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'Mr. Cool' ventures into uncool territory with 'The Mexican'

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Ever since he appeared in "Fight Club," and more recently "Snatch," Brad Pitt has been trying to lose his image as Mr. Cool.

"I'm not much for career maintenance - it's hit and miss with me," says Pitt, whose earlier movies include "Meet Joe Black," "The Devil's Own," and "Legends of the Fall."

"It's more about getting into other areas that I haven't been in before. I wanted to do 'Snatch' and I went after it. I like the energy of Guy Ritchie's storytelling. I went for the fast-paced dry humor. When I read the script for 'The Mexican,' I felt it was getting away from the cool guy. One thing about doing comedies - I've learned I can survive."

In "The Mexican," which opens today, Pitt stars as Jerry Welbach, a bumbling crook trying to go straight who must transport an ancient gun called 'The Mexican' back across the border. Julia Roberts plays his girlfriend.

"[Jerry is] definitely not the smartest guy in the checkout line," Pitt says. "He's the anti-McQueen - meaning there is the everyman hero, Steve McQueen, and then there's the anti-McQueen. That's Jerry - a guy who's not cool whatsoever."

Pitt's interest in our conversation was warming. He took off his long Edwardian jacket - definitely a GQ cover possibility - only to reveal a long-sleeved blue sweater, covered by a short-sleeved green T-shirt that had the faded look of many washings.

"There are choices out there," he says, as he slides into a leather chair. "I watch a lot of movies. I love movies, and I'm aware when something's a retread of some story I've seen before.

"But I have this feeling that someone's going to come along and originate the leading man again. At this point you can plug any one of us into the same role and basically get the same thing.

"The idea of foraging into other areas is much more exciting to me."

What about teaming with Roberts for the first time? "We've known each other for 10 years," Pitt says, "and the idea of working together ... just didn't come to fruition [before].

"This script came out of nowhere, and the idea of throwing us together in this run-and-gun film appealed to both of us. I liked the Hepburn-Tracy banter; it cracked me up. Then when Jim Gandolfini [Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos"] stepped in, I said, 'It's done. I'm in.' "

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