Because Brad Pitt is the latest movie star of the 21st century

In the August issue of GQ magazine, in an extremely softball interview, Pitt talked about being sober and quitting smoking. He quoted the poet Rumi. But the photos have caused more of a stir, driving the Internet crazy, simply because they defy the conventional glamor of the protagonist. In one he is pale, his eyes rimmed with lining, lying in a watery bed of flowers like a dead Ophelia. In another, his eyes are adorned with rays of metallic silver makeup. With surreal and psychedelic backgrounds, the photos were quirky and totally unexpected. I accept That it was also an expert move, the kind that intrigues viewers and helps keep the careers of great actors alive.

Pitt’s follow-up to Bullet Train couldn’t be more different from a popcorn action movie. In Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, set in Hollywood in the 1920s and due out in December, he plays a character based on silent film idol John Gilbert. The role embraces conventional Hollywood glamor. But Pitt’s funny sense of his image and his career shows us how to be a movie star – not an Instagram celebrity or influencer, but an old-fashioned and enduring movie star – one for the 21st century.

Bullet Train comes out in the United States on August 5th.

Do you like movies and TV? Joint BBC TV and Film Club on Facebook, a community for film buffs from all over the world.

If you want to comment on this story or anything else you’ve seen on BBC Culture, go to ours Facebook page or send us a message Twitter.

And if you liked this story, Sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A hand-picked selection of BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel stories delivered to your inbox every Friday