How Brad Pitt Ended Up Reuniting With His Former Stuntman For Bullet Train After Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

In his new movie Bullet Train, Brad Pitt takes on his first lead role in an action movie in quite a while – but the project also holds a little more significance than that when looked at in the context of his recent work. Not only is it an action movie that is following up his Oscar-winning work playing stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but the film sees him team up with director David Leitch, who, decades ago, used to perform as Pitt’s stunt double (and doing a lot of his own stunts).

Cool as the timing of the team-up is, the reality is that it’s coincidental – but what is very real is Brad Pitt’s awe at the career that Leitch has built for himself as a director.

Interviewing Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson last week during the virtual press day for Bullet Train, I kicked off the conversation asking if it was purposeful or a confluence of the universe that reunited the Moneyball star with his former stuntman for a movie after Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He attributed it to the latter, and expressed awe at what the filmmaker has been able to accomplish:

Confluence of the universe. No, it was super, super cool. ...Working with [David] Leitch was like... His story is unprecedented. I don't know of anyone who came from the stunt world who has worked way up to this kind of status of director. And he's certainly developed his own language, and that was really cool to see.

Bullet Train is actually the second time that David Leitch and Brad Pitt have had the chance to work together in recent years, as the Pitt made a brief-but-hilarious cameo as The Vanisher in Deadpool 2 (which Leitch directed back in 2018). Of course, his role is far more substantial in Bullet Train, as he is positioned as the lead of the massive ensemble cast.

Based on the book Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka, Bullet Train stars Brad Pitt as Ladybug – a gun-for-hire with a bad luck streak who takes from his handler (Sandra Bullock) what seems to be a fairly simple mission: board a bullet train traveling through Japan, steal a metal briefcase with a sticker on the handle, and get off at the next stop. What starts as an easy gig gets complicated very quickly, however, as Ladybug discovers that the high-speed rail is also occupied by a number of other professional killers, all of them having their own agendas.

Bullet Train is the fourth feature film David Leitch has made as a solo director since co-helming the hit John Wick in 2014, and Brad Pitt expressed honest amazement at what the filmmaker has been able to do since they first had the chance to collaborate in the late 1990s. Said Pitt,

We met on Fight Club, and we worked all the way up to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and he had these aspirations, and here he is. So for me, it was really cool to see how far he has come and be a part of his thing now, his vision.

Also starring Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Koji, Joey King, Benito A. Martínez Ocasio (better known as Bad Bunny), Hiroyuki Sanada, and many more, Bullet Train arrives in theaters this Friday, August 5 – and you can purchase your tickets now. If you’re curious about other Brad Pitt movies on the horizon, our Upcoming Brad Pitt guide features the information you’re looking for, and our 2022 Movie Release Calendar will provide the release date details for all of the films set to be released in what remains of the year.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.