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Brad Pitt started to fall in love with the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans while he was shooting the smash hit Interview with the Vampire from the novel by Ann Rice (before, of course, she found Jesus), starring Tom Cruise and himself, Brad playing guilt-ridden vampire Louis to Cruise's black-hearted blood-sucker Lestat.
Some of the film was actually shot in the Ward's Jackson (Andrew) Barracks, established by the U.S. Army way back in 1834 and ultimately taken over by the Louisiana National Guard, while more shooting was done along the Mississippi River embankment running along the southern Lower Ninth.
The "Lower" (downriver) Ninth Ward didn't actually become separated from the "Upper" (upriver) Ninth Ward until the early 1920s, when the Industrial Canal was dredged out, cutting the original Ninth Ward in half. And in turn, the Lower Ninth, in its City Planning Commission definition as a District Area, is subdivided into the Lower Ninth Ward and Holy Cross neighborhoods, the former running to Florida Avenue North, to St Bernard Parish East, to St. Claude Avenue South and the Industrial Canal West. South of St. Claude is Holy Cross, running on down to the Mississippi. To the far North is Cypress Triangle, once a flourishing cypress swamp, part of the now man-decimated wetlands once protecting the Lower Ninth from hurricanes. A powerful drive is now on to restore the Cypress Triangle.
Brad, having been hoodooed, like many of us, by the romance and magic of New Orleans, over time had remained attached to the fortunes of the city, so that when Katrina struck, he was deeply concerned, and could only grow more heart-broken and frustrated as he saw how desperate the plight of New Orleanians had become and continued to be as the folly and incompetence of government responses on all levels heightened. He soon felt he had to get involved:
"When Brad Pitt visited the Lower 9th Ward for the first time after the storm, he was shocked by what he saw: the remnants of people's lives strewn across the streets and an entire neighborhood torn apart and turned upside down. Pitt was even more disturbed by the lack of a clear plan to address the situation. Many were quietly saying there was no chance the Lower 9th Ward would ever be re-built.
In a series of community meetings, residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt about the challenges their community faced, both before and after the storm. The rising cost of energy placed a strain on the low-income households of the neighborhood, and residents expressed concern about worsening environmental conditions. Their concerns have been validated by many scientists, who have concluded that climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes, resulting in the erosion of wetlands and barrier islands that once protected the coast. The residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt that, while their terrible crisis had exposed their vulnerability, Katrina had also created an opportunity: to build something better than what had existed before.- Advertisement -
Inspired by the courage and hope of the residents he met, Pitt resolved to do whatever he could to help them rebuild. Just as importantly, he wanted to help recreate and nurture the unique culture and spirit of the Lower 9th Ward, which symbolizes the soul of New Orleans. He understood instinctively that a New Orleans rebuilt without the Lower 9th Ward would never be whole." (source)
By 2007, Brad was shooting another movie in New Orleans, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (due out on Christmas Day, 2008-based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story), he and Angelina Jolie had actually purchased a lovely house in the French Quarter, and Brad, as only he could, had already been taking concrete and dramatic steps to help New Orleans in a big, big way.
Brad Pitt's Passion