It appears that Brad Pitt continues to reap the benefit of his good looks, charm and movie star power despite spurious allegations of abuse leveled by his ex-wife, Angelina Jolie.
Jolie, came forward last month with explosive allegations about how she says Pitt mistreated her and their six children during a long and tense private plane ride from Europe in September 2016. In court documents, Jolie alleged that an intoxicated, out-of-control Pitt choked one of their children and struck another across the face as he terrorized his entire family for hours on the flight to Los Angeles.
For most male stars, allegations of domestic violence are bad enough, but allegations of physically harming minor children could be career-ending.
That hasn’t been the case for Pitt, according to a survey commissioned by the Hollywood Reporter to assess any reputational damage he’s suffered from Jolie’s allegations. The survey of more than 2,000 adults from around the United States shows that the claims have not significantly damaged Pitt’s public image, THR said.
When asked about whether respondents had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Pitt, 70% answered either “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable.” During a follow-up question, when respondents were briefed on Jolie’s allegations, the number for “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” only slipped slightly, dropping to 65%, according to the Morning Consult survey.
Fewer women reported interest in seeing a film starring the actor compared with men, with 49% of women saying they were “somewhat” or “very” interested in seeing a film starring Pitt, compared with 56% of men. Breaking down responses by age, the survey found that two-thirds of those 35 to 44 (66%) said they were “somewhat” or “very” interested in seeing a film starring Pitt.
THR said the perception of people in this demographic is considered important, because that’s the group seen as driving ticket sales to his last two big movies, 2019’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and this summer’s “Bullet Train.”
The Lainey Gossip entertainment site said these survey results show that Pitt appears to be a beneficiary of “himpathy,” a term that describes how famous men get help weaponizing public sentiment when their reputations are called into question. In recent controversies involving Pitt and Johnny Depp, “himpathy” is disturbingly being extended to men accused of domestic violence, Lainey Gossip said.
The more detailed abuse allegations against Pitt came last month, 6 years after the alleged incident, in a cross-complaint Jolie filed in a lawsuit over the sale of the ex-couple’s French winery.
It’s reported Pitt was involved in some kind of altercation with their oldest son Maddox, then 15, on that private plane ride and that the altercation prompted Jolie to file for divorce.
“When one of the children verbally defended Jolie, Pitt lunged at his own child and Jolie grabbed him from behind to stop him,” Jolie’s cross-complaint said, according to the New York Times. “To get Jolie off his back, Pitt threw himself backwards into the airplane’s seats injuring Jolie’s back and elbow. The children rushed in and all bravely tried to protect each other. Before it was over, Pitt choked one of the children and struck another in the face. Some of the children pleaded with Pitt to stop. They were all frightened.”
THR’s survey is to find out if these new allegations will hurt the box office performance for Pitt’s forthcoming movie, “Babylon,” an epic period film from Paramount studios about Hollywood in the silent era, Lainey Gossip said. Pitt stars in the movie, “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle helms the film, and its end-of-calendar-year release means it’s being positioned for Academy Awards consideration.
Lainey Gossip suggested that THR’s report on PItt’s positive survey results is an example of “himpathy” being provided by a respected trade publication for a long popular male star. The THR cited insiders who said that Pitt “remains a consistently bankable movie star” and that his nasty legal battle over child custody, the winery and the abuse allegations “will not change that.” THR quoted an unnamed executive from a rival studio, who said that “the the town will rally around Brad.”
Another executive, however, said that Paramount is dealing with a potential “PR nightmare” with the abuse allegations. The remedy is to not have Pitt play a major role on the press tour, the executive said.
Other industry experts, Matthew Belloni and Eriq Gardner, authors at Puck, previously said on The Town podcast that Jolie’s claims could have serious implications for Pitt’s long-cultivated image as an easy-going movie star.
Gardner referred to Jolie pulling “the nuclear option” by going public with specifics on how Pitt may have physically hurt his children. She essentially declared war on Pitt, Gardner said, with the legal and public-relations battle between them likely to escalate. “We’re going to start seeing Pitt mentioned in a whole different way,” he said.
Belloni said that Jolie mounted “a pointed attack on a person that she knows will get picked up all over the world.” While Belloni questioned why Jolie’s new claims were coming now — several years after the exes were officially declared single — he and Gardner agreed that Pitt would be asked some “hard questions” if we was put in front of reporters to promote “Babylon.”
Pitt also is the producer for the hotly anticipated “She Said” about Harvey Weinstein, the launch of the #MeToo era and culture’s evolving views on believing women when they say they have been abused.
“Right now, he’s the producer of a movie about Harvey Weinstein, and I think that during the release of this film, there could very well be hard questions that are asked about, you know, his own behavior,” Gardner said.