Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
While struggling to establish himself in Los Angeles, Pitt took lessons from acting coach Roy London. He took on various occasional jobs, spending some time as a chauffeur and dressing up as an El Pollo Loco chicken to pay for acting lessons. Pitt's onscreen career began in 1987, with uncredited parts in the films No Way Out, No Man's Land and Less Than Zero. His television debut came in November of the same year with a guest appearance on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. He appeared in four episodes of the CBS primetime soap opera Dallas between December 1987 and February 1988 as Randy, the boyfriend of Charlie Wade (played by Shalane McCall). Pitt described his character as "an idiot boyfriend who gets caught in the hay." Speaking of his scenes with McCall, Pitt later said "It was kind of wild, because I'd never even met her before." Later in 1988, Pitt made a guest appearance on the Fox police drama 21 Jump Street. In the same year, the Yugoslavian–U.S. co-production The Dark Side of the Sun (1988) gave Pitt his first leading film role, as a young American taken by his family to the Adriatic to find a remedy for a skin condition. However, the film was shelved on the outbreak of the Croatian War of Independence, and was released only in 1997. Pitt made two motion picture appearances in 1989: the first in a supporting role in the comedy Happy Together; the second a featured role in the horror film Cutting Class, the first of Pitt's films to reach theaters. He made guest appearances on television series Head of the Class, Freddy's Nightmares, Thirtysomething, and (for a second time) Growing Pains. Pitt was cast as Billy Canton, a drug addict who takes advantage of a young runaway (played by Juliette Lewis) in the 1990 NBC television movie Too Young to Die?, the story of an abused teenager sentenced to death for a murder. Ken Tucker, television reviewer for Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Pitt is a magnificent slimeball as her hoody boyfriend; looking and sounding like a malevolent John Cougar Mellencamp, he's really scary." The same year, Pitt co-starred in six episodes of the short-lived Fox drama Glory Days, and took a supporting role in the HBO television movie The Image. His next appearance came in the 1991 film Across the Tracks; Pitt portrayed Joe Maloney, a high school runner with a criminal brother, played by Ricky Schroder. After years of supporting roles in movies and frequent television guest appearances, broader public recognition came for Pitt with his supporting role in the 1991 road film Thelma & Louise. He played J.D., a small-time criminal who befriends Thelma (Geena Davis). His love scene with Davis has been cited as the moment that defined Pitt as a sex symbol. After Thelma & Louise, Pitt starred in the 1991 film Johnny Suede, a low-budget picture about an aspiring rock star, and the 1992 film Cool World, although neither furthered his career in light of their poor reviews and box office performance. Pitt took the role of Paul Maclean in the 1992 biographical film A River Runs Through It, directed by Robert Redford. His portrayal of the character has been described as a career-making performance, proving that Pitt could be more than a "cowboy-hatted hunk", although he admitted that he felt under pressure when making the film. Pitt added that he considered it one of his "weakest performances ... It's so weird that it ended up being the one that I got the most attention for." Pitt believed that he benefited from working with such a talented cast and crew, going on to compare working with Redford to playing tennis, saying "when you play with somebody better than you, your game gets better." In 1993, Pitt reunited with Juliette Lewis, co-star from Too Young to Die?, for the road film Kalifornia. He played Early Grayce, a serial killer and the boyfriend of Lewis's character in a performance Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described as "outstanding, all boyish charm and then a snort that exudes pure menace". Pitt also garnered attention for a brief appearance in the cult hit True Romance as a stoner named Floyd, providing much needed comic relief to the action film. He capped the year by winning a ShoWest Award for Male Star of Tomorrow.
1994 marked a significant turning point in Pitt's career. Starring as vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac in the feature film Interview with the Vampire, based on Anne Rice's 1976 novel of the same name, he was part of an ensemble cast that included Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, and Antonio Banderas. Despite winning two MTV Movie Awards at the 1995 ceremony, his performance was poorly received. According to the Dallas Observer, "Brad Pitt ... is a large part of the problem [in the film]. When directors play up his cocky, hunkish, folksy side ... he's a joy to watch. But there's nothing about him that suggests inner torment or even self-awareness, which makes him a boring Louis." Following the release of Interview with the Vampire, Pitt starred in Legends of the Fall (1994), a film set during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Pitt portrayed Tristan Ludlow, son of Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), and received his first Golden Globe Award nomination, in the Best Actor category. Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas co-starred as Pitt's brothers. Although the film's reception was mixed, many film critics complimented Pitt's performance. Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, "Pitt's diffident mix of acting and attitude works to such heartthrob perfection it's a shame the film's superficiality gets in his way" while the Deseret News predicted that Legends of the Fall would solidify Pitt's reputation as a lead actor. In 1995, Pitt starred alongside Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow in the crime thriller Seven, playing a detective on the trail of a serial killer (played by Kevin Spacey). Pitt called the film a great movie and declared the part would expand his acting horizons, expressing a desire to move on from "this 'pretty boy' thing [...] and play someone with flaws". His performance was critically well-received, with Variety saying that it was screen acting at its best, further remarking on Pitt's ability to turn in a "determined, energetic, creditable job" as the detective. Seven earned $327 million at the international box office. Following the success of Seven, Pitt took a supporting role as Jeffrey Goines in Terry Gilliam's 1995 science-fiction film 12 Monkeys. The movie received predominantly positive reviews, with Pitt praised in particular. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called Twelve Monkeys "fierce and disturbing" and remarked on Pitt's "startlingly frenzied performance", concluding that he "electrifies Jeffrey with a weird magnetism that becomes important later in the film." He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film and received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The following year he had a role in the legal drama Sleepers (1996), based on the Lorenzo Carcaterra's novel of the same name. The film received mixed reviews. In the 1997 movie The Devil's Own Pitt starred, opposite Harrison Ford, as the Irish Republican Army terrorist Rory Devany, a role for which he was required to learn an Irish accent. Critical opinion was divided on his approximation of the accent; "Pitt finds the right tone of moral ambiguity, but at times his Irish brogue is too convincing – it's hard to understand what he's saying", wrote the San Francisco Chronicle while a contributor from The Charleston Gazette opined that it had favored Pitt's accent over the movie. The Devil's Own grossed $140 million worldwide, but was a critical failure. Later that year he led as Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in the Jean-Jacques Annaud film Seven Years in Tibet. Pitt trained for months for the role, which demanded significant mountain climbing and trekking practice, including by rock climbing in California and the European Alps with his co-star David Thewlis. The film received mostly negative reviews, and was generally considered a disappointment. Pitt then had the lead role in 1998's Meet Joe Black. He portrayed a personification of death inhabiting the body of a young man to learn what it is like to be human. The film received mixed reviews, and many were critical of Pitt's performance. According to Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, Pitt was unable to "to make an audience believe that he knows all the mysteries of death and eternity." Along with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Grey, CEO of Paramount Pictures, Pitt founded the film production company Plan B Entertainment in 2002, although Aniston and Grey withdrew in 2005. The company has produced several films, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp in 2005, as well as 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie. Plan B was also involved in producing The Departed, the winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture. Pitt was credited onscreen as a producer; however, only Graham King was ruled eligible for the Oscar win. Pitt has been reluctant to discuss the production company in interviews. Pitt has appeared in several television commercials: one for the U.S. market, a Heineken commercial aired during the 2005 Super Bowl; it was directed by David Fincher, who had directed Pitt in Seven, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Other commercial appearances came in television spots designed for Asian markets, advertising such products as the Acura Integra, in which he was featured opposite Russian model Tatiana Sorokko, as well as SoftBank and Edwin Jeans. Pitt supports the ONE Campaign, an organization aimed at combating AIDS and poverty in the developing world. He narrated the 2005 PBS public television series Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge, which discusses current global health issues and traveled to Pakistan in November 2005 with Angelina Jolie to see the impact of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. The following year Pitt and Jolie flew to Haiti, where they visited a school supported by Yéle Haïti, a charity founded by Haitian-born hip hop musician Wyclef Jean. In May 2007, Pitt and Jolie donated $1 million to three organizations in Chad and Sudan dedicated to those affected by the crisis in the Darfur region. Along with Clooney, Damon, Don Cheadle, and Jerry Weintraub, Pitt is one of the founders of "Not On Our Watch", an organization that tries to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent genocides such as that in Darfur. Pitt has a sustained interest in architecture and has narrated Design e2, a PBS television series focused on worldwide efforts to build environmentally friendly structures through sustainable architecture and design. He founded the Make It Right Foundation in 2006, organizing housing professionals in New Orleans to finance and construct 150 sustainable, affordable new houses in New Orleans's Ninth Ward following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The project involves 13 architectural firms and the environmental organization Global Green USA, with several of the firms donating their services. Pitt and philanthropist Steve Bing have each committed $5 million in donations. The first six homes were completed in October 2008, and in September 2009 Pitt received an award in recognition of the project from the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Pitt met with U.S. President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in March 2009 to promote his concept of green housing as a national model and to discuss federal funding possibilities. In September 2006, Pitt and Jolie established a charitable organization, the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to aid humanitarian causes around the world. The foundation made initial donations of $1 million each to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders, followed by an October 2006 donation of $100,000 to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, an organization created in memory of the late American journalist Daniel Pearl. According to federal filings, Pitt and Jolie invested $8.5 million into the foundation in 2006; it gave away $2.4 million in 2006 and $3.4 million in 2007. In June 2009 the Jolie-Pitt Foundation donated $1 million to a U.N. refugee agency to help Pakistanis displaced by fighting between troops and Taliban militants. In January 2010 the foundation donated $1 million to Doctors Without Borders for emergency medical assistance to help victims of the Haiti earthquake.