The World War Z star can recall a time, not so long ago, when he was adrift – unable to find a focus, and wasting his life pursuing the wrong things.
Until one day, he decided to do something about it.
"I spent years f––ing off," Pitt, 49, tells Esquire in its June/July issue, on newsstands May 31. "But then I got burnt out and felt that I was wasting my opportunity. It was a conscious change. This was about a decade ago."
He adds: "It was an epiphany – a decision not to squander my opportunities. It was a feeling of get up. Because otherwise, what's the point?"
At the time, he was scared it might be too late. He was reaching 40, and had been through years of hard living in search of an elusive high.
"For a long time I thought I did too much damage – drug damage," he says. "I was a bit of a drifter. A guy who felt he grew up in something of a vacuum and wanted to see things, wanted to be inspired. I followed that other thing."
The New ChaosIn the decade since, he's become a new man with a new life. He split from wife Jennifer Aniston in 2005 and soon started a family with Angelina Jolie. They now have six children, and Pitt speaks of them, as usual, in reverent tones – almost as if they saved his life.
"I always thought that if I wanted to do a family, I wanted to do it big," he says. "There's constant chatter in our house, whether it's giggling or screaming or crying or banging. I love it. I love it. I love it. I hate it when they're gone. I hate it. Maybe it's nice to be in a hotel room for a day – 'Oh, nice, I can finally read a paper.' But then, by the next day, I miss that cacophony, all that life."
In a sense, life has narrowed for Pitt. And in that narrowing, he found what he was searching for.
"I have very few friends," he says. "I have a handful of close friends and I have my family and I haven't known life to be any happier. I'm making things. I just haven't known life to be any happier."