Brad Pitt took on the leadership role of his character in his latest film.
The actor plays the larger-than-life Gen. Glen McMahon in his upcoming Netflix movie War Machine, in which he gets to show off his satire chops — and lead a team of men who look up to him. Pitt was surrounded by younger actors in the film, including Topher Grace, who said the dynamic on set mimicked the film.
“That was the great thing about this movie, is that what we were portraying on screen — Brad’s not like that character — but it was kind of the dynamic that you see,” Grace, 38, told PEOPLE at a special screening of the film in New York City on Tuesday. “He’s a great leader, we were all happy to be following him through the desert. And everyone has great chemistry, we all really loved each other.”
Aside from Grace, Pitt leads a group of men that includes John Magaro, Anthony Hayes, The OA‘s Emory Cohen, Get Out‘s Lakeith Standfield and We’re the Millers‘ Will Poulter. The military satire follows the group, along with veteran actor Anthony Michael Hall, as they attempt to win the war in Afghanistan through counterinsurgency — a concept that isn’t ever successfully explained.
The movie is based on Michael Hasting’s book The Operators, which chronicles his reporting for a controversial Rolling Stone article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal that eventually led to the general’s resignation. The article claimed McChrystal — whom Pitt’s character is based on — and his men openly criticized then-President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden’s strategy on the war in Afghanistan.
Director David Michôd echoed Grace, saying it wasn’t hard for Pitt, 53, to naturally take on a leadership role on set. “Brad is an iconic figure, it’s very difficult to gather a bunch of young guys around him and not have them just love the experience,” he told PEOPLE. “Being in a movie with Brad is always going to be an important career milestone.”
The screening capped off Pitt’s most public day in months following his difficult divorce from Angelina Jolie. The actor stopped by Stephen Colbert‘s The Late Show, where he humorously pondered life’s great mysteries with the late-night host.
Pitt also attended the War Machine screening, where he was spotted mingling with attendees beforehand. The actor appeared to be in high spirits as he presented the film and greeted costars, as well as friends Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, who had stepped out to support Pitt.
War Machine, also starring Meg Tilly, arrives on Netflix worldwide on May 26.