"Of course, the idea of me being romantically involved with an older white guy is what gets me the most attention. Not a twenty-year career," says the "Search Party" star.
Alia Shawkat and Brad Pitt could not have had two different experiences when it comes to a massive 2020 rumors about both of them. For the "Search Party" star, the bizarre rumor hit at the height of Covid and in some ways turned her world upside down.
"At the time, it was not fun at all. I’m not an actor who has ever dealt with the paparazzi. They don’t know who the f--- I am," Shawkat told the New Yorker. Suddenly, though, they were everywhere.
"I was shaken up by it because I have a studio in Highland Park where I go every day," she added. "And I was, like, 'There are these photos of me carrying way too much s**t to get inside. There are all these embarrassing photos, they had followed me there.'"
It got so bad, that when visiting her grandmother once, she found a tabloid with the two of them on the cover. "It says, 'Brad’s New Girl!' And then on the inside it’s old Instagram photos of me and friends at dinner," the actress shared. "It was like, 'ALL ABOUT ALIA.' This whole made-up story about how we were healing each other by spending time together."
She said her grandmother seemed amused that there she was with this "movie star," while Shawkat found the whole thing embarrassing. When she told her grandmother to throw it away, though, she just laughed.
It's also frustrating for Shawkat as an actress who's been plying her trade for a long time. She first got her big breakout role nearly two decades ago on Fox's acclaimed "Arrested Development," and has enjoyed a steady career since then, through her equally acclaimed work on HBO Max's "Search Party."
And yet, while the media has been aware of her through the years, it was never anything like those brief moments. "It has nothing to do with Brad as a person -- he’s a great f------ guy," said Shawkat. "But of course, the idea of me being romantically involved with an older white guy is what gets me the most attention. Not a twenty-year career. That’s what gets me."
And just as quickly as it started, the news cycle moved on. "it’s ironic and gross and stupid. But yeah, again, it was super brief.," she said, talking about the sudden onslaught of interest in her every move. "Then they just disappeared, and now they don’t give a s---."
Perhaps the funniest -- or saddest in its way -- aspect of the whole thing was what happened when she and Pitt spoke about it. As it turns out, while Shawkat was suddenly skirting the paparazzi and fighting with her grandmother over tabloids, Pitt was having a completely different experience ... a completely oblivious one.
"He had no awareness of it at all," she admitted. "Which is so funny. Because he doesn’t read that s---." So she told him, "You know everyone thinks we’re dating? And there’s this whole thing, and I’m being followed."
Pitt's response was clearly that of someone who's spent years under that kind of scrutiny. You either let it get to you, or you completely and totally ignore it. According to Shawkat, he replied, "I’m sorry. It happens. If you hang out with me, it happens."
It's a response both hilarious and a little sad, suggesting that Pitt can only offer his sympathy for anyone caught in his orbit. He is, apparently, infinitely interesting to the paparazzi, and so anyone who gets to close becomes more interesting by proxy.
And there's nothing he can do about it except commiserate and apologize for something completely out of his control.