When it comes to the pitfalls of celebrity, Brad Pitt knows a thing or two more than Jesse James, the 19th century outlaw he portrays in his new movie.
Pitt has found one key way to stay grounded while paparazzi and tabloid reporters swarm around: focus on his family.
In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Pitt plays the legendary bandit who was gunned down by a member of his own gang. In the movie, James becomes too consumed by his notoriety - writers hyping his every move and fans and friends hanging on - to keep a level head.
Pitt said he could "understand the surface similarities" between James' life and his own as an international movie star but the A-list actor has found ways to keep his ego in check.
"It's just about knowing what is of value, about understanding value," Pitt said, ahead of the movie's debut on Saturday night at the Toronto International Film festival.
And what is "of value" to the actor?
"That I live according to my beliefs, that I just don't play someone I respect. In fact, usually I play people I don't respect," he laughed.
But then Pitt paused and reflected, "And my family. Family has redefined everything for me. Everything takes a back seat, and I find it very freeing."
Pitt, 43, soared to fame following his role as a roadside hunk in 1991's Thelma and Louise. He married and divorced former Friends star Jennifer Aniston and his current companion is Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, with whom he is raising four children.
Pitt and Jolie attract massive media and fan attention. At the Venice film festival, a woman pushed past guards and tried to hug Pitt before being pulled away.
Pitt does his best to keep his personal life outside the media glare. But the attention and how he deals with it is relevant to his portrayal of James.
The slow-paced movie is not an old-style, shoot-'em-up Western. At more than two and half hours, it delves into James' personality as he grapples with the pop culture of the late 19th century that made the killer an idol.
"In some ways, (the movie) deals with the nature of celebrity and the trappings of celebrity, getting lost behind that image and not knowing how to get around it," Pitt said. "Not only celebrity but the wanting to get next to celebrity - this idea that self-worth is connected to fame."
The other key figure in the film is Robert "Bob" Ford," played by Casey Affleck, who worshiped James as a youth, rides with the James gang as a man and eventually shoots his idol in the back.
Early reviews were mostly good and Pitt was given a best actor award from the Venice film festival.
"I was really surprised and remain surprised. I really didn't expect it." Pitt told reporters at a news conference at Toronto. "It's great fun."