By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 16, 2009 at 7:55AM
Brad Pitt graces the cover of Wired Magazine's August issue, which just arrived in my morning mail. (The mag hits newstands July 21, and will post on Wired.com Thursday night after E.T.'s broadcast break.) He's frowning at wearing a bluetooth headset, and the coverline reads "With advice from Inglourious Basterd Brad Pitt"---about all the mention his new movie receives in the magazine.
That's because Wired doesn't tend to sell magazines with movie stars. Truth is, with Premiere gone, there aren't many classy monthly magazine covers left for male stars of Pitt's stature. And he's already done the good ones. Tabloids like People, Us and In Touch have taken over the supermarket racks. Old media moguls like Tina Brown and Bonnie Fuller are jumping into the online fray. (Tabloid queen Fuller is joining Mail.com owner Jay Penske's HollywoodLife.com.) Gone are the days when uber-press agents like Pat Kingsley batted off cover requests like flies while demanding deal terms like photographer and writer approval. Pitt doesn't even pay a PR rep anymore.
So what's a matinee idol to do? Several months ago, Pitt had his agency CAA call Wired--Conde Nast's tech-savvy mag with a growing circulation of about 700,000 readers, predominantly male--and suggest him for the cover. Neil Patrick Harris had just turned the magazine down. After much back and forth, Wired confirmed that Pitt really did want to be on their August cover.
The magazine was interested in fitting him into their August package "New Rules for Digital Gentlemen and Other Highly Evolved Humans," but he had to meet their specific needs. In the end, he did it their way. Pitt turned up at L.A.'s Smashbox Studios alone, sans entourage, for a photo shoot with Dan Winters. He was interviewed for the cover story about bathroom text and phone etiquette and offered some advice to Twitter King Ashton Kutcher about posting pictures of his wife's butt, among other things. His cover pull quote is delicious: "Who cares if your Warcraft wife is really a dude. If it's good, don't check under the hood."
This change in star behavior is indicative of an overall sea change in Hollywood. Talking about her plans for Hollywood Life, Fuller told the NYT that celebrity is "not just about movie stars any more." As studios slash budgets, they are reevaluating what stars are worth. That measurement used to be about opening movies: you paid a major star $20 million to put audience butts in seats. All that is clearly not working any more, as robots, reboots and animated characters are selling better this summer than the likes of Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell and Christian Bale. I see smart star Pitt, 45, recognizing that a cool cover on a cool magazine might sell some tickets to his Quentin Tarantino World War II flick this August. Therefore it was worth chasing--and then going with the flow.
Meanwhile, Wired discovered the advantages of publicizing a cover--in this celeb-crazed internet age--with a star of Pitt's caliber. Besides People and E.T., they nabbed coverage from Perez Hilton, MTV: Hollywood Crush, Us Magazine, PopSugar, X17 Online, The Post Chronicle, Hampton Roads, The Frisky, Towleroad and Kansas City Star.