Brad Pitt's New Orleans Mission

Hot pink tents, 150 of them, have sprung up around the Katrina-ravaged Lower 9th Ward. It looks as if Christo—the avant-garde artist who once wrapped an island and put hundreds of saffron gates in Central Park—was here. But the man behind the little pink houses is a movie star. Brad Pitt—you've heard of him?—is launching a program to help rebuild New Orleans. "Make It Right" calls for 150 actual homes, worth $150,000 each, to replace the tents. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.

NEWSWEEK: What is your project called?
Brad Pitt: It's a rebuilding effort that's beginning in the Lower 9th Ward but I think should work as a catalyst for all over.

Did you get involved in the blueprints, like "No, the kitchen should not go there"?
No, no. We didn't want to stifle these minds in any way. We put forth the criteria that the housing would have to be sustainable, afford­able, safe and beautiful. This has been one of the age-old challenges in architecture: how do you find aesthetics with affordability?

It's great you're doing this, but don't you think it's the government's job to rebuild?
It certainly illuminated that a certain portion of society is not being looked after. I think it should be one of the major issues of the upcoming campaign. This is a proving ground for so many issues: education, health reform, poverty level, unemployment, violence that comes from these conditions.

You know what I'm thinking? Senator Brad Pitt.
Not a chance. The same reason I won't di­rect. I don't think it's my place. Besides, you can create acts of social disobedience from the outside.

Are you going to help build, like Jimmy Carter?
I would like to.

You guys have a house in New Orleans.
We get back there several times a year.

How does the adopt-a-house program work?
This is kind of operated like a segmented telethon. I'm going to be checking in every week. These homes are roughly $150,000, and you can buy a solar panel or a corner of a house [for the family that will ultimately move in].

You know what would be great? If you sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" and cried on TV.
Who did that?

Jerry Lewis at the end of every Jerry's Kids telethon.
He did that?

Wouldn't it be fantastic if you did that?
Uh, I don't think so.

Are you handy with a hammer, or do you al­ways hit your thumb?
No, I'm all right. I'm pretty good.

Do you wear a tool belt?
[Laughs] Where are we going with this? Yes, and I do it in the nude.

You could do a calendar.
Yeah, to raise money. If I get desperate that will be next.

And Chippendale's.
Oh, dear God.

If we go out for lunch, will I have to pay?
Give me a call next year and we'll see.

So we've got a date for lunch?
Yeah, I would love you to check on where we are.

What are your Christmas plans?
Just the holiday with the family.

Lots of cooking and caroling?
I wouldn't say we have real singing talent in our family.

Do you guys get any sleep? I can't imagine having four kids.
It's workable. It's doable. You find your rhythms.

With Xanax?
Without. You've got to be coherent in case one of them has a problem or a bad dream.

Just think, two years ago you had no kids.
Yeah, I did. I know it seems extreme from the outside, but it feels quite natural to me.

Do you still ride a motorcycle?
I'm on a bike every day.

Do you ever think maybe it's not such a good idea now that you have kids?
You try to be as safe as possible, but, you know, you gotta live your life.

Does your mom ever tell you off?
Nope. She knows better. She doesn't waste her breath.