Brad Pitt says being a father has given him something that fame and money never could – a way to escape a sadness that's clung to him since his days as a boy growing up in Missouri.
"It's the greatest thing I've ever taken on," Pitt said of parenting on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday. "It's the most difficult, the most rewarding and the most fun. I think this is the greatest thing I could possibly achieve, and hats off to all the parents out there."
Pitt says his happiness as a dad was made clear to him while playing Jesse James in the new film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
James also grew up in Missouri, and Pitt found himself reconnecting with his past – one defined by a general sense of melancholy that he said is deeply ingrained in the prairie culture.
"He's from the same area that I'm from," Pitt said. "I was surprised how much that meant to me in the end, to do something that had a connection with home."
But it also brought back what he called the "congenital sadness" of the region. "It's something that I feel in my grandparents, in the people I've met, in a Southern way of life," said Pitt. "It's something pervasive, an undercurrent that I think Christianity answers."
For Pitt, having children helped lift the cloud. "They say the funniest things I've ever heard," he said. "They're the funniest people I've ever met."
A lot of the skill of parenting, he said, comes from instinct. But it doesn't hurt to have some help.
"One of the things I'm most happy about for my kids," Pitt said, "is that they have a mother, I think, because she's amazing."
The Assassination of Jesse James opens Friday.
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