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Perfect jokes & Jennifer Aniston: Brad Pitt's Oscar campaign was his best performance yet.

We’re witnessing Brad Pitt‘s third act. It’s a tale of a 56-year-old man, wisened from a life of scrutiny and personal turmoil.

There have been out-of-the-blue magazine profiles in which he opened up about his struggles with alcohol; public reflections on his parenting and the breakdown of his relationship with Angelina Jolie; acceptance speeches in which he cracks wise with all the deftness of a seasoned comic.

We’re seeing a man who’s reflective, introspective, humbled and witty. And at the core of it all, just a bloke working out what it means to be a single, working dad.

But… is any of it actually authentic?

Watch: Brad Pitt, the comedian, at the 2020 SAG Awards.

Video by TNT

Laura Brodnik, Mamamia‘s Entertainment Editor (and a font of wisdom on the Oscars machine), is among those who believe Pitt’s reinvention is part of a meticulously engineered campaign to win his first Academy Award for acting. Pitt’s been nominated three times before and won Best Picture in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave, which he produced and starred in.

So far this season, he’s taken home every other major award for his role in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. But when it comes to vying for a little gold man, a decent performance simply isn’t enough.

As Laura previously explained, “The majority of the award categories are nominated by the members of the corresponding branch to the award. This means that actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors and all voting members are then eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.

“As with any election, whether it be for Prime Minister or a primary school canteen committee, it all comes down to public perception, overall popularity and how you are viewed by your peers in relation to your competitors.”

Listen: The Spill discuss Brad Pitt’s campaign strategy. Post continues after podcast.

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That’s where the campaigning comes in. And studios spend big money to make them happen.

A source told Variety that the Oscar campaign for the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga movie A Star Is Born cost close to $20 million — and apparently that was a tad less than most. Remember the narrative spun around the gushing relationship between the two leads? According to a number of industry experts, that was deliberate, if not completely manufactured.

It now seems we’re seeing a similar crusade with Brad Pitt.

Here’s all the evidence he’s campaigning for gold.

His hilarious acceptance speeches.

The public knows Brad Pitt for many things, but it would be fair to say that being a comedian isn’t one of them. Until this awards season…

“I wanted to bring my mum,” Pitt said at the Golden Globes, “but I couldn’t, because any woman I stand next to, they say I’m dating, and it would just be awkward.”

“Hey, Britain. Heard you just became single,” he quipped at the post-Brexit BAFTAs. “Welcome to the club!”

And this, at the SAG Awards: “Let’s be honest, [the role of Cliff Booth] was a difficult part — a guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife… It was a big stretch.”

Setup, punchline. Perfect delivery. All with a running theme: wry, self-deprecating, endearing.

Not to mention highly suspicious, argues Laura Brodnik. If you ask her, it’s now plainly evident that Brad has enlisted the help of a speechwriter.

“They’ve almost taken it too far past the realm of believability,” she said on Mamamia‘s daily entertainment podcast, The Spill. “He did not suddenly become a super-intensive comic writer who’s commenting on social issues and making jokes like that in his speeches after 30 years… He just didn’t.

“Well-known campaign strategists, whose full-time job is to win people Oscars, have talked about this a lot in the past; your speeches at awards shows leading into the Oscars can not only get you a nomination but can also get you the win. Because at the end of the day, the Oscars is a telecast. They need people to tune in to watch. They need people to make [back] the money that they’ve spent.”

And there’s no doubt Pitt’s speeches this season have built anticipation around what he might say if he wins…

That time Brad Pitt wore a name badge.

Brad Pitt might be humble. But humble enough to wear a name badge at a Hollywood event?

The actor — objectively one of the most recognisable people on our lil’ blue planet — was photographed at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon in January with his own name pinned to his lapel.

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Okay yes, it was pinned on him by someone else. But unlike his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Renée Zellweger, or Charlize Theron, or almost everyone else present, he kept it on.

Another weapon in his charm-offensive? Judging by all the articles and memes, it certainly didn’t hurt.

The Jennifer Aniston backstage ‘moment’.

Fans frothed over footage of Brad Pitt, standing backstage at the SAG Awards, proudly watching his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston accepting her Best Actress for The Morning Show.

The clip was captured by a fortunately placed E!News reporter, who said the actor “couldn’t stop smiling”.

And it got even better. Backstage photographs were then released showing the pair embracing, with Jennifer putting her hand on his chest and… AND… him holding on to it, even as she walked away.

It’s been fifteen years since they split, but — ermagerd, you guys — does all this mean there’s a chance of them getting back together?

Haven’t the foggiest, sorry. But it certainly got the media talking and fans anticipating their next run-in. Say, at the Academy Awards?

Even if their encounter was mere circumstance, the way it was handled wouldn’t have been. This is a man who has spent three decades in the public eye; he knows how the media works. Nothing he does, at a public event, surrounded by photographers, is going to be accidental.

In fact, according to the photographers who took the already iconic images, it was Brad himself who signalled that the encounter was about to happen. He was walking past a small group of them and, when Jennifer was nearby, called her over.

“I was backstage at the SAG-AFTRA awards and heard a familiar voice shouting ‘Aniston! ANISTON!’,” Vivien Killilea Best, a freelance photographer who also works for Getty Images, wrote on her Instagram account. “I turned around and saw this gem of a moment happen.”

All this has certainly distracted from reports that Brad has little to do with his six children from his marriage to Angelina Jolie. A video emerged in September in which their eldest, Maddox, said he didn’t think his dad would visit him at college.

That followed persistent reports that the couple split in 2016 over an ‘altercation’ on a flight involving Brad and Maddox. The actor was investigated by the F.B.I. for alleged physical abuse during the incident, however, the case was closed and no charges were pursued.

But who remembers that now?

On with the third act!

Feature image: Getty.

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