Actors Brad Pitt and B.D. Wong arrive for the Seven Years in Tibet Gala opening -- Carlo Allegri, Sun

Toronto Film Festival 97

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Sunday, September 14, 1997

Camera loves him

Brad pitt takes all the attention in stride

By BRUCE KIRKLAND -- Toronto Sun

 Under heavy but chaotic security, amid tension and paranoia about psycho fans and overzealous paparazzi, Brad Pitt took the Toronto film fest hostage yesterday.
 Surrounded by burly bodyguards in black suits, Pitt was here for last night's world premiere of Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years In Tibet, a true story in which Pitt stars as an Austrian Nazi athlete and mountain climber who escapes a British POW camp and ends up in Tibet, where he tutors the Dalai Lama, learns humility and renounces his fascist past.
 At a press conference in the Four Seasons Hotel, Pitt tried to dampen the hysteria inspired by his arrival in front of 125 journalists, two dozen press photographers and 20 television crews. "People should just mellow out," Pitt pleaded, flashing a million-megawatt smile as he shook his mop of yellow hair.
 As a movie star hounded by the media for years, Pitt was asked his thoughts on the paparazzi's role in the death of Princess Diana. "It's heartbreaking to lose this humanitarian," said Pitt, adding he had great empathy for her tragedy, which he blames on the photographers as much as on a drunken driver.
 "I've said it before. I do think it was a matter of time (before someone would die), whether it was a pedestrian or whether it was a celebrity or whether it was a paparazzo. It's a dangerous situation that has been created, drinks or no drinks."
 Pitt's Toronto visit, however, was actually a calm situation compared to some media mob scenes, even though the hotel was plagued with fans trying to track down their hero. Festival and Columbia Tri-Star officials drew such a tight circle around the event that even legitimate journalists had to endure a lineup to get in to a room that had a Great Wall of Tibet erected between them and the stars.
 But once he arrived with Annaud, co-stars including David Thewlis, and others involved in the film, Pitt was a model of cooperation. He even answered questions about the real-life Nazi past of his character, Heinrich Harrer.
 The Nazi news broke during filmmaking, but Pitt said it didn't change his acting because he had "already established that his man is egotistical and a man of great hubris doing anything to further his own ends. This element (a Nazi past) just enhances his story. It's certainly nothing that bothered me." Harrer, at least in the film, rejects Nazism by the end.
 Annaud said he always suspected that Harrer, who is still alive and still a friend of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, was hiding a Nazi background. "So, when the news broke, what was a revelation to other people was just a confirmation for me."
 Both Annaud and Pitt have been banned from China because of the film, which depicts the Chinese invasion and slaughter of one million Tibetans after 1949. "Let it come, it's all right," Pitt said of the ban. "I don't know politics. I don't pretend to." But he called the Chinese invasion "a crime in history -- it's worth taking a look at it. I'm not going to make any statement other than: This is what went down."
 Pitt raised a hand to emphasize a point. Dozens of flashbulbs exploded trying to capture the moment. He looked dazed at the onslaught and cried out, "Come on already!"

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