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‘Last Days’ star talks about role, sexuality
Film imagines final hours and suicide of Nirvana’s legendary Kurt Cobain

by Lawrence Ferber

Michael Pitt stars in ‘Last Days.’

Known for his edgy, polysexual turns, Michael Pitt previously appeared in Gus Van Sant’s “Finding Forrester,” Larry Clark’s “Bully,” star/director Asia Argento’s adaptation of queer novelist JT Leroy’s “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things,” and the upcoming “Jailbait,” in which Pitt plays a young prisoner who’s turned out by a cellmate. Also a rocker offstage, he plays in a band, Pagoda, with fellow actor Ryan Donowho — two of Pitt’s own compositions, “That Day,” and “Death to Birth,” appear in “Last Days.” Like in Van Sant’s previous film, “Elephant,” there’s a scene of same-sex intimacy in “Last Days,” which Pitt discussed during our phone conversation.

Q. How much did you research Cobain?

A. A lot of the research I did was just based on my own discipline. A lot was revisiting things I’d already seen or read. Again, it was more of a film for him than about him so I didn’t really pay attention to dates and times. I was fascinated to hear what sort of person he was from stories [music consultant/Sonic Youth member] Thurston Moore would tell me.

Q. Did you ever meet Courtney?

A. No. I didn’t really ask to meet anybody to tell you the truth. Partly because I figured if there was someone that Gus thought it was important for me to meet he would have set me up.

Q. Who chose the dress you wore?

I did. I believe it was a slip, the one I thought I looked best in. I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to wear a slip. They had me in some pretty horrible dresses at first.

Q. In at least one interview, Cobain said that he was bisexual. He was also very pro-gay. Were you aware of this side of him?

A. I wasn’t aware of his bisexuality other than just — normally. You know? For me, I think he was conscious of repression and rejection. He was also big on women’s rights. This is still rare [for a celebrity to say openly], I think. Yeah, good for him.

Q. Have you questioned your own sexuality? Have you wondered if you were bisexual?

A. I don’t know. Based on my choices I think people assume I’m open. I think everyone is [bisexual]. But I don’t know. I try not to concern myself, especially about what people think. I don’t really judge it at all.

Q. For a while JT Leroy wrote about his crush on you and the time you would spend together. Any thoughts about that?

A. I didn’t really like JT being so public about it but I see why he was, I think.

Q. Here’s something I’ve wanted to ask for a while — John Cameron Mitchell, on the “Hedwig” commentary, remarked that you were “passive-aggressive” while shooting the big kissing scene and would eat onions and garlic beforehand. True?

A. Passive-aggressive? No. [laughs] That scene — it was kind of painful because he had five o’clock shadow.

Q. There’s a brief scene in “Last Days” where Lukas Haas and Scott Green go into a room and start making out. Do you know anything about the conception of that scene?

A. I know the real scene you never saw! Gus was telling me there was a much harder, more graphic scene in the original cut. I think it didn’t stay in because Gus was worried it would be distracting. I think they were naked. I remember Lukas was really excited about doing it. My girlfriend loved [the scene]. She was really upset when she heard they didn’t use the more graphic one.

Q. How much did you hang out and interact with the other actors between takes? Your character is so isolated.

A. For me it’s not necessarily hard to leave my character. It’s hard for me to stay in. So while I saw them every day I had to keep this isolation with myself, which was unfortunate because I like them all and I was worried they thought I was a dick. But it was more about keeping isolated, keeping focused.

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