How ‘Under the Skin’ almost starred Brad Pitt

It may only be March, but I already feel comfortable saying that if 2014 winds up producing five films (hell, make that three) better than Jonathan Glazer's “Under the Skin,” it'll have been a very good year indeed. After an uneven start at the fall festivals — as he showed in “Birth” nearly a decade ago, uniting critical opinion isn't among Glazer's hobbies — this dreamily desolate adaptation of Michel Faber's sensual sci-fi novel has acquired a justly ardent following, and is finally set to be unleashed on the general public. UK audiences get it on Friday; Americans have a short wait until April 4.

With the marketable asset of a star turn from a never-better (and never-sexier) Scarlett Johansson, distributors on both sides of the Atlantic have done a good job of building an aura of enigmatic significance around the slippery project — but what if they'd had Brad Pitt to work with too?

In a Guardian interview (relayed through Indiewire), Glazer reveals how the long-gestating film almost came to star the recent Oscar winner. Taking a loose approach to Faber's text, Glazer and his co-writers (first Milo Addica, then Walter Campbell), went through several story formations around the novel's core idea of disguised alien life on Earth. In one of them, Pitt was lined up to play one half of an alien pair masquerading as a married Scottish farming couple, though the budget never came together.

The near-miss with Pitt is a fun detail, but most interesting is the project's trajectory from a straight adaptation to something far looser and more intuitive: Glazer recalls having no interest in a faithful script that was sent to him earlier in the process. This quote, I think, is sound advice to over-cautious screenwriters everywhere: “I knew then that I absolutely didn't want to film the book. But I still wanted to make the book a film.”

Meanwhile, Total Film has unveiled a series of new conceptual posters for the film — I'm not exactly sure what the incorrectly applied hashtag is doing there, but they're otherwise quite lovely. I've embedded my favorite below, with a new(ish) clip that gives you some idea of the tingly atmospherics you can expect.