What Ever Happened to Brad Pitt’s Gonzo Satire Chad Schmidt?
Brad Pitt. The name doesn’t ring a bell so much as it trips a whole alarm system. Pitt’s star power—and, just as notably, his handsome face—have burned across the celebrity landscape for nearly three decades, making him so synonymous with a certain kind of hotness that people who bear even a passing resemblance to him have seen their lives take a turn. Most recently, a man named Nathan Meads (discovered and covered by the DailyMail, that metal detector of the silly and the salacious) has said resembling Pitt has exploded his dating life, to the point where he’s been stalked by several women.
As I read the story of Meads—a 35-year-old groundworker who now also works as a professional Pitt lookalike—I realized it was maybe the closest thing we as a culture would ever get to the greatest movie never made: Chad Schmidt.
Let’s journey to the gallery of unfinished films—past David Lynch’s Ronnie Rocket, Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, and over to this cobweb-covered jewel box of satirical ephemera. Back in 2005, the trades announced that Pitt was set to star in a film titled Chad Schmidt. It was a dark comedy about a struggling actor who happens to look like Pitt, and fails to find his footing in Hollywood after the actual Pitt blows up in films like Thelma and Louise. Pitt was slated to play Schmidt.
Pitt had long been a bona fide star by the time the project was announced. He was a few years removed from Fight Club, the film that arguably made him an icon of cinematic masculinity. He had proven he could go big or small, starring in the crowd-pleaser Ocean’s Eleven, and notching an Oscar nomination for his blessedly weird turn in 12 Monkeys. The actor was also then married to Jennifer Aniston, a golden union that cast Pitt under the sunny sitcom sweetheart’s glow. If ever there was a time to safely lampoon his own image, this was it—long before Brangelina, the divorce, and the post-divorce child abuse allegations, which he was cleared of in 2016.
The film was dreamed up by Steve Conrad, who would go on to write movies like The Pursuit of Happyness and Wonder. He approached Pitt about the idea and got him on board, then composed the story of Chad—a pissy, struggling actor making ends meet by dressing up as the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ titular character. Chad has a bad attitude, a balding head, and big, goofy ears—like Pitt, if he had been “dragged behind a bus for a little bit,” Conrad explained in a 2019 interview.
Pitt himself gave Conrad producing notes to help push the narrative beyond the surface gimmick. He was drawn to exploring a grander theme in the story: “He recognized this would be an invitational way into writing about something that’s worth writing about—our relationship to fate.”
But in spite of its bankable star and juicy log line, the film never went into production. Why? In retrospect, Conrad suspects it fell apart when it was time to pick a director. At the time, Conrad was interested in directing the material himself. But he says Pitt had a dream list of potential auteurs who could helm Chad, including the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino.
“When I saw that list, I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Conrad said. “Those filmmakers are auteurs—they curate their material and generally don’t just make projects that land on their desk; they build them from scratch.”
And so, like most projects in Hollywood, the film fell apart. Still, its plot and promise have proved too irresistible to be forgotten, and Conrad has reportedly fielded questions about it over the years. Conrad has also said he and Pitt still discuss the idea from time to time, though Chad Schmidt will likely never see the light of day. Instead, fans of the concept have had to squint and transpose the dreamlike silhouette of Chad onto other roles, like Pitt’s California-cool stunt double Cliff Booth in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, or his bogus gym bro Chad Feldheimer in the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading. (A tangent: Manohla Dargis’s pan of that comedy is well worth a read; it’s best chased by her poetic ode to Pitt.)
Chad Schmidt didn’t completely vanish, though. In a 2008 interview, Conrad mused about putting the script _. “Why can’t it be like a book?” he asked. “People don’t not see a movie because they read the book—no one said, ‘I don’t wanna see Harry Potter because I read it already.’”
The script is 0nline https://static1.squarespace.com/static/ ... 1)+(1).pdf for all Chad Schmidt tourists to read at their leisure. And it’s a good read, full of bleak, darkly funny moments with a surrealist edge. Chad dresses as Ronald McDonald, desperately trying to use the bathroom at a nearby Burger King; Chad wanders around town with a loose dildo after he takes a job as a P.A. on an adult film set; Chad angrily watches the real Pitt—who’s written as a total buffoon—earnestly use made-up words like “gratisfaction” in an interview with Barbara Walters. Chad also takes a job as a Pitt lookalike, rubbing elbows with other wannabes working as David Letterman and Tom Cruise, a fun house of celebrity doppelgängers. There’s an underlying subplot in which Chad tries to buy the rights to a great, undiscovered British script titled Four Weddings and a Funeral, burning up the inheritance money he was supposed to share with his sister so he can play the dangerously charming lead role later made famous by Hugh GranT.
But some aspects of the script rankle in retrospect, particularly when it comes to race. The only Black character in the script is a delusional writer-director who casts Schmidt in his problematic, goofily written B-movie. There are also multiple nameless Mexican characters who run an illegal used-car scheme, and whose sole purpose is to show up and inflict violence on Chad and his friends. It’s a clumsy and aged handling of race that impedes the film’s otherwise easy flow.
Despite those faults, Chad Schmidt succeeds in exploring its overarching theme of destiny. It offers a deeper look at fate and false promises in Hollywood, the near misses of success, and the tragicomedy inherent in seeing other people live the life you want, by virtue of things you can’t control. There’s a cosmic logic that runs through the script, a savvy awareness of the broken algorithm that metes out stardom with an uneven hand.
Just like the titular Chad, we’ll never know what could have happened if the film had become a reality. But perhaps it’s better this way—for the ironic tale to transform into a spectacularly meta curio of the very industry it sought to lampoon.
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''Lock me down harder Daddy.
Govern me harder Daddy.''