Pitt and Jolie evade questions about their relationship. The ''Mr. and Mrs. Smith'' costars slam the media for ''misguided'' priorities

”I’ve been in these tabloids for 14 years now. And at some point you just become a Zen master of it all.” So says Brad Pitt, talking to Diane Sawyer in an interview airing Tuesday on ABC’s Primetime Live. During the interview, the Zen master acknowledges that he’s trying to deflect the media scrutiny that comes his way toward his current cause — African poverty — and away from questions about his relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Smith costar Angelina Jolie. So far, his efforts are meeting with mixed success.

On the one hand, he managed to get Sawyer to come along with him to Africa to visit crisis sites. ”I can’t get out of the press. These people can’t get in the press. So let’s redirect the attention a little bit,” he tells Sawyer. ”It drives me mental seeing what I’ve seen and knowing that it doesn’t show up in our news every day. I mean literally, thousands of people died today!” Meantime, reporters are more interested in the end of his marriage to Jennifer Aniston and his ambiguous relationship with Jolie. ”It’s a strange focus, isn’t it? That my relationships or relationship mishaps takes precedent over something like that [the situation in Africa],” he says. ”I understand it’s about entertainment, but man, it’s misguided a bit, isn’t it?”

One media moment that evaded his control, he says, was his stroll a couple months ago on a private Kenyan beach with Jolie and her little boy. While some observers speculated that the paparazzi photos of the event were a gentle way of going public as a couple, Pitt says they were not intentionally posing for photographers. ”It’s an amazing fact, the bounty that’s on my head and the lengths that these people go to get these shots and the amount of money that they’re paying for these shots,” he says, noting that some publications paid as much as $500,000 for the beach photos. ”I can’t help but think what that money could have gone to. Hell, I would have set up the damn pictures myself.”

Pitt remains vague in talking about Jolie. Asked if she broke up his marriage to Aniston, he says, ”It’s a good story,” without saying whether or not it’s a true story. He slams as ”ridiculous bull—-” and ”completely fabricated” the press reports that cited Pitt’s desire to start a family and Aniston’s seeming reluctance to do so as factors in the breakup. He dismisses articles that ”turn one of us into the good guy and one of us into the bad guy.” He adds, ”Most of these stories, you get probably 2 percent real fruit juice, and the rest is just garbage with no nutritional value.”

Pitt’s Primetime interview follows by a day Jolie’s combative interview with Ann Curry on NBC’s Today, in which the actress repeated her denial that she would ever sleep with a married man but declined to describe her current relationship with Pitt. ”You and I both know that I could make a thousand statements right now, and it doesn’t matter,” she told Curry. ”People will say what they want to say, and it’s okay. And my life will go on, and I need to focus on my life. So, do I need to defend that I?m a decent woman? I sure hope I don’t. I know I am.”

A joint interview in the July issue of W magazine sheds no more light on their relationship. ”People want an answer about what’s happening in my life and my family, but I need to know what’s happening first. And I don’t plan to discuss it before then,” Jolie tells the magazine. Pitt explains, ”Well, I just don’t want to … I really don’t … let me see. I’m really wary, in this particular climate, of commenting. I just can’t find any safe bets.” Spoken like a Zen master.