Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett co-star in the unusual story of a man who ages in reverse. He starts life looking elderly and ends up like a tiny baby …and along the way he wins the hearts of just about everyone whose life he touches.
The year is 1918 and the place is New Orleans where Mr. and Mrs. Button expect to welcome a new baby into their family; but the boy is born wrinkled and grizzled and showing signs of old age that the doctor would expect to see in an 80-year-old. The horrified father abandons the baby on the doorstep of an old-age home where Queenie, the caretaker, finds little Benjamin.
Taraji P. Henson plays Queenie and says the character knows she will be Benjamin's foster mother the moment she first sees him.
"It just speaks to unconditional love because when you love like that you don't see race or handicap or anything," Henson explains. "All you feel is what is driving you inside - love - and that's who Queenie is. She is used to taking in the unwanted. She runs an old folks home and unfortunately what happens to so many elders is they get passed off to other people and no one comes to visit them. She understands that every human deserves unconditional love."
At the age he should be in school, Benjamin looks like the old folks among whom he is being raised; but as the years pass, time seems to move backwards.
Brad Pitt plays the title character and says he was drawn to the challenge of portraying someone whose appearance is so dramatically different from his spirit; and Pitt says he also admired Benjamin's outlook on life.
"A real openness and honesty and taking responsibility for one's choices and whatever fate brings you, you make your choices from there," Pitt says. "I guess I've been investing in American characters lately. I find America really, really interesting in this last decade and that has been my focus. 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' is a bit of a love letter to New Orleans, a love letter to family and the people who make dents in your life along the way. I think that's the best way to describe it."
The person who makes the biggest dent in Benjamin's life is Daisy. They meet as children when she visits her aging grandmother in the home where Benjamin is growing up. Their lives take them in different directions; but he is smitten with a love he cannot ignore and eventually he finds her again at just the right time.
Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett plays Daisy and says she was intrigued by how a director known for suspenseful thrillers like Seven and The Fight Club took on this powerfully emotional story.
"For me, apart from the unusual fact that you're dealing with an everyman, but someone who ages in reverse, it deals with really big things that normally in the language of cinema get relegated to cliché; but knowing that David Fincher was going to look at it …the man doesn't have a sentimental bone in his body," Blanchett says. "Fincher talking about love …Fincher talking about longing and yearning and hope and possibility and birth and death …then you're in for an interesting ride."
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on a short story by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, adapted (and expanded) by Eric Roth, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of, among others, Forrest Gump. Roth moved it from Fitzgerald's setting of Baltimore, Maryland to the fabled streets of New Orleans with the details of Benjamin's unusual story unfolding as Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on the Louisiana city.