Michael Pitt

When Patti Smith Met Michael Pitt

Hollywood heartthrob Michael Pitt stars on the cover of the autumn/winter 2011 issue of Another Man, photographed by Hedi Slimane and styled by Alister Mackie. With his slicked back hair, tailored suit and devastating pout, he has all the lethal attraction of the ultimate homme fatal. Gone is the grungy poster boy of indie cinema: with his role as mobster protégé Jimmy Darmody in HBO’s hit gangland saga Boardwalk Empire, Michael Pitt has come of age.

But who best to extract the best from this shy and complex character for the cover story? The answer was always the high priestess of punk, Patti Smith. She is friends with Pitt and the two have admired each other’s work for a long time – they even performed on stage together one night during Paris’s Nuit Blanche cultural festival. There is a mysterious bond between the pair, a simpatico; Smith even admits that Pitt’s girlfriend Jamie Bochert “somewhat resembles my younger self”.

And so one Sunday afternoon in New York, as Hurricane Irene began her assault on the East Coast, Pitt – on a rare day off from filming the new season of Boardwalk Empire – made his way through a biblical storm towards the legendary Electric Lady Studios, where Smith was holed up working on new material. Pitt arrived with presents. Smith had her trusty Polaroid camera and tape recorder at the ready…

Something unexpected and magical happened that day. When Smith listened back to the audiotape, their conversation wasn’t there. “I had left the machine on pause,” she laughs. “I remembered the red light flashing, but it was a warning, not a recording.” With the encounter fresh in her mind, she took herself off to her favourite café, ordered some coffee and starting scrawling her memories in her notebook. What emerged is a personal and revealing study of Pitt. “Ultimately I realised that the most important thing that went down was never on tape anyway.” Here, Smith submits scans of those handwritten notes…

Read the full interview in Another Man Issue 13, on sale now

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Text: Ben Cobb
Photography & Interview Notes: Patti Smith