In the extensive talk for GQ Style‘s summer issue, the 53-year-old actor mentioned his estranged wife’s name just once, recommending the interviewer check out her new movie First They Killed My Father: “You should see Angie’s film.”
Speaking with the magazine, Pitt gets candid about a sprawling range of intimate topics, opening up about his six children with Jolie and the public custody fight over them — while admitting that his personal turbulence has been “self-inflicted.”
Pitt also says that and he Jolie are “both doing our best” to work through the divorce — he concedes that the situation has been like a death — even as he reveals that the split has been “jarring” to their children to “suddenly have their family ripped apart.”
After the bitter end of his 12-year relationship with Jolie, Pitt initially agreed to weekly supervised visits with their six kids, Maddox, 15, Pax, 13, Zahara, 12, Shiloh, 10, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 8. The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the FBI launched an investigation after Pitt allegedly got “verbally abusive” and “physical” with Maddox, his and Jolie‘s oldest child, after drinking on the couple’s private plane on Sept. 14, five days before she filed for divorce. They concluded that there were no findings of abuse and the former couple released a joint statement saying they were working with a private judge to resolve their divorce and would “act as a united front” moving forward. The FBI closed the criminal case with no charges.
The actor traveled to three national parks with GQ Style, resulting in three new covers.
Pitt spent much of the interview talking about his transformation since the split – including his healthy lifestyle changes.
“I was boozing too much,” he shared. “It’s just become a problem. And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again.”
He added, “Truthfully I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good.”
When asked how he simply stopped drinking, the Allied star said, “Don’t want to live that way anymore.”
While he sticks to cranberry juice and “fizzy water” nowadays, Pitt admitted that he tends to take things too far.
Because it was “too sad” to be at the Hollywood Hills home where his six children spent much of their time, the actor said he crashed on a friend’s floor in Santa Monica following his split with Jolie.
Despite his attempt to stay out of the spotlight in recent months, he fears for his kids after the details of his bitter custody battle were splashed across the media.
“I worry about it more for my kids, being subjected to it, and their friends getting ideas from it,” he said. “And of course it’s not done with any kind of delicacy or insight—it’s done to sell. And so you know the most sensational sells, and that’s what they’ll be subjected to, and that pains me.”
“I was really on my back and chained to a system when Child Services was called. And you know, after that, we’ve been able to work together to sort this out,” Pitt told GQ Style. “We’re both doing our best. I heard one lawyer say, ‘No one wins in court—it’s just a matter of who gets hurt worse.’ And it seems to be true, you spend a year just focused on building a case to prove your point and why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and it’s just an investment in vitriolic hatred. I just refuse. And fortunately my partner in this agrees. It’s just very, very jarring for the kids, to suddenly have their family ripped apart.”
Pitt has been spending much of his time working with clay, plaster, rebar and wood to make things. The solitude allows him to reflect and “try to make sense of where we are at this time.”
“I remember literally having this thought a year, a year and a half ago; someone was going through some scandal,” he said. “Something crossed my path that was a big scandal—and I went, ‘Thank God I’m never going to have to be a part of one of those again.’ I live my life, I have my family, I do my thing, I don’t do anything illegal, I don’t cross anyone’s path. What’s the David Foster Wallace quote? ‘Truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you first.'”
Pitt says the past six months have taught him to put family first.
“People on their deathbeds don’t talk about what they obtained or were awarded. They talk about their loved ones or their regrets—that seems to be the menu,” he said. “I say that as someone who’s let the work take me away. Kids are so delicate. They absorb everything. They need to have their hand held and things explained. They need to be listened to. When I get in that busy work mode, I’m not hearing. I want to be better at that.”
Pitt also said that he’s learning to face his feelings despite his upbringing, where he was taught to “just deal with it.”
“I’m personally very retarded when it comes to taking inventory of my emotions. I’m much better at covering up,” he said. “I grew up with a Father-knows-best/war mentality—the father is all-powerful, super strong—instead of really knowing the man and his own self-doubt and struggles. And it’s hit me smack in the face with our divorce: I gotta be more. I gotta be more for them. I have to show them. And I haven’t been great at it.”
The actor’s blue eyes take center stage in the series of photos, each of which he looks directly into the camera unsmiling.
One cover shows Pitt in a pink sweater and silver chain, with white sand dusted across his face. Another shows the movie star among tall brown weeds donning an orange Hawaiian shirt. In the third photo, he wears a white blazer with gold chain, staring at the camera straight-on.
Though he appears to have lost weight, a source previously told PEOPLE, “He’s healthy and much happier. Things with his family have improved, all is being addressed privately, and it’s serving everyone in the family well.”
Pitt was photographed by Ryan McGinley at notable locations including the Everglades, the White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns.