005 to pick up her adopted baby daughter Zahara, but came back to L.A. with a mild case of viral meningitis and spent a few days in the hospital.
His divorce became final Oct. 2, 2005, and Brad stayed busy taking humanitarian trips with Jolie to Pakistan to support earthquake victims as ambassadors of Unicef.
In December, it was announced that Pitt sought to adopt Angelina’s two children and legally change their surnames to Jolie-Pitt. That request was granted Jan. 19, 2006, shortly after it was announced that Jolie was pregnant with Pitt’s child. Between the adoptions and Jolie’s pregnancy, Pitt finally became a dad at 42, as he’d always wanted.
In 2006, two films featuring Brad are in post-production, including “Babel” and the Pitt-produced “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” in which he plays the title character James.
There are also plans for Pitt to shoot a sequel to “Ocean’s Twelve” in July, and for him to star in a satirical film about his Hollywood life called “Chad Schmidt.” He has also signed on to star as the title character in the film “Benjamin Button” in 2007.