According to writer/director Tom DiCillo's blog, when the NYC casting director passed him Brad Pitt's head shot, "he'd done a small Canadian TV series and he'd just finished shooting what he'd listed as his only real film credit-something called Thelma and Louise that no one had heard about because it hadn't even been edited yet." And when Pitt came in to audition, DiCillo writes, "Call me an idiot if you want but I was certain of two things the moment he walked in: 1. He was Johnny. 2. He was going to be a star." (DiCillo also writes about the changes made to the final theater release and he's "so thrilled that this version being released on DVD by Anchor Bay is the original Director's Cut, heretofore never seen in this country... Minus the f*cking [sic] voice-over.")
And yes, you can see that Pitt is going to be a star. Maybe he wouldn't be a star because of this funky little indie, but indubitably, DiCillo was right.
Granted, I'm partial to Johnny Suede's downtown NYC vibe, pompadours, and anything with Catherine Keener in it, but Johnny Suede does give us a taste of the Pitt that was to come. And let's not forget cameos by Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Cave, whose white pompadour rivals Johnny's in magnificence and brings to mind director Jim Jarmusch's famous coiffure, which is perhaps no coincidence since DiCillo was the DP for several Jarmusch films.
As Johnny, Pitt is slightly mischievous, earnest, disarming, and somewhat goofy-check out the weird giggle and his weird come-on to Catherine Keener in the first clip after the jump. He inhabits his body comfortably; he owns it. He easily mimics the posturing of a '50s rockabilly wannabe, just as he can do physical comedy in the vein of Burn After Reading, a role that comes to mind because of the smaller but no less impressive pomp he sported in the Coens' black comedy. Similarly, he can transform himself into a Southern serial killer in Kalifornia, the unforgettably batty genius Jeffrey Goines in Twelve Monkeys, or even a CG-amplified man who ages backwards-and I we get a glimpse of the young Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as he looks in Johnny Suede or Thelma and Louise, I'm reminded once again of the journey he's taken as an actor before my eyes.
Catherine Keener, with a bonus musical interlude and Samuel L. Jackson cameo
Nick Cave and Brad Pitt: