SPRINGFIELD, Mo. When Brad Pitt won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time..in Hollywood” you could tell from the reaction of fellow actors like Al Pacino, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio that a lot of his peers were happy to see him win.
“Wow! This is incredible,” Pitt said as he accepted the Oscar to a roaring ovation from the crowd.
It’s been a long road for the 56 year-old actor who started his career in 1987 with TV parts on shows such as “Dallas” and “Growing Pains” only to break-out in the 1991 movie “Thelma and Louise” as a cowboy hitchhiker and go on to a wide-scope of roles over the next three decades.
Pitt did win an Academy Award in 2014 as the producer for the Best Picture “12 Years a Slave”, but you could tell the acting award was an honor close to his heart.
“Once upon a time in Hollywood, ain’t that the truth,” Pitt said in comparing his career to the movie title. “I’m not one to look back but this has made me do so. I think of my folks taking me to the drive-in movie to see ‘Butch and Sundance’.”
Pitt’s love of movies began during his formative years in Springfield where he graduated from Kickapoo High School.
Michael Butcher, the school’s theatre director, says Pitt is not only a source of pride to the aspiring students in his department but an example of where dreams can take them.
“It’s kind of surreal to think he went to school here,” Butcher said.”It gives them a sense that they can do this. I’ve been here 21 years and I’ve had a lot of students who have gone on and are working professionally and part of that was an inspiration from Brad Pitt.”
“It means the world to the Brown and Gold,” added Tony Loudis, who taught Pitt’s journalism class at Kickapoo and understands the pride the school has in its famous alum.
Brad would go on to major in journalism at Mizzou before leaving the university just two weeks before finishing his degree to head to L.A. and pursue acting.
“If there was a failure in my life it was that Brad didn’t complete his journalism degree,” Loudis said with a grin. “But that’s O.K.”
Yeah, Pitt did pretty good for himself despite the sudden career change.
In 1998 one of his most memorable returns to Springfield was to open his movie “Meet Joe Black” during the peak of his “Sexiest Man Alive” popularity where swooning fans couldn’t get enough of the hometown boy.
Brad’s stardom, though, never kept him from forgetting his roots in Springfield.
“This is my home,” he said. “This is the place that shaped me and made a big impression on me. That’s why I want to give back.”