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Brad Pitt, Hollywood’s Godfather

September 6, 2013

Brad Pitt is something of a Hollywood do-gooder. From his political causes to his charity projects, the A-list star and producer has an impulse to create good work – an attitude clearly seen in the upcoming historical drama "12 Years A Slave." At the film’s Sept. 6 showing at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, the 49-year-old described himself as something of a “godfather” working behind the scenes.

“It’s my responsibility as [a] godfather to make the production as good as it can be, to the best of my knowledge,” Pitt told reporters at the Princess of Wales Theatre. “You’re in the background, clearing the way so the artist can do his thing.”

“12 Years a Slave” tells the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free African-American who is kidnapped while on a trip to Washington, D.C. and spends the next 12 years in slavery. Boasting an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Northrup), Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano, and Sarah Paulson, the film is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steve McQueen ("Shame").

But even with all of those names attached, Pitt knew he needed to bring more to the table to attract investors. That was one of the reasons he agreed to a small cameo, playing a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass.

“It’s difficult material to get financing for… It doesn’t necessarily sound like a profitable idea,” Brad Pitt said of “12 Years.” “Our idea was to get as much of the cast together as we could and as much of the crew, so [the investors] could feel it and see what shape it would be.”

Also on the TIFF red carpet on Friday, the film’s main star praised Pitt for backing the film. “Brad being on this film made it happen,” Ejiofor said. “Him producing the film and working with the film the way that he did allowed us to be here tonight.”

There’s already plenty of Oscar hype surrounding the film and Ejiofor, who has been working steadily in British and Hollywood films since the 1990s. Many believe “12 Years” will be a breakout role, and the 36-year-old actor’s elation on the red carpet was palpable. “I feel great, I feel very excited,” Ejiofor told reporters. “I’m thrilled to begin the process of getting the film out there and people seeing it. It’s a beautiful film. I’m so proud of this. I’m thrilled to be here.”

Pitt’s last foray into producing was the 2011 film “Moneyball,” which didn’t travel an easy road to the big screen. Production was halted twice – once because of Pitt’s objections to the screenplay and again because of budget issues. Of course, it was all worth it, as “Moneyball” was ultimately a commercial and critical success, nabbing six Oscar nominations (including a Best Actor nod for Pitt himself). That love of creating is what motivated Pitt to don the producer hat yet again.

“I love film. Film had a big impact on me growing up in Southern Missouri,” Pitt said. “When I saw a film that had that transformative experience, it had an indelible effect on me.”

Now that he seems to have acting and producing down, would Pitt ever consider directing?

“No,” he said, with a bit of a smirk. “Never.”

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sept. 15.

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