Brad Pitt had reservations about playing a domineering dad in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which premiered Monday at the Cannes Film Festival.
But Pitt had no hesitation joking that he does not spare the rod in raising his six children with Angelina Jolie.
"I beat my kids regularly. That seems to do the trick," Pitt wisecracked when asked at a press conference about his own parenting style. "And deprive them of meals."
Pitt, 47, stars with Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain in Malick's sweeping family drama, whose scope is so expansive it includes images of the birth of creation and the age of dinosaurs.
Against that cosmic backdrop, Malick presents the troubled life of a family headed by a saintly mom (Chastain) and an alternately tender and cruel dad (Pitt), whose reign over his three sons leaves them disturbed and even hostile toward their father.
Penn plays the oldest son as he reflects back on his boyhood in the 1950s.
"I was a little hesitant about playing the oppressive father, but I felt like the story was so important, and for me, it was really about the kid's journey," said Pitt, also a producer on "The Tree of Life," which debuts in U.S. theaters May 27.
Pitt said he prefers to take on projects with emotional heft rather than blockbuster fare such as "Mission: Impossible," though he's not averse to a big Hollywood action flick.
"Don't count me out of 'Mission: Impossible,'" Pitt said. "I'll be there. I'm not that highbrow."
But when he considers his favorite films, they tend not to be commercial movies but ones with depth, "or really, really funny. I do like a comedy," he said.
Pitt has wondered what his children will think about the autocratic figure he plays in "The Tree of Life."
"My kids are going to see it when they grow up, and how are they going to feel?" Pitt said. "They know me as a dad, and I hope they'll just think I'm a pretty damn good actor."
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