Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949, a decision for which he was severely criticized when his star began to dim in the 1960s and he was excoriated for squandering his talents. No actor ever exerted such a profound influence on succeeding generations of actors as did Brando. More than 50 years after he first scorched the screen as Stanley Kowalski in the movie version of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and a quarter-century after his last great performance as Col. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), all American actors are still being measured by the yardstick that was Brando. It was if the shadow of John Barrymore, the great American actor closest to Brando in terms of talent and stardom, dominated the acting field up until the 1970s. He did not, nor did any other actor so dominate the public's consciousness of what WAS an actor before or since Brando's 1951 on-screen portrayal of Stanley made him a cultural icon. Brando eclipsed the reputation of other great actors circa 1950, such as Paul Muni and Fredric March. Only the luster of Spencer Tracy's reputation hasn't dimmed when seen in the starlight thrown off by Brando. However, neither Tracy nor Olivier created an entire school of acting just by the force of his personality. Brando did.
Born Marlon Brando Jr. on April 3, 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr., a calcium carbonate salesman and his artistically inclined wife, the former Dorothy Pennebaker, "Bud" Brando was one of three children. His oldest sister Jocelyn Brando was also an actress, taking after their mother, who engaged in amateur theatricals and mentored a then-unknown Henry Fonda, another Nebraska native, in her role as director of the Omaha Community Playhouse. Frannie, Brando's other sibling, was a visual artist. Both Brando sisters contrived to leave the Midwest for New York City, Jocelyn to study acting and Frannie to study art. Marlon managed to escape the vocational doldrums forecast for him by his cold, distant father and his disapproving schoolteachers by striking out for The Big Apple in 1943, following Jocelyn into the acting profession. Acting was the only thing he was good at, for which he received praise, so he was determined to make it his career - a high-school dropout, he had nothing else to fall back on, having been rejected by the military due to a knee injury he incurred playing football at Shattuck Military Academy, Brando Sr.'s alma mater. The school booted Marlon out as incorrigible before graduation.
Acting was a skill he honed as a child, the lonely son of alcoholic parents. With his father away on the road, and his mother frequently intoxicated to the point of stupefaction, the young Bud would play-act for her to draw her out of her stupor and to attract her attention and love. His mother was exceedingly neglectful, but he loved her, particularly for instilling in him a love of nature, a feeling which informed his character Paul in Last Tango in Paris (1972) ("Last Tango in Paris") when he is recalling his childhood for his young lover Jeanne. "I don't have many good memories," Paul confesses, and neither did Brando of his childhood. Sometimes he had to go down to the town jail to pick up his mother after she had spent the night in the drunk tank and bring her home, events that traumatized the young boy but may have been the grain that irritated the oyster of his talent, producing the pearls of his performances. Anthony Quinn, his Oscar-winning co-star in Viva Zapata! (1952) told Brando's first wife Anna Kashfi, "I admire Marlon's talent, but I don't envy the pain that created it."
Brando enrolled in Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop at New York's New School, and was mentored by Stella Adler, a member of a famous Yiddish Theatre acting family. Adler helped introduce to the New York stage the "emotional memory" technique of Russian theatrical actor, director and impresario Konstantin Stanislavski, whose motto was "Think of your own experiences and use them truthfully." The results of this meeting between an actor and the teacher preparing him for a life in the theater would mark a watershed in American acting and culture.
Brando made his debut on the boards of Broadway on October 19, 1944, in "I Remember Mama," a great success. As a young Broadway actor, Brando was invited by talent scouts from several different studios to screen-test for them, but he turned them down because he would not let himself be bound by the then-standard seven-year contract. Brando would make his film debut quite some time later in Fred Zinnemann's The Men (1950) for producer Stanley Kramer. Playing a paraplegic soldier, Brando brought new levels of realism to the screen, expanding on the verisimilitude brought to movies by Group Theatre alumni John Garfield, the predecessor closest to him in the raw power he projected on-screen. Ironically, it was Garfield whom producer Irene Mayer Selznick had chosen to play the lead in a new Tennessee Williams play she was about to produce, but negotiations broke down when Garfield demanded an ownership stake in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Burt Lancaster was next approached, but couldn't get out of a prior film commitment. Then director Elia Kazan suggested Brando, whom he had directed to great effect in Maxwell Anderson's play "Truckline Café," in which Brando co-starred with Karl Malden, who was to remain a close friend for the next 60 years.
During the production of "Truckline Café", Kazan had found that Brando's presence was so magnetic, he had to re-block the play to keep Marlon near other major characters' stage business, as the audience could not take its eyes off of him. For the scene where Brando's character re-enters the stage after killing his wife, Kazan placed him upstage-center, partially obscured by scenery, but where the audience could still see him as Karl Malden and others played out their scene within the café set. When he eventually entered the scene, crying, the effect was electric. A young Pauline Kael, arriving late to the play, had to avert her eyes when Brando made this entrance as she believed the young actor on stage was having a real-life conniption. She did not look back until her escort commented that the young man was a great actor.
The problem with casting Brando as Stanley was that he was much younger than the character as written by Williams. However, after a meeting between Brando and Williams, the playwright eagerly agreed that Brando would make an ideal Stanley. Williams believed that by casting a younger actor, the Neanderthalish Kowalski would evolve from being a vicious older man to someone whose unintentional cruelty can be attributed to his youthful ignorance. Brando ultimately was dissatisfied with his performance, though, saying he never was able to bring out the humor of the character, which was ironic as his characterization often drew laughs from the audience at the expense of Jessica Tandy's Blanche Dubois. During the out-of-town tryouts, Kazan realized that Brando's magnetism was attracting attention and audience sympathy away from Blanche to Stanley, which was not what the playwright intended. The audience's sympathy should be solely with Blanche, but many spectators were identifying with Stanley. Kazan queried Williams on the matter, broaching the idea of a slight rewrite to tip the scales back to more of a balance between Stanley and Blanche, but Williams demurred, smitten as he was by Brando, just like the preview audiences.
For his part, Brando believed that the audience sided with his Stanley because Jessica Tandy was too shrill. He thought Vivien Leigh, who played the part in the movie, was ideal, as she was not only a great beauty but she WAS Blanche Dubois, troubled as she was in her real life by mental illness and nymphomania. Brando's appearance as Stanley on stage and on screen revolutionized American acting by introducing "The Method" into American consciousness and culture. Method acting, rooted in Adler's study at the Moscow Art Theatre of Stanislavsky's theories that she subsequently introduced to the Group Theatre, was a more naturalistic style of performing, as it engendered a close identification of the actor with the character's emotions. Adler took first place among Brando's acting teachers, and socially she helped turn him from an unsophisticated Midwestern farm boy into a knowledgeable and cosmopolitan artist who one day would socialize with presidents.
Brando didn't like the term "The Method," which quickly became the prominent paradigm taught by such acting gurus as Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Brando denounced Strasberg in his autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me" (1994), saying that he was a talentless exploiter who claimed he had been Brando's mentor. The Actors Studio had been founded by Strasberg along with Kazan and Stella Adler's husband, Harold Clurman, all Group Theatre alumni, all political progressives deeply committed to the didactic function of the stage. Brando credits his knowledge of the craft to Adler and Kazan, while Kazan in his autobiography "A Life" claimed that Brando's genius thrived due to the thorough training Adler had given him. Adler's method emphasized that authenticity in acting is achieved by drawing on inner reality to expose deep emotional experience
Interestingly, Elia Kazan believed that Brando had ruined two generations of actors, his contemporaries and those who came after him, all wanting to emulate the great Brando by employing The Method. Kazan felt that Brando was never a Method actor, that he had been highly trained by Adler and did not rely on gut instincts for his performances, as was commonly believed. Many a young actor, mistaken about the true roots of Brando's genius, thought that all it took was to find a character's motivation, empathize with the character through sense and memory association, and regurgitate it all on stage to become the character. That's not how the superbly trained Brando did it; he could, for example, play accents, whereas your average American Method actor could not. There was a method to Brando's art, Kazan felt, but it was not The Method.
After A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), for which he received the first of his eight Academy Award nominations, Brando appeared in a string of Academy Award-nominated performances - in Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953) and the summit of his early career, Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954). For his "Waterfront" portrayal of meat-headed longshoreman Terry Malloy, the washed-up pug who "coulda been a contender," Brando won his first Oscar. Along with his iconic performance as the rebel-without-a-cause Johnny in The Wild One (1953) ("What are you rebelling against?" Johnny is asked. "What have ya got?" is his reply), the first wave of his career was, according to Jon Voight, unprecedented in its audacious presentation of such a wide range of great acting. Director John Huston said his performance of Marc Antony was like seeing the door of a furnace opened in a dark room, and co-star John Gielgud, the premier Shakespearean actor of the 20th century, invited Brando to join his repertory company.
It was this period of 1951-54 that revolutionized American acting, spawning such imitators as James Dean - who modeled his acting and even his lifestyle on his hero Brando - the young Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. After Brando, every up-and-coming star with true acting talent and a brooding, alienated quality would be hailed as the "New Brando," such as Warren Beatty in Kazan's Splendor in the Grass (1961). "We are all Brando's children," Jack Nicholson pointed out in 1972. "He gave us our freedom." He was truly "The Godfather" of American acting - and he was just 30 years old.
In the second period of his career, 1955-62, Brando managed to uniquely establish himself as a great actor who also was a Top 10 movie star, although that star began to dim after the box-office high point of his early career, Sayonara (1957) (for which he received his fifth Best Actor Oscar nomination). Brando tried his hand at directing a film, the well-reviewed One-Eyed Jacks (1961) that he made for his own production company, Pennebaker Productions (after his mother's maiden name). Stanley Kubrick had been hired to direct the film, but after months of script rewrites in which Brando participated, Kubrick and Brando had a falling out and Kubrick was sacked. According to his widow Christiane Kubrick, Stanley believed that Brando had wanted to direct the film himself all along.
Tales proliferated about the profligacy of Brando the director, burning up a million and a half feet of expensive VistaVision film at 50 cents a foot, fully ten times the normal amount of raw stock expended during production of an equivalent motion picture. Brando took so long editing the film that he was never able to present the studio with a cut. Paramount took it away from him and tacked on a re-shot ending that Brando was dissatisfied with, as it made the Oedipal figure of Dad Longworth into a villain. In any normal film Dad would have been the heavy, but Brando believed that no one was innately evil, that it was a matter of an individual responding to, and being molded by, one's environment. It was not a black-and-white world, Brando felt, but a gray world in which once-decent people could do horrible things. This attitude explains his sympathetic portrayal of Nazi officer Christian Diestl in the film he made before shooting One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Edward Dmytryk's filming of Irwin Shaw's novel The Young Lions (1958). Shaw denounced Brando's performance, but audiences obviously disagreed, as the film was a major hit. It would be the last hit movie Brando would have for more than a decade.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961) generated respectable numbers at the box office, but the production costs were exorbitant - a then-staggering $6 million - which made it run a deficit. A film essentially is "made" in the editing room, and Brando found cutting to be a terribly boring process, which was why the studio eventually took the film away from him. Despite his proved talent in handling actors and a large production, Brando never again directed another film, though he would claim that all actors essentially direct themselves during the shooting of a picture.
Between the production and release of One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Brando appeared in Sidney Lumet's film version of Tennessee Williams' play "Orpheus Descending", The Fugitive Kind (1959) which teamed him with fellow Oscar winners Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward. Following in Elizabeth Taylor's trailblazing footsteps, Brando became the second performer to receive a $1-million salary for a motion picture, so high were the expectations for this re-teaming of Kowalski and his creator (in 1961 critic Hollis Alpert had published a book "Brando and the Shadow of Stanley Kowalski). Critics and audiences waiting for another incendiary display from Brando in a Williams work were disappointed when the renamed The Fugitive Kind (1959) finally released. Though Tennessee was hot, with movie versions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) burning up the box office and receiving kudos from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Fugitive Kind (1959) was a failure. This was followed by the so-so box-office reception of One-Eyed Jacks (1961) in 1961 and then by a failure of a more monumental kind: Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), a remake of the famed 1935 film.
Brando signed on to Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) after turning down the lead in the David Lean classic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) because he didn't want to spend a year in the desert riding around on a camel. He received another $1-million salary, plus $200,000 in overages as the shoot went overtime and over budget. During principal photography, highly respected director Carol Reed (an eventual Academy Award winner) was fired, and his replacement, two-time Oscar winner Lewis Milestone, was shunted aside by Brando as Marlon basically took over the direction of the film himself. The long shoot became so notorious that President John F. Kennedy asked director Billy Wilder at a cocktail party not "when" but "if" the "Bounty" shoot would ever be over. The MGM remake of one of its classic Golden Age films garnered a Best Picture Oscar nomination and was one of the top grossing films of 1962, yet failed to go into the black due to its Brobdingnagian budget estimated at $20 million, which is equivalent to $120 million when adjusted for inflation.
Brando and Taylor, whose Cleopatra (1963) nearly bankrupted 20th Century-Fox due to its huge cost overruns (its final budget was more than twice that of Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)), were pilloried by the show business press for being the epitome of the pampered, self-indulgent stars who were ruining the industry. Seeking scapegoats, the Hollywood press conveniently ignored the financial pressures on the studios. The studios had been hurt by television and by the antitrust-mandated divestiture of their movie theater chains, causing a large outflow of production to Italy and other countries in the 1950s and 1960s in order to lower costs. The studio bosses, seeking to replicate such blockbuster hits as the remakes of The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), were the real culprits behind the losses generated by large-budgeted films that found it impossible to recoup their costs despite long lines at the box office.
While Elizabeth Taylor, receiving the unwanted gift of reams of publicity from her adulterous romance with Cleopatra (1963) co-star Richard Burton, remained hot until the tanking of her own Tennessee Williams-renamed debacle Boom! (1968), Brando from 1963 until the end of the decade appeared in one box-office failure after another as he worked out a contract he had signed with Universal Pictures. The industry had grown tired of Brando and his idiosyncrasies, though he continued to be offered prestige projects up through 1968.
Some of the films Brando made in the 1960s were noble failures, such as The Ugly American (1963), The Chase (1966) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). For every "Reflections," though, there seemed to be two or three outright debacles, such as Bedtime Story (1964), A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) and The Night of the Following Day (1968). By the time Brando began making the anti-colonialist picture Burn! (1969) in Colombia with Gillo Pontecorvo in the director's chair, he was box-office poison, despite having worked in the previous five years with such top directors as Arthur Penn, John Huston and the legendary Charles Chaplin, and with such top-drawer co-stars as David Niven, Yul Brynner, Sophia Loren and Taylor.
The rap on Brando in the 1960s was that a great talent had ruined his potential to be America's answer to Laurence Olivier, as his friend William Redfield limned the dilemma in his book "Letters from an Actor" (1967), a memoir about Redfield's appearance in Burton's 1964 theatrical production of "Hamlet." By failing to go back on stage and recharge his artistic batteries, something British actors such as Burton were not afraid to do, Brando had stifled his great talent, by refusing to tackle the classical repertoire and contemporary drama. Actors and critics had yearned for an American response to the high-acting style of the Brits, and while Method actors such as Rod Steiger tried to create an American style, they were hampered in their quest, as their king was lost in a wasteland of Hollywood movies that were beneath his talent. Many of his early supporters now turned on him, claiming he was a crass sellout.
Despite evidence in such films as The Chase (1966), The Appaloosa (1966) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) that Brando was in fact doing some of the best acting of his life, critics, perhaps with an eye on the box office, slammed him for failing to live up to, and nurture, his great gift. Brando's political activism, starting in the early 1960s with his championing of Native Americans' rights, followed by his participation in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's March on Washington in 1963, and followed by his appearance at a Black Panther rally in 1968, did not win him many admirers in the establishment. In fact, there was a de facto embargo on Brando films in the recently segregated (officially, at least) southeastern US in the 1960s. Southern exhibitors simply would not book his films, and producers took notice. After 1968, Brando would not work for three years.
Pauline Kael wrote of Brando that he was Fortune's fool. She drew a parallel with the latter career of John Barrymore, a similarly gifted thespian with talents as prodigious, who seemingly threw them away. Brando, like the late-career Barrymore, had become a great ham, evidenced by his turn as the faux Indian guru in the egregious Candy (1968), seemingly because the material was so beneath his talent. Most observers of Brando in the 1960s believed that he needed to be reunited with his old mentor Elia Kazan, a relationship that had soured due to Kazan's friendly testimony naming names before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. Perhaps Brando believed this, too, as he originally accepted an offer to appear as the star of Kazan's film adaptation of his own novel, The Arrangement (1969). However, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Brando backed out of the film, telling Kazan that he could not appear in a Hollywood film after this tragedy. Also reportedly turning down a role opposite box-office king Paul Newman in a surefire script, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Brando decided to make Burn! (1969) with Pontecorvo. The film, a searing indictment of racism and colonialism, flopped at the box office but won the esteem of progressive critics and cultural arbiters such as Howard Zinn.
Kazan, after a life in film and the theater, said that, aside from Orson Welles, whose greatness lay in filmmaking, he only met one actor who was a genius: Brando. Richard Burton, an intellectual with a keen eye for observation if not for his own film projects, said that he found Brando to be very bright, unlike the public perception of him as a Terry Malloy-type character that he himself inadvertently promoted through his boorish behavior. Brando's problem, Burton felt, was that he was unique, and that he had gotten too much fame too soon at too early an age. Cut off from being nurtured by normal contact with society, fame had distorted Brando's personality and his ability to cope with the world, as he had not had time to grow up outside the limelight.
Truman Capote, who eviscerated Brando in print in the mid-'50s and had as much to do with the public perception of the dyslexic Brando as a dumbbell, always said that the best actors were ignorant, and that an intelligent person could not be a good actor. However, Brando was highly intelligent, and possessed of a rare genius in a then-deprecated art, acting. The problem that an intelligent performer has in movies is that it is the director, and not the actor, who has the power in his chosen field. Greatness in the other arts is defined by how much control the artist is able to exert over his chosen medium, but in movie acting, the medium is controlled by a person outside the individual artist. It is an axiom of the cinema that a performance, as is a film, is "created" in the cutting room, thus further removing the actor from control over his art. Brando had tried his hand at directing, in controlling the whole artistic enterprise, but he could not abide the cutting room, where a film and the film's performances are made. This lack of control over his art was the root of Brando's discontent with acting, with movies, and, eventually, with the whole wide world that invested so much cachet in movie actors, as long as "they" were at the top of the box-office charts. Hollywood was a matter of "they" and not the work, and Brando became disgusted.
Charlton Heston, who participated in Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington with Brando, believes that Marlon was the great actor of his generation. However, noting a story that Brando had once refused a role in the early 1960s with the excuse "How can I act when people are starving in India?", Heston believes that it was this attitude, the inability to separate one's idealism from one's work, that prevented Brando from reaching his potential. As Rod Steiger once said, Brando had it all, great stardom and a great talent. He could have taken his audience on a trip to the stars, but he simply would not. Steiger, one of Brando's children even though a contemporary, could not understand it. When James Mason' was asked in 1971 who was the best American actor, he had replied that since Brando had let his career go belly-up, it had to be George C. Scott, by default.
Paramount thought that only Laurence Olivier would suffice, but Lord Olivier was ill. The young director believed there was only one actor who could play godfather to the group of Young Turk actors he had assembled for his film, The Godfather of method acting himself - Marlon Brando. Francis Ford Coppola won the fight for Brando, Brando won - and refused - his second Oscar, and Paramount won a pot of gold by producing the then top-grossing film of all-time, The Godfather (1972), a gangster movie most critics now judge one of the greatest American films of all time. Brando followed his iconic portrayal of Don Corleone with his Oscar-nominated turn in the high-grossing and highly scandalous Last Tango in Paris (1972) ("Last Tango in Paris"), the first film dealing explicitly with sexuality in which an actor of Brando's stature had participated. He was now again a Top-Ten box office star and once again heralded as the greatest actor of his generation, an unprecedented comeback that put him on the cover of "Time" magazine and would make him the highest-paid actor in the history of motion pictures by the end of the decade. Little did the world know that Brando, who had struggled through many projects in good faith during the 1960s, delivering some of his best acting, only to be excoriated and ignored as the films did not do well at the box office, essentially was through with the movies.
After reaching the summit of his career, a rarefied atmosphere never reached before or since by any actor, Brando essentially walked away. He would give no more of himself after giving everything as he had done in "Last Tango in Paris," a performance that embarrassed him, according to his autobiography. Brando had come as close to any actor to being the "auteur," or author, of a film, as the English-language scenes of "Tango" were created by encouraging Brando to improvise. The improvisations were written down and turned into a shooting script, and the scripted improvisations were shot the next day. Pauline Kael, the Brando of movie critics in that she was the most influential arbiter of cinematic quality of her generation and spawned a whole legion of Kael wanna-be's, said Brando's performance in "Last Tango" had revolutionized the art of film. Brando, who had to act to gain his mother's attention; Brando, who believed acting at best was nothing special as everyone in the world engaged in it every day of their lives to get what they wanted from other people; Brando, who believed acting at its worst was a childish charade and that movie stardom was a whorish fraud, would have agreed with Sam Peckinpah's summation of Pauline Kael: "Pauline's a brilliant critic but sometimes she's just cracking walnuts with her ass." Probably in a simulacrum of those words, too.
After another three-year hiatus, Brando took on just one more major role for the next 20 years, as the bounty hunter after Jack Nicholson in Arthur Penn's The Missouri Breaks (1976), a western that succeeded neither with the critics or at the box office. From then on, Brando concentrated on extracting the maximum amount of capital for the least amount of work from producers, as when he got the Salkind brothers to pony up a then-record $3.7 million against 10% of the gross for 13 days work on Superman (1978). Factoring in inflation, the straight salary for "Superman" equals or exceeds the new record of $1 million a day Harrison Ford set with K-19: The Widowmaker (2002). Before cashing his first paycheck for Superman (1978), Brando had picked up $2 million for his extended cameo in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) in a role, that of Col. Kurtz, that he authored on-camera through improvisation while Coppola shot take after take. It was Brando's last bravura performance, though he did receive an eighth and final Oscar nomination for A Dry White Season (1989) after coming out of a near-decade-long retirement. Contrary to those who claimed he now only was in it for the money, Brando donated his entire seven-figure salary to an anti-apartheid charity.
Brando had first attracted media attention at the age of 24, when "Life" magazine ran a photo of himself and his sister Jocelyn, who were both then appearing on Broadway. The curiosity continued, and snowballed. Playing the paraplegic soldier of The Men (1950), Brando had gone to live at a Veterans Administration hospital with actual disabled veterans, and confined himself to a wheelchair for weeks. It was an acting method, research, that no one in Hollywood had ever heard of before, and that willingness to experience life.
|Tarita||(10 August 1962 - 14 July 1972) (divorced) 2 children|
|Movita||(4 June 1960 - 1962) (divorced) 2 children|
|Anna Kashfi||(11 October 1957 - 22 April 1959) (divorced) 1 child|
Bizarrely unique voice with an extreme nasal tonality spoken in mumbles
Frequently played young, somewhat misunderstood rebels in his youth (A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, On the Waterfront) and later powerful criminals (The Godfather, The Formula, The Freshman, The Score).
The pioneering use of Method Acting
Often improvised his own dialogue
Was known for being very difficult to work with
Ranked #13 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list (Oct. 1997).
Eldest son Christian Brando was arrested for murdering his half-sister's boyfriend Dag Drollet in 1990. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 1991 and released in January 1996.
Worked as a department store elevator operator before he became famous. He quit after four days due to his embarrassment in having to call out the lingerie floor.
Was roommates with Wally Cox during his theatrical training in New York City. The two remained lifelong friends, and Brando took Cox's sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 48 extremely hard.
Chosen by Empire magazine in 1995 as one of the "100 Sexiest Stars" in film history (#14).
Two years before Brando declined his Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather (1972), he'd applied to the Academy to replace the one he'd won for On the Waterfront (1954), which had been stolen. Prior to its theft, Brando had been using the Oscar as a doorstop.
Youngest of three children.
Owned a private island off the Pacific coast, the Polynesian atoll known as Tetiaroa, from 1966 until his death in 2004.
Native of Omaha, Nebraska. His mother once gave stage lessons to Henry Fonda, another Nebraska native.
Lived on infamous "Bad Boy Drive" (Muholland Drive in Beverly Hills, California), which received its nickname because its residents were famous "bad boy" actors Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Brando.
Son of Marlon Brando Sr.
Born to alcoholic parents, Brando was left alone much of the time as a child.
Daughter Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995, aged 25.
In April 2002, a woman filed a $100-million palimony lawsuit in California against Brando, claiming he fathered her three children during a 14-year romantic relationship. Maria Cristina Ruiz, 43, filed the breach-of-contract suit, demanding damages and living expenses. The lawsuit was settled in April 2003.
Ranked #12 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 100 Entertainers" of all time (2000).
He used cue cards in many of his movies because he refused to memorize his lines. His lines were written on the diaper of the baby, "Kal-El", in Superman (1978).
One of the innovators of the Method acting technique in American film.
Was mentioned in La Dolce Vita (1960) in a discussion about salary paid to film stars.
Said that the only reason he continued to make movies was in order to raise the money to produce what he said would be the "definitive" film about Native Americans. The film was never made.
Expelled from high school for riding a motorcycle through the halls.
His signature was considered so valuable to collectors, that many personal checks he wrote were never cashed because his signature was usually worth more than the amount on the check.
Studied at the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Brando's first wife was Anna Kashfi, who bore him a son whom they named Christian. His second wife was Movita Castenada, who played the Tahitian love interest of Lt. Byam in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). His third wife was Tarita Teriipia, who played the Tahitian love interest of Lt. Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
He attributed "Brando" to his great-great-grandmother whose last name was spelled "Brandeau". She was a 5th generation descendant of Louis DuBois, a French Huguenot refugee whom, with 11 others, founded New Paltz, NY. However, it was "Brandow" for at least 4 generations until his great-grandfather, James, shortened it to "Brando". Brando was also of Swiss and Prussian heritage through his paternal great-great-great-great grandmother, Annatje Lehnann, and of Irish heritage through his maternal great-grandfather, Myles Gahan, who immigrated to the United States from Ireland.
Helped out a lot of minorities in America, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native American Indians.
He reputedly suggested that his cameo role as Jor-El in Superman (1978) be done by him in voiceover only, with the character's image onscreen being a glowing, levitating green bagel. Unsure if Brando was joking or not, the film's producers formally rejected the suggestion.
Russell Crowe wrote and sang a song about him called "I Wanna Be Marlon Brando."
He was offered a chance to reprise his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Jor El in Superman II (1980), but he turned them both down due to his own credo that once he finished a role, he put it away and moved on. He turned down both films despite being offered three times more money than any of his co-stars.
Mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue."
Film critic Roger Ebert praised Brando as "the Greatest Actor in the World."
Empire Magazine profiled him as part of their "Greatest Living Actors" series. The issue containing this feature was published a week before he died.
He was voted the 7th "Greatest Movie Star" of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Mentioned in Slipknot's song "Eyeless."
During an acting class, when the students were told to act out "a chicken hearing an air-raid siren," most of the students clucked and flapped their arms in a panic, while Brando stood stock-still, staring up at the ceiling. When asked to explain himself, Brando replied, "I'm a chicken - I don't know what an air-raid siren is."
Received top billing in nearly every film he appeared in, even if not cast in the lead role.
Was offered $2 million for four days work to appear as a priest in Scary Movie 2 (2001) but had to withdraw when he was hospitalized with pneumonia in April 2001. Consequently the role was played by James Woods.
In his book "The Way It's Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando," George Englund relates how Brando told him a couple of years before his death that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences offered him a Lifetime Achievement Oscar on the condition that he attend the ceremony to personally accept the award. Brando refused, believing that the offer shouldn't be conditional, and that the condition that he appear on the televised ceremony showed that the Academy was not primarily focused on honoring artistic excellence.
He was reportedly interested in making a film of Rolf Hochhuth's controversial play "The Deputy," an indictment of the alleged silence of Pope Pius XII (God's "Deputy" on Earth) over the Nazi persecution of the Jews during World War II. The film was never made.
He attended a staging of Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical "Long Day's Journey Into Night" with an eye towards starring in a proposed film of the play. The play deals with the drug addiction of Mary Tyrone, modeled after O'Neil's own mother, which, along with her husband's miserliness and her oldest son's alcoholism, has blighted her youngest son's life. When asked his opinion of the play, Brando, whose mother was an alcoholic and had died relatively young in 1954, replied, "Lousy." Jason Robards, who originated the role of older son James Tyrone, Jr. in the original Broadway production in 1956, subsequently appeared in Sidney Lumet's 1962 movie.
He was reportedly once interested in playing Pablo Picasso on film and was trying to reduce weight on a banana diet. The film was never made.
In his autobiography, he said that he was physically attracted to Vivien Leigh during the making of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). He could not bring himself to seduce her, however, as he found her husband, Laurence Olivier, to be such a "nice guy."
According to friend George Englund in his book "The Way It's Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando," he testified at the manslaughter trial of his son Christian Brando that his mother and father and one of his two sisters had been alcoholics.
Paramount studio brass wanted him to appear as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1974), but he wanted $4 million, an unheard-of salary at the time.
Director Francis Ford Coppola wanted Brando to appear as Preston Tucker Jr. in his biopic of the maverick automotive executive he planned to make after he completed The Godfather: Part II (1974). Brando was not interested but did appear in Apocalypse Now (1979), the film Coppola actually did make after finishing The Godfather (1972) sequel. When Coppola finally got around to making the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), he cast Jeff Bridges in the role.
According to co-producer Fred Roos, Brando was scheduled to make a cameo appearance in The Godfather: Part II (1974), specifically in the flashback at the end of the film in which Vito Corleone comes back to his home and is greeted with a surprise birthday party. In fact, he was expected the day of shooting but did not show up due to a salary dispute. According to Francis Ford Coppola, he hadn't been paid for The Godfather (1972) and thus would not appear in the sequel.
Was a fan of Afro-Caribbean music, and changed from being a strict drummer to the congas after becoming enthralled by the music in New York City in the 1940s.
Took possession of friend Wally Cox's ashes from his widow in order to scatter them at sea but actually kept them hidden in a closet at his house. In his autobiography, Brando said he frequently talked to Cox. The Los Angeles Times on September 22, 2004 quoted Brando's son, Miko, to the effect that both his father's and Cox's ashes were scattered at the same time in Death Valley, California in a ceremony following Brando's death.
Was scheduled to appear in the David Lean-directed "Nostromo" in 1991, but when Lean died, the production came to a halt. Thus, the world missed the last of three chances to see one of the world's greatest actors work with one of the world's greatest directors. Producer Sam Spiegel, who had won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954), offered Brando the title role in Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), but he turned it down, saying he didn't want to ride camels in the desert for two years. Brando was Lean's first choice for the male lead in Ryan's Daughter (1970), but Brando, who at that time was considered box office poison by movie studios, never was offered the role.
Brando tried to join the Army during World War II but was rejected due to a knee injury he had sustained while playing football at Shattuck Military Academy. After he made The Men (1950), the Korean War broke out, and he was ordered by the draft board to report for a physical prior to induction. As his knee was better due to an operation, he initially was reclassified from 4-F to 1-A, but the military again rejected him, this time for mental problems, as he was under psychoanalysis.
The story about his mother his character Paul tells Jeanne in Last Tango in Paris (1972), about how she taught him to appreciate nature, which he illustrates with his reminiscence of his dog Dutchy hunting rabbits in a mustard field, is real, based on his own recollections of his past.
His best friend was Wally Cox, whom he had known as a child and then met again when both were aspiring actors in New York during the 1940s. According to Brando's autobiography, there wasn't a day that went by when he didn't think of Wally. So close did he feel to Cox, he even kept the pajamas he died in.
Studied modern dance with Katherine Dunham in New York in the early 1940s and briefly considered becoming a dancer.
Considered Montgomery Clift a friend and a "very good actor." They were not rivals, as the public perceived them to be during the 1950s. After Clift died of a heart attack in 1966, Brando took over his role in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Shortly before his death in 2004, he gave EA Games permission to use his voice for its video game The Godfather (2006) (VG).
After a decade of being considered "box-office poison" after the large losses generated by the big-budget remake of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), the twin successes of The Godfather (1972) and _Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972)_ made Brando a superstar again. He was named the #6 and #10 top money-making star in 1972 and 1973, respectively, by the Motion Picture Herald. The top 10 box-office list was based on an annual poll of movie exhibitors in the US as to the drawing power of stars, conducted by Quigley Publications. Brando used his unique combination of box-office power and his reputation as the greatest actor in the world to command huge salaries throughout the decade, culminating in the record $3.7 million for 12 days work paid him for Superman (1978) by Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind. Factored for inflation, his adjusted salary of $11.25 million in 2002 terms equals almost $1 million a day, a record that stood until Harrison Ford breached it for K-19: The Widowmaker (2002).
Even before he let himself get obese and balloon up to over 350 lb., his eating habits were legendary. The Men (1950) co-star Richard Erdman claimed Brando's diet circa 1950 consisted "mainly of junk food, usually take-out Chinese or peanut butter, which he consumed by the jarful." By the mid-'50s he was renowned for eating boxes of Mallomars and cinnamon buns, washing them down with a quart of milk. Close friend Carlo Fiore wrote that in the '50s and early '60s Brando went on crash diets before his films commenced shooting, but when he lost his willpower he would eat huge breakfasts consisting of corn flakes, sausages, eggs, bananas and cream, and a huge stack of pancakes drenched in syrup. Fiore was detailed by producers to drag him out of coffee shops. Karl Malden claimed that, during the shooting of One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Brando would have "two steaks, potatoes, two apple pies a la mode and a quart of milk" for dinner, necessitating constant altering of his costumes. During a birthday party for Brando--the film's director as well as star--the crew gave him a belt with a card reading, "Hope it fits." A sign was placed below the birthday cake saying, "Don't feed the director." He reportedly ate at least four pieces of cake that day. His second wife Movita, who had a lock put on their refrigerator to stop pilfering by what she thought was the household staff, awoke one morning to find the lock broken and teeth marks on a round of cheese. The maid told her that Brando nightly raided the fridge. Movita also related how he often drove down to hot dog stands late at night (one of his favorite spots was the legendary Pink's Hot Dogs in Hollywood; it was open 24 hours a day, and Brando would go there at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and polish off a half-dozen hot dogs at a time). Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) costumer James Taylor claimed that Brando split the seat on 52 pairs of pants during the shooting of the film, necessitating that stretch fabric be sewn into his replacement duds. He split those, too. Ice cream was the culprit: Brando would purloin a five-gallon tub of the fattening dessert, row himself out into the lagoon and indulge. On the set of The Appaloosa (1966), Brando's double often had to be used for shooting after lunch, and filming could only proceed in long shots, as Brando could no longer fit into his costumes. Dick Loving, who was married to Brando's sister Frannie, said that Brando used to eat "two chickens at a sitting, and [go] through bags of Pepperidge Farm cookies." It was reported during the filming of The Missouri Breaks (1976) that the environmentally sensitive Brando fished a frog out of a pond, took a huge bite out of the hapless amphibian, and threw it back into the drink. Living on his island of Tetioroa, Brando created what he called "real-life Mounds Bars" by cracking open a coconut, melting some chocolate in the sun, then stirring it into the coconut for a tasty treat. By the 1980s there were reports that one of his girlfriends had left him because he failed to keep his promise of losing weight. He seemed to be dieting, but to her astonishment, he never lost weight. She found out that his buddies had been throwing bags of Burger King Whoppers over the gates of his Mulholland Dr. estate late at night to relieve the hunger pangs of their famished friend. In the late '80s Brando was spotted regularly buying ice cream from a Beverly Hills ice cream shop--five gallons at a time. He supposedly confessed that he was eating it all himself. Finally, a reported Brando snack was a pound of cooked bacon shoved into an entire loaf of bread. When Brando became ill, he seriously cut back and lost 70 pounds on a bland diet, but never lost his love of food and especially ice cream.
Won his seventh, and last, Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1974, for Last Tango in Paris (1972), after he had generated much ill-will in Hollywood by refusing his Oscar for The Godfather (1972). Academy President Walter Mirisch said of the nomination, "I think it speaks well for the Academy. It proves that voting members are interested only in performances, not in sidelights." Interestingly, the only other actor to refuse an Academy Award, George C. Scott, also was nominated as Best Actor the year following his snubbing of the Academy. So far, Brando, Scott and screenwriter Dudley Nichols, who refused to accept his 1935 Oscar for the movie The Informer (1935) due to a Writers Guild strike, are the only people out of more than 2,000 winners to turn down the Award.
In his September 1972 Playboy Magazine interview, director Sam Peckinpah said that a problem with One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is that Brando would not play a villain. Peckinpah had worked on rewriting the script, which was based on the novel "The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones," a re-telling of the Billy the Kid legend. Billy the Kid, according to Peckinpah, was a genuine villain, whereas Brando's character "Rio" was not, thus lessening the dramatic impact of the story. He praised Brando for his acting comeback as Don Corleone in The Godfather (1972), both as the return of a great actor and as an example of Brando's newfound willingness to shuck off his old predilection and actually play a villain.
At the 77th Academy Awards ceremony, he was the last person featured in the film honoring film industry personalities who had passed away the previous year.
At the 27th Academy Awards, held March 30, 1955, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, Brando chewed gum throughout the ceremony, according to columnist Sidney Skolsky. When Bette Davis came out to present the Best Actor Oscar, Brando stopped chewing. When she announced him as the winner, Brando took the gum out of his mouth and shook hands with fellow nominee Bing Crosby, who had been reckoned the favorite that night, before going on stage to accept the statuette.
Bette Davis, who had presented Brando with his first Best Actor Oscar at the 27th Academy Awards in 1955, told the press that she was thrilled he had won. She elaborated, "He and I had much in common. He, too, had made many enemies. He, too, is a perfectionist.".
When participating in the March on Washington, brandished a cattle prod to show the world the brutality blacks faced in the South.
Attended the memorial service for slain Black Panther 'Bobby Hutton' (I).
Tithed a tenth of his income to various black civil-rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He and director Tony Kaye paid 350,000 pounds sterling for footage of what allegedly is the "Angel of Mons," according to The Sunday Times (March 11, 2001). The Angel of Mons was an apparition that legend holds appeared in the skies during the British Expeditionary Force's first encounter with the Imperial German army during WWI, which enabled a successful retreat by the BEF. The film allegedly was found in August 1999 in a junk-shop, which had a trunk belonging to a man called William Doidge, a WWI veteran. Doidge had been at Mons in August 1914 and knew about or possibly saw the apparition in the sky as the British army retreated before the overwhelming German advance. After the war he became obsessed by these apparitions. An American war veteran told him in 1952 that angels had appeared before some American troops were drowned during an exercise in 1944 at Woodchester Park in the Cotswolds. Doidge went there with a movie camera and supposedly captured images of them. Kaye planned to make a film of the incident, starring Brando as the American vet, but the plans fell through when the two fell out over an acting video.
The news agency Reuters, in an article about about Vanity Fair magazine's upcoming Hollywood issue, reported after his death that Brando repeatedly voiced objections to appearing in The Godfather (1972). According to Brando's friend Budd Schulberg, who won an Oscar writing the screenplay for On the Waterfront (1954), Brando repeatedly told his assistant Alice Marchak that he would not be in a film that glorified the Mafia. Schulberg said that Marchak pestered him to read the best-seller, and at one point he threw the book at her, saying, "For the last time, I won't glorify the Mafia!" However, Marchak noticed that Brando subsequently began toying with the idea of a mustache to play Don Corleone, at first drawing one on with an eyebrow pencil and asking her, "How do I look?" "Like George Raft," she replied. Marchak told Schulberg this went on for awhile, with Brando trying different mustaches, until he finally won the part after agreeing to a screen test. Among the actors he beat out for the role were Laurence Olivier, who was too sick to work on the film, and Burt Lancaster, who had offered to do a screen test for the role and was looked on favorably by Paramount brass.
He was voted the 15th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Was named #4 Actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by The American Film Institute.
Mentioned in the song "Risen Within" by MC Homicide featuring Paz.
He constantly referred to his good friend Johnny Depp as "the most talented actor of his generation".
His mother gave him an odd pet: a raccoon he named Russell.
He liked to box. While performing as Stanley Kowalski in the stage version of "A Streetcar Named Desire", he would often persuade a member of the stage crew to spar with him in a room underneath the stage between his acts. During one of these impromptu boxing matches, a crew member surprised him with a hard punch to the nose. Brando's nose was broken so badly that it literally was split across its bridge. He managed to go on stage and finish the play despite the fact that backstage efforts to stanch the bleeding had failed, but he was taken to the hospital immediately after. His famous broken-beak nose was the result of his having taken off his bandages in order to cover his nose with Mercurochrome to make it look particularly bad when he was visited by the play's producer, Irene Mayer Selznick. The subterfuge worked, as Selznick gave him two weeks off from the grind of the play (he was on stage with "Streetcar" for two years), but by taking the bandages off, his nose did not properly set.
Believed that he could control stress in his life and physical pain through meditation. So sure he was of this, that he wanted to prove it. When he decided in the early nineties to be circumcised, he wanted the doctor to do the operation with no anesthesia so that he could show off this skill. The doctor refused because of medical ethics, but Brando underwent the operation anyway after receiving a painkilling shot in his back. Nevertheless, he wanted to show the doctors what he could do, and he asked them to take his blood pressure. Through meditation, he brought his blood pressure down more than 20 points.
Elton John's song "Goodbye Marlon Brando" was inspired by the actor's retirement in 1980.
His The Night of the Following Day (1968) co-star Richard Boone directed the final scenes of the film at the insistence of Brando, who could no longer tolerate what he considered the incompetence of director Hubert Cornfield. The film is generally considered the nadir of Brando's career.
A collection of personal effects from Brando's estate fetched $2,378,300 at a June 30, 2005 auction at Christie's New York. His annotated script from The Godfather (1972) was bought for a world record $312,800. "Godfather" memorabilia were the most sought-after items at the 6.5-hour auction, which attracted over 500 spectators and bidders and multiple telephone bids. Brando's annotated film script originally was figured to sell at between $10,000 and $15,000, but brought more than 20 times the high end of the pre-auction estimate. The previous record for a film script bought at auction was $244,500 for Clark Gable's Gone with the Wind (1939) script, which was auctioned at Christie's New York in 1996. A letter from "Godfather" writer Mario Puzo to Brando asking him to consider playing the role of Don Corleone in the movie version of his novel was bought for $132,000. A photograph of Brando and former lover Rita Moreno in The Night of the Following Day (1968), the only piece of film memorabilia he kept in his Mulholland Dr.home, was bought for $48,000. A transcript of a telegram from Brando to Marilyn Monroe after her 1961 nervous breakdown was bought for $36,000. His extensive library of over 3,600 books was sold in lots, some of which fetched over $45,000; many of the books were annotated in Brando's own hand.
Shortly before his death, his doctors had told him that the only way to prolong his life would be to insert tubes carrying oxygen into his lungs. He refused permission, preferring to die naturally.
Was a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator with the call signs KE6PZH (his American license) and FO5GJ (is license for his home in French Polynesia). For both licenses, he used the name "Martin Brandeaux".
His decision to play the title role in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) turned out to be an offer that he definitely should have refused. He received the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie Award, beating Burt Reynolds, who was nominated for Striptease (1996), by a single vote. The vote was cast by Razzie award founder John Wilson, who always chooses to vote last.
At the time of his death at the age of eighty, Brando had been suffering from congestive heart failure, advanced diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis (damage to the tissue inside the lungs resulting from a bout of pneumonia in 2001). Doctors had recently discovered a tumor inside his liver, but he died before they could operate to remove it.
Rode his own Triumph 6T Thunderbird, registration #63632, in The Wild One (1953).
Contrary to popular belief, Brando was not an atheist. At his son's trial, where he supposedly revealed his atheism and refused to swear upon a Bible, his actual words were, "While I do believe in God, I do not believe in the same way as others, so I would prefer not to swear on the Bible".
Apocalypse Now (1979) was based on the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. Years after "Apocalypse Now" was released, a television film was made of Heart of Darkness (1993) (TV), which featured Ian McDiarmid in a small role. McDiarmid also appeared in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), a remake of Bedtime Story (1964), a '60s comedy in which Brando appeared.
Both of his Oscar-winning roles have been referenced in the Oscar-winning roles of Robert De Niro. DeNiro played the younger version of his character, Vito Corleone, in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Brando's first Oscar was for On the Waterfront (1954), where his famous lines were "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could been somebody." DeNiro imitates this monologue in Raging Bull (1980), which won him his second Oscar.
When cast as Col. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Brando had promised to lose weight for the role, as well as read Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness", on which Coppola's script was based. Coppola had envisioned Kurtz as a lean and hungry warrior; the character of Kurtz in the Conrad novellas was a wraith and weighed barely more than a child despite his great stature, due to his suffering from malaria. When the 52-year-old Brando -- who had already been paid part of his huge salary -- appeared on the set in the Philippines, he had lost none of the weight, so Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro were forced to put Brando's character in the shadows in most shots. In the penultimate appearance of Kurtz in the film, when he appears in silhouette in the doorway of his temple compound as the sacrificial bull is lead out, a very tall double (about 6'5") was used to try to give the character a greater physical stature, rather than just Buddha-like belly-fat that girded the 5'10" Brando. He didn't get around to reading the novella until many years later.
He did not like to sign autographs for collectors. Because of this, his own autograph became so valuable that many checks he wrote went uncashed--his signature on them was worth more than the value of the check itself. Ironically, his secretary Alice Marchak remembered a time when a fan asked for his autograph. Brando promptly signed the fan's autograph book twice. Brando then told the fan that he had heard that one John Wayne autograph was equal to two Marlon Brando's on the collector's market.
In his 1976 biography "The Only Contender" by Gary Carey, Brando was quoted as saying, "Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed."
It was his idea for Jor-El to wear the "S" insignia as the family crest in Superman (1978).
Is mentioned in Robbie Williams' song "Advertising Space".
His performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) is ranked #2 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Paul in Last Tango in Paris (1972) is ranked #27 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Was the first male actor to break the $1-million threshold when MGM offered him that amount to star in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), its remake of its own 1935 classic. Brando had turned down the lead role in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962), which had been offered by producer Sam Spiegel, because he didn't like the lengthy shooting schedule. Ironically, "Bounty" itself wound up with an extensive shooting schedule due to a snail-pace schedule caused by a plethora of problems due to location shooting. With overages due to the extended shoot, Brando pocketed $1.25 million for the picture (approximately $8 million in 2005 dollars). Elizabeth Taylor had previously broken the million-dollar mark for a single picture with her renegotiated contract for Cleopatra (1963). Both films went vastly over schedule and wildly over budget and wound up hemorrhaging rivers of red ink despite relatively large grosses, though Taylor's flick outshone Brando's in the area of fiscal irresponsibility and wound up bankrupting its studio, 20th Century-Fox. Seventeen years later, after almost a decade of failure that caused him to be considered "box office poison" in the late 1960s/early 1970s (a string of flops that began with the failure of the "Bounty" remake), Brando became the highest paid actor in history with a $3.7-million up-front payment against a percentage of the gross for Superman (1978), a role that required his presence on the set for 12 days, plus an additional day for looping. Steve McQueen earlier had priced his services at $3 million a picture but had gotten no takers (many in Hollywood at the time believed he had deliberately set his price that high so he could take some time off). It was the price he quoted Francis Ford Coppola for his services for Apocalypse Now (1979), but Coppola refused to meet his demands and McQueen stayed off the screen for four years. Brando later appeared in the Coppola film in what is a supporting performance for a leading man/superstar salary of at least $2 million plus 8% of the gross over the negative cost. Brando made more money from his share of "Apocalypse Now" than from any other picture he appeared in; it financed his own retirement from the screen during the 1980s. After a decade off screen, so potent was the Brando name that he reportedly was paid over $2 million (donated to charity) for a supporting role in the anti-apartheid drama A Dry White Season (1989). Even toward the end of his life, when most of his contemporaries other than Paul Newman were no longer stars (Tony Curtis's asking price reportedly had dropped to $50,000 in the early 1990s) and could no longer command big money (Newman was the exception in that the financially secure superstar didn't ask for big money), Brando could still command a $3-million salary for a supporting role in The Score (2001).
The Chase (1966) producer Sam Spiegel was quite fond of Brando, who won his first Best Actor Oscar in the Spiegel-produced Best Picture winner On the Waterfront (1954). Spiegel was worried that motorcycle enthusiast Brando would kill himself like James Dean had, in an accident (Brando had had lacerated his knee while biking before filming began). Spiegel constantly queried "Chase" director Arthur Penn as to whether Brando had brought his motorcycle with him to the filming. When Brando got wind of this, he had the bike brought over to the set on a trailer and left on the lot to play a joke on Spiegel, who quickly arrived at the shooting to see that Brando didn't drive it. When Spiegel found out it was all a joke, the normally taciturn producer laughed heartily. Spiegel originally had acquired the property that became "The Chase" in the 1950s and wanted Brando to play the role of Jason 'Jake' Rogers and Marilyn Monroe to play his lover, Anna Reeves. By the time production began in 1965, Brando was too old to play the role of the son, and took the part of Sheriff Calder instead. Brando was paid $750,000 and his production company, Pennebaker, was paid a fee of $130,000 (Marlon's sister Jocelyn Brando was cast in the small role of Mrs. Briggs). Brando did not like the part, and complained that all he did in the picture was wander around. He began referring to himself as "The Old Lamplighter." However, many critics and cinephiles consider Sheriff Calder one of his best performances.
According to Lawrence Grobel's "Conversations with Brando" (NY: Hyperion, 1991), Brando ultimately made $14 million from Superman (1978). The Salkinds, producers of the movie, tried to buy out his share of the profits for $6 million, but Brando refused and had to file a lawsuit to recover what was owed him.
Was paid $3 million for 10 days work on The Formula (1980) (approximately $8.5 million in 2005 terms). Brando told Lawrence Grobel ("Conversations with Brando") that the movie, which he only made for the money as he was broke, was ruined in the editing room, with the humor of his scenes cut out. In his autobiography, Brando -- in a caption for a picture from the film -- recounts that George C. Scott asked him during the shooting of the film whether he, Brando, would ever give the same line-reading twice. Brando replied, "I know you know a cue when you hear one." The two both played chess together during waits during the shooting. Scott said that Brando was not that good a player.
Brando had to sue Francis Ford Coppola to get all the money owed to him from his percentage of the profits of Apocalypse Now (1979). Brando characterized the people in the movie industry as "liars" to Lawrence Grobel (who conducted his 1979 Playboy interview): "Even Francis Coppola owed me one-and-a-half million and I have to sue him. They all do that, as they make interest on the money . . . so they delay paying . . . It's all so ugly, I hate the idea of having to act, but there's no other way to do it".
The producers of the film adaptation of Sir Peter Shaffer's play Equus (1977) were interested in casting either Brando or Jack Nicholson in the lead role of Dr. Martin Dysart. The part went instead to Richard Burton, who had to "screen-test" for the role by agreeing to appear in the play on Broadway. Burton did, got rave reviews and a special Tony award, and won his seventh and last Oscar nomination for the role. In his diary, Burton wrote that in the late 1950s, he was always one of the first actors producers turned to when Brando turned down a role.
Became quite friendly with Elizabeth Taylor while shooting Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). He agreed to pick up her Best Actress Award for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) from the New York Film Critics Circle. When Brando made his appearance at the NYFCC Award ceremony at Sardi's on January 29, 1967, he badgered the critics, querying them as to why they hadn't recognized Liz before. He then flew to Dahomey, Africa, where Taylor was shooting The Comedians (1967) with husband Richard Burton to personally deliver the award. Brando later socialized with the Burtons, visiting them on their famous yacht the Kalizma, while they plied the Mediterreanean. Brando's ex-wife Anna Kashfi, in her book "Brando for Breakfast" (1979), claimed that Brando and Burton got into a fistfight aboard the yacht, probably over Liz, but nothing of the incident appears in Burton's voluminous diaries, in which Burton says he found Brando to be quite intelligent but believed he suffered, like Liz did, from becoming too famous too early in his life. He recognized Brando as a great actor, but felt he would have been more suited to silent films due to the deficiency in his voice (the famous "mumble"). As a silent film star, Burton believed Brando would have been the greatest motion picture actor ever.
His performance as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is ranked #85 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) is ranked #69 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His monumental portrayal of Vito Corleone in the masterpiece The Godfather (1972) is the #1 Greatest Movie Character of All Time in Premiere Magazine.
Was unable to raise the $10-million bail initially required of his son Christian Brando (Christian Brando) in the May 16, 1990, slaying of his sister Cheyenne's boyfriend Dag Drollet. After a two-day preliminary hearing in early August 1990, the presiding judge ruled that enough evidence had been presented to try Christian on first-degree murder charges. At that time the judge refused to lower the $10-million bail due to what he termed evidence of the Brando family's failure to cooperate with he court, specifically citing Cheyenne's flight from the United States to avoid helping the police investigation. However, two weeks later the same judge reduced Christian's bail to $2 million, which Marlon was able to post by putting up his Mulholland Drive house as collateral. He soon accepted a cameo role in the film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) for $5 million, according to Variety, the bible of the Hollywood trade papers.
Brando's friend, actor William Redfield, mentioned him prominently in the memoir he wrote about the 1964 stage production of "Hamlet" (later transferred to film as Hamlet (1964/I)) directed by John Gielgud and starring Richard Burton. In "Letters from an Actor" (1967, Viking Press), Redfield -- who played Guildenstern -- said that Brando had been considered the Great White Hope by his generation of American actors. That is, they believed that Brando's more naturalistic style, combined with his greatness as an actor, would prove a challenge to the more stylized and technical English acting paradigm epitomized by Laurence Olivier, and that Brando would supplant Olivier as the world's greatest actor. Redfield would tell Burton stories of Brando, whom the Welsh actor had not yet met. Redfield sadly confessed that Brando, by not taking on roles such as Hamlet (and furthermore, by betraying his craft by abandoning the stage, thus allowing his instrument to be dulled by film work), had failed not only as an actor, but had failed to help American actors create an acting tradition that would rival the English in terms of expertise.
He worked for union scale on the anti-apartheid film A Dry White Season (1989) with the proviso that the producers donate $3 million (which would have been his normal fee) to charity. When Brando was interviewed by Connie Chung for her TV program "Saturday Night with Connie Chung" (1989), broadcast on October 7, 1989, he said he was upset with the picture and mentioned the charitable gift the producers had made on his bequest to show his commitment to toppling apartheid in South Africa. Brando could be generous at that time, as he appeared to be set financially for life due to his profit participation in Apocalypse Now (1979) and the $14-million settlement he won from Superman (1978) producer Ilya Salkind. However, the defense of his son Christian Brando, who was arrested for murder on May 16, 1990, reportedly cost his father as much as $5 million, so Brando was forced to go back to work after almost a decade away from the screen, but for the anti-apartheid picture and what he intended as his career swan-song, The Freshman (1990), for which he was paid $3 million (approximately $4.7 million in 2005 dollars). When he died in 2004, Brando left an estate valued at more than $20 million.
Turned down the role of the Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) after Paul Newman took over the production from Steve McQueen. McQueen, who was obsessed with Newman as his rival as a movie actor and superstar, had bought the script from William Goldman, originally called "The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy". McQueen was slated to play "The Sundance Kid". When he dropped out and Newman took over the production, the title was reversed and Brando was offered the role. He declined in order to film _Queimada! (1969) ("Burn") with Gillo Pontecorvo. Brando earlier had dropped out of Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (1969) shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Brando told Kazan he could not star in a run-of-the-mill movie after King's assassination. Instead, he opted for "Burn", which was a pro-revolutionary story about a rebellion of African slaves in the Caribbean.
Turned down the role of Earl Partridge in Magnolia (1999).
Turned down the role of the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow (1999).
Was considered by director Tim Burton for the role of The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992). "Batman" creator Bob Kane was relieved that he wasn't cast, as he considered Brando the "wrongest possible choice for the role.".
Keith Richards's son, Marlon Richards is named after him.
Signed on to appear in director Sidney Lumet's adaptation of the play Child's Play (1972) as schoolteacher Joseph Dobbs, but backed out just before principal photography was to begin when he realized James Mason had the better part as his schoolteacher rival. According to Bob Thomas' "Brando: Portrait of the Artist as a Rebel", Brando quit the production when he realized his flagging career would soon be revitalized by the The Godfather (1972). A last-minute replacement, Robert Preston was signed to take over the role, and though a fine actor, he bombed in the performance due to over-projection of his voice (Preston had been playing mainly in the theater in the previous decade). Brando subsequently was sued by producer David Merrick. Ironically, both Brando and Mason were rivals for the part of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965). Both were offered the role by David Lean, and both turned it down.
Was offered the part of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965) by double-Oscar winning director David Lean. However, a month went by and Brando failed to respond to Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play Komarovsky, so the director offered the part to James Mason, who was a generation older than Brando. Lean decided on Mason, who initially accepted the part, as he did not want an actor who would overpower the character of Yuri Zhivago (specifically, to show Zhivago up as a lover of Lara, who would be played by the young Julie Christie, which the charismatic Brando might have done, shifting the sympathy of the audience). Mason eventually dropped out and Rod Steiger, who had just won the Silver Bear as Best Actor for his role as the eponymous The Pawnbroker (1964), accepted the role.
Is mentioned in the Billy Joel song "We Didn't Start the Fire".
Made the Top 10 Poll of Money-Making Stars, as ranked by Quigley Publications' annual survey of movie exhibitors, five times from 1954 to 1973. He debuted at #10 in 1954, and climbed to #6 in 1955 before falling off the list in 1956. He again made the list, as #4, in 1958. He did not appear on the list again until 1972, when he was ranked the #6 Box Office star after the extraordinary success of The Godfather (1972). He made one last appearance in 1973, going out as he had come onto the list, at #10.
Supported John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.
Idol of Julie Christie.
Brando's decision to send a Mexican actress named Maria Cruz - calling herself Sacheen Littlefeather - to refuse his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather (1972) at the The 45th Annual Academy Awards (1973) (TV) brought widespread condemnation. At the ceremony Clint Eastwood remarked he didn't know whether he should dedicate the Oscar he was presenting to "all the cowboys shot in John Ford's westerns". Michael Caine, nominated for his performance in Sleuth (1972), angrily condemned Brando's actions while Rock Hudson remarked, "Sometimes to be eloquent is to be silent.".
He was a close friend of the reclusive singer Michael Jackson for many years, even appearing in his music video "You Rock My World" in 2001. The last time Brando left his bungalow in Hollywood was to stay at Jackson's Neverland Ranch in the summer of 2003.
Brando's children: 1) From first marriage (with Anna Kashfi) = Christian Devi Brando aka Christian Brando (b. 1958); 2) From second marriage (with Movita Castaneda) = Miko C. Brando (b. 1961) and Rebecca Brando Kotlinzky (b. 1967); 3) From third marriage (with Tarita Teriipia) = Simon Teihotu Brando (b. 1967), Stefano Brando (b. 1967) and Tarita Cheyenne Brando (b. 1970 and d. 1995); 4) From liaisons with Maria Christina Ruiz, his maid = Ninna Priscilla Brando (b. 1989), Myles Jonathan Brando (b. 1992) and Timothy Gahan Brando (b. 1994). Also adopted 3 children: Petra Brando-Corval (daughter of Brando's assistant, Caroline Barrett), Maimiti Brando and Raiatua Brando.
His character Ken Wilcheck in his cinema debut The Men (1950) has the nickname "Bud", which was his own nickname as he was a "junior". (Brando's father, Marlon Brando Sr., later worked for his company Pennebaker Productions, which was named after his mother, the former Dorothy Pennebaker.) The only other film in which Brando goes by the name which his family and intimate friends called him is The Night of the Following Day (1968).
After he received his first Academy Award nomination (Best Actor for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)), Brando impishly told the Hollywood press corps that he would not attend the ceremony but would send a cab driver in his place to pick up the Oscar, should he win the award. Indeed, Brando did not attend, and some columnists claimed that a cabby actually was in attendance in Brando's seat at Los Angeles' RKO Pantages Theatre the night of ceremony of March 20, 1952. Alas, Brando was the sole "Steetcar" acting nominee not to win that night as Humphrey Bogart took home the gold, so the question can never be satisfactorily resolved.
Jay Kantor was a lowly mailroom clerk at Lew Wasserman's talent agency Music Corp. of America when he was sent to pick up Brando and drive him to the agency. Impressed by the young man, Brando promptly appointed him his agent (Kantor was the inspiration for the character of Teddy Z in the 1989 TV series "The Famous Teddy Z" (1989)).
Sean Penn told writer Charles Bukowski that Brando put scripts from producers into his freezer, in order to use them as targets in skeet shooting. Brando would take the frozen scripts and have them tossed in the air into the canyon below his home at night, and then proceed to blast them into smithereens with a shotgun while they were on the fly. By freezing the scripts, the pages were stiff and made for better "clay pigeon" substitutes. The practice is mentioned in one of Bukowski's poems. Bukowski also wrote about Brando in his short story "You Kissed Lilly", in which Lilly masturbates while watching Brando in a movie on television. The story is part of the collection "Hot Water Music" (1983).
Turned down the role of Vulcan in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Director Terry Gilliam was summoned to Brando's Mulholland Dr. home in Los Angeles to discuss the part, but it became apparent that Brando really wasn't interested in taking the part. Nonetheless, Gilliam treasured the time he got to spend with Brando. The part later was played by Oliver Reed, who spent his time drinking and trying to seduce Uma Thurman, who was a virgin at the time.
In Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Character's of all time, he won the top spot for his performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
He was an avid user of the Internet in his final years, often going into chat rooms to start arguments.
Subject of the song "I'm Stuck in a Condo with Mr. Marlon Brando" by The Dickies.
Grandfather of Tuki Brando, son of Brando's daughter Cheyenne, the three children of Teihotu Brando, Michael Brando son of Christian Brando, the children of Michael Gilman and Shane Brando and Prudence Brando, from Miko C. Brando, among others.
Originally considered too young at 23 to play Stanley Kowalski in the Broadway version of "A Streetcar Named Desire", and the producers of the show tried to get 34-year-old Burt Lancaster, newly a huge star in movies thanks to The Killers (1946). When Lancaster was unable to get permission from the film studio, Brando was given the part and became an overnight sensation.
A large part of his estate was bought by entrepreneur Keya Morgan.
He was sought for the role of O'Brien the interrogator in 1984 (1984), along with Sean Connery and Paul Scofield. Scofield accepted the part, but had to drop out of shooting after breaking his arm and was replaced by Richard Burton.
In 1999 the American Film Institute named him the fourth Greatest Male Star of All Time.
Mentioned in The Killers' "The Ballad of Michael Valentine".
Brando's first Oscar nomination for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) marked his first of 4 consecutive nominations, a feat he shares with Jennifer Jones (1943-1946), Thelma Ritter (1950-1953), Elizabeth Taylor (1957-1960) and Al Pacino (1972-1975).
Former brother-in-law of Eliot Asinof.
Encouraged Johnny Depp to get himself a private island just like his one in Tahiti.
In the summer of 1995, he started shooting a movie called "Divine Rapture" in the tiny Irish village of Ballycotton, County Cork. His co-stars were Johnny Depp, Debra Winger and John Hurt. Marlon was playing a priest in the film and he had dyed his hair red for the part. Shooting began, but was never completed due to lack of financing.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 43-46. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Was fluent in French.
In a 1989 TV interview with Connie Chung, Brando told her that he contributed his entire salary for A Dry White Season (1989) to an anti-apartheid group in South Africa with the understanding that M.G.M. would make a similar contribution. The movie was the first Brando had made in nine years. Brando quoted his salary at $3.3 million plus 11.3% of gross. He claimed that M.G.M. reneged on its own matching contribution to the group and that he was uncertain how much the group received from M.G.M. because of his percentage. Brando's anger with M.G.M. over reneging on its charitable contribution and for cutting his scenes (which he felt were a more forceful indictment of apartheid and had been done to prevent South Africa's then-apartheid government from banning the studio's films) was felt to be one of the reasons that Brando gave his first interview in many years.
Was of German, Dutch, English, and Irish heritage. His paternal great-grandfather, Johann Wilhelm Brandau, was a German immigrant.
His idols are Fredric March, John Barrymore and Spencer Tracy.
While making Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) in Tahiti, Brando fell in love with the place. So, in 1966, he purchased Tetiaroa, a small atoll located approximately 30 miles north of Tahiti. Tetiaroa is to be the site of a lavish new ecological hotel called The Brando. Consisting of 30 deluxe fares (villas), it will be the only hotel on Tetiaroa.
In the last three years of his life, Marlon filmed a series of classes of him giving acting lessons to Sean Penn, Jon Voight and Nick Nolte. Marlon intended to call the series "Lying For A Living" and to sell DVDs of it on shopping channel QVC to raise money. The DVDs were never released publicly following his death.
His ashes were scattered in Tahiti and Death Valley.
He died in 2004 at the age of 80, from obesity, pulmonary fibrosis, diabetes, cardiac failure, and an enlarged liver suggesting cancer.
He allegedly refused to be interviewed for Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) (a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now (1979)) because he claimed Francis Ford Coppola still owed him $2 million.
His Sacheen Littlefeather controversy at the Oscars resulted in the Academy setting stricter rules that nominees cannot send someone else to accept the award onstage or address the audience, and only the presenter is allowed to accept on the winner's behalf. Exceptions are made in the case that the honoree genuinely could not attend due to illness or death.
One of only four actors to win two Oscars for films that also won Best Picture (the others being Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, and Gene Hackman). In addition, he and Dustin Hoffman are the only actors to win two Best Actor Oscars for films that won Best Picture.
Huge fan of professional wrestling.
The more sensitive you are, the more likely you are to be brutalised, develop scabs and never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything because you always feel too much.
The only thing an actor owes his public is not to bore them.
An actor is at most a poet and at least an entertainer.
Would people applaud me if I were a good plumber?
I don't know what people expect when they meet me. They seem to be afraid that I'm going to piss in the potted palm and slap them on the ass.
I put on an act sometimes, and people think I'm insensitive. Really, it's like a kind of armour because I'm too sensitive. If there are two hundred people in a room and one of them doesn't like me, I've got to get out.
If you're successful, acting is about as soft a job as anybody could ever wish for. But if you're unsuccessful, it's worse than having a skin disease.
[on one of his most famous characters, Stanley Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)] Kowalski was always right, and never afraid. He never wondered, he never doubted. His ego was very secure. And he had the kind of brutal aggressiveness that I hate. I'm afraid of it. I detest the character.
I don't want to spread the peanut butter of my personality on the mouldy bread of the commercial press.
The most repulsive thing you could ever imagine is the inside of a camel's mouth. That and watching a girl eat octopus or squid.
With women, I've got a long bamboo pole with a leather loop on the end. I slip the loop around their necks so they can't get away or come too close. Like catching snakes.
If there's anything unsettling to the stomach, it's watching actors on television talk about their personal lives.
[on Frank Sinatra] He's the kind of guy that when he dies, he's going up to heaven and give God a bad time for making him bald.
[on his unforgettable role in The Godfather (1972)] I went home and did some rehearsing to satisfy my curiosity about whether I could play an Italian. I put on some makeup, stuffed Kleenex in my cheeks and worked out the characterization first in front of a mirror, then on a television monitor. After working on it, I decided I could create a characterization that would support the story. The people at Paramount saw the footage and liked it, and that's how I became the Godfather."
[when asked how he spent his time away from the camera] People ask that a lot. They say, "What did you do while you took time out?", as if the rest of my life is taking time out. But the fact is, making movies is time out for me because the rest, the nearly complete whole, is what's real for me. I'm not an actor and haven't been for years. I'm a human being - hopefully a concerned and somewhat intelligent one - who occasionally acts.
Regret is useless in life. It's in the past. All we have is now.
Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It's a bum's life. Quitting acting is a sign of maturity.
[on the impact of The Godfather (1972)] I'd gotten to know quite a few mafiosi, and all of them told me they loved the picture because I had played the Godfather with dignity. Even today I can't pay a check in Little Italy.
Acting is an empty and useless profession.
[on his characterization of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)] [The role] was actor-proof, a scene that demonstrated how audiences often do much of the acting themselves in an effectively told story.
[on directing] I did it once. It was an ass-breaker. You work yourself to death. You're the first one up in the morning . . . I mean, we shot that thing [One-Eyed Jacks (1961)] on the run, you know. You make up the dialog the scene before, improvising, and your brain is going crazy.
[on the Academy Awards, to Connie Chung after his Best Supporting Actor nomination for A Dry White Season (1989)] That's a part of the sickness in America, that you have to think in terms of who wins, who loses, who's good, who's bad, who's best, who's worst . . . I don't like to think that way. Everybody has their own value in different ways, and I don't like to think who's the best at this. I mean, what's the point of it?
[on the Academy Awards, Connie Chung TV interview, 1990] What do I care? I've made all the money I need to make. I won a couple of Academy Awards if I ever cared about that. I've been nominated I don't know how many times and I'm in a position of respect and standing in my craft as an actor in this country. So what the hell, I don't need to gild the lily.
[after accepting the Best Actor Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954) at the 27th Academy Awards ceremony] I can't remember what I was going to say for the life of me. I don't think ever in my life that so many people were so directly responsible for my being so very, very happy.
If the vacuum formed by Dr. [Martin Luther King's] death isn't filled with concern and understanding and a measure of love, then I think we all are really going to be lost here in this country.
[on Malcolm X] He was a dynamic person, a very special human being who might have caused a revolution. He had to be done away with. The American government couldn't let him live. If 23 million blacks found a charismatic leader like he was, they would have followed him. The powers that be couldn't accept that.
It is a simple fact that all of us use the techniques of acting to achieve whatever ends we seek.... Acting serves as the quintessential social lubricant and a device for protecting our interests and gaining advantage in every aspect of life.
It seems to me hilarious that our government put the face of Elvis Presley on a postage stamp after he died from an overdose of drugs. His fans don't mention that because they don't want to give up their myths. They ignore the fact that he was a drug addict and claim he invented rock 'n' roll when in fact he took it from black culture; they had been singing that way for years before he came along, copied them and became a star.
I'm one of those people who believes that if I'm very good in this life I'll go to France when I die.
Even today I meet people who think of me automatically as a tough, insensitive, coarse guy named Stanley Kowalski. They can't help it, but, it is troubling.
A movie that I was in, called On the Waterfront (1954): there was a scene in a taxicab, where I turn to my brother, who's come to turn me over to the gangsters, and I lament to him that he never looked after me, he never gave me a chance, that I could have been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum ... "You should of looked out after me, Charley." It was very moving. And people often spoke about that, "Oh, my God, what a wonderful scene, Marlon, blah blah blah blah blah." It wasn't wonderful at all. The situation was wonderful. Everybody feels like he could have been a contender, he could have been somebody, everybody feels as though he's partly bum, some part of him. He is not fulfilled and he could have done better, he could have been better. Everybody feels a sense of loss about something. So that was what touched people. It wasn't the scene itself. There are other scenes where you'll find actors being expert, but since the audience can't clearly identify with them, they just pass unnoticed. Wonderful scenes never get mentioned, only those scenes that affect people.
Most people want those fantasies of those who are worthy of our hate - we get rid of a lot of anger that way; and of those who are worthy of our idolatry. Whether it's Farrah Fawcett or somebody else, it doesn't make a difference. They're easily replaceable units, pick 'em out like a card file. Johnnie Ray enjoyed that kind of hysterical popularity, celebration, and then suddenly he wasn't there anymore. The Beatles are now nobody in particular. Once they set screaming crowds running after them, they ran in fear of their lives, they had special tunnels for them. They can walk almost anyplace now. Because the fantasy is gone. Elvis Presley - bloated, over the hill, adolescent entertainer, suddenly drawing people into Las Vegas - had nothing to do with excellence, just myth. It's convenient for people to believe that something is wonderful, therefore they're wonderful.
If Wally [Wally Cox] had been a woman, I would have married him and we would have lived happily ever after.
America has been good to me, but that wasn't a gift.
I have eyes like those of a dead pig.
The only reason I'm in Hollywood is that I don't have the moral courage to refuse the money.
Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite.
I don't mind that I'm fat. You still get the same money.
This is a false world. It's been a struggle to try to preserve my sanity and sense of reality taken away by success. I have to fight hard to preserve that sense of reality so as to bring up my children.
I always enjoyed watching John Wayne, but it never occurred to me until I spoke with Indians how corrosive and damaging and destructive his movies were - most Hollywood movies were.
[on John Wayne's 1971 interview with Playboy magazine] That doesn't need a reply, it's self-evident. You can't even get mad at it; it's so insane that there's just nothing to say about it. He would be, according to his point of view, someone not disposed to returning any of the colonial possessions in Africa or Asia to their rightful owners. He would be sharing a perspective with B.J. Vorster if he were in South Africa. He would be on the side of Ian Smith. He would have shot down Gandhi [Mohandas K. Gandhi], called him a rabble rouser. The only freedom fighters he would recognize would be those who were fighting Communists; if they were fighting to get out from under colonial rule, he'd call them terrorists. The Indians today he'd call agitators, terrorists, who knows? If John Wayne ran for President, he would get a great following . . . I think he's been enormously instrumental in perpetuating this view of the Indian as a savage, ferocious, destructive force. He's made us believe things about the Indian that were never true and perpetuated the myth about how wonderful the frontiersmen were and how decent and honorable we all were.
Everybody ought not to turn his back on the phenomenon of hatred in whatever form it takes. We have to find out what the anatomy of hatred is before we can understand it. We have to make some attempt to put it into some understandable form. Any kind of group hatred is extremely dangerous and much more volatile than individual hatred. Heinous crimes are committed by groups and it's all done, of course, in the name of right, justice. It's John Wayne. It's the way he thinks. All the crimes committed against Indians are not considered crimes by John Wayne.
I don't see anybody as evil. When you start seeing people as evil, you're in trouble. The thing that's going to save us is understanding. The inspection of the mind of Eichmann [Adolf Eichmann] or Himmler [Heinrich Himmler] . . . Just to dispense with them as evil is not enough, because it doesn't bring you understanding. You have to see them for what they are. You have to examine John Wayne. He's not a bad person. Who among us is going to say he's a bad man? He feels justified for what he does. The damage that he does he doesn't consider damage, he thinks it's an honest presentation of the facts.
Three or four times, I've pulled a gun on somebody. I had a problem after Charles Manson, deciding to get a gun. But I didn't want somebody coming in my house and committing mayhem. The Hillside Strangler victims - one of the girls was found in back of my Los Angeles house. My next-door neighbor was murdered, strangled in the bathroom. Mulholland Drive is full of crazy people. We have nuts coming up and down all the time.
 Homosexuality is so much in fashion it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me. But if there is someone who is convinced that Jack Nicholson and I are lovers, may they continue to do so. I find it amusing.
I know I'm not an easy person to get along with, I'm no walk in the park.
[on Burt Reynolds] I disagree with the thought process of people like him, who is a totally narcissistic person who epitomizes everything wrong with being a celebrity in Hollywood.
[on Cheyenne Autumn (1964)] That was worse than any other film, because it didn't tell the truth. Superduper patriots like John Ford could never say that the American government was at fault. He made the evil cavalry captain a foreigner. John Ford had him speak with a thick accent, you didn't know what he was, but you knew he didn't represent Mom's apple pie.
You're not going to call The Rolling Stones artists. I heard somebody compare them - or The Beatles - to Bach [Johann Sebastian Bach]. It was claimed they had created something as memorable and as important as Bach, Haydn [Joseph Haydn], Mozart [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart] and Schubert [Franz Schubert]. I hate rock 'n' roll. It's ugly. I liked it when the blacks had it in 1927.
Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.
Regrets belong to the past.
[on Hollywood] A cultural boneyard.
[on Dustin Hoffman] I believe that he has talent. He ought to get away from this rather nervous character that he's played since Midnight Cowboy (1969). Then we'd really be able to see that he's a complete actor.
The good directors that I've worked with will say I'm a good guy. The other fellows will say I'm a bad guy.
[on Marilyn Monroe] Marilyn was a sensitive, misunderstood person, much more perceptive than was generally assumed. She had been beaten down, but had a strong emotional intelligence -- a keen intuition for the feelings of others, the most refined type of intelligence. We had an affair and saw each other intermittently until she died in 1962. It's been speculated that she had a secret rendezvous with [Robert F. Kennedy] that week and was distraught because he wanted to end an affair between them. But she didn't seem depressed to me, and I don't think that if she was sleeping with him at the time she would have invited me over for dinner. I'm sure she didn't commit suicide. I have always believed that she was murdered.
At Paramount, I sat at lunch with John Wayne. I couldn't even talk.
Do you remember when Marilyn Monroe died? Everybody stopped work, and you could see all that day the same expressions on their faces, the same thought: "How can a girl with success, fame, youth, money, beauty . . . how could she kill herself?" Nobody could understand it because those are the things that everybody wants, and they can't believe that life wasn't important to Marilyn Monroe, or that her life was elsewhere.
Most New York and Beverly Hills psychoanalysts are a little crazy themselves, as well as highly motivated to separate patients from their money while making their emotional problems worse.
[on Lee Strasberg] An ambitious, selfish man who exploited the people who attended the Actors Studio, and he tried to project himself as an acting oracle and guru. Some people worshiped him, but I never knew why.
I bumped into Marilyn Monroe at a party. While other people drank and danced, she sat by herself in a corner almost unnoticed, playing the piano.
I come from a long line of Irish drunks.
If given the choice between Kenneth Branagh's production of Henry V (1989) or Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Terminator (1984), there's hardly a question of where most television dials would be turned. If the expenditure of money for entertainment in America is any indication of taste, clearly the majority of us are addicted to trash.
When I saw The Godfather (1972) the first time, it made me sick; all I could see were my mistakes and I hated it. But years later, when I saw it on television from a different perspective, I decided it was a pretty good film.
[on Al Pacino] I didn't say much to Pacino when we were making The Godfather (1972), but I not only consider him one of the best actors in America, but in the world. I never meant anything more in my life.
I had a great deal of respect for Don Corleone; I saw him as a man of substance, tradition, dignity, refinement, a man of unerring instinct who just happened to live in a violent world and who had to protect himself and his family in this environment. I saw him as a decent person regardless of what he had to do, as a man who believed in family values and was shaped by events just like the rest of us.
On The Godfather (1972) I had signs and cue cards everywhere -- on my shirt sleeves, on a watermelon and glued to the scenery. Not memorizing lines increased the illusion of reality and spontaneity.
News is business. And, uh, people sell news, and unfortunately people in my position are in the public eye, are sellable commodities, but they're not any different than Kleenex or Dial Soap or anything else. And uh, so if we find something out that's about your sex life, or something you do with your fingernails after you cut them off, if you smoke the grime from your navel, then ... then ... that's big news. That's important.... But anyway, it doesn't matter. Because, finally, you know ... I've found that people really don't believe all the nonsense they read. And they look at you when they meet you, and wonder if it's true, but they finally make a decision based on what their experience with you personally is.
A lot of the old movie stars couldn't act their way out of a box of wet tissue paper, but they were successful because they had distinctive personalities. They were predictable brands of breakfast cereal: on Wednesdays we had Quaker Oats and Gary Cooper; on Fridays we had Wheaties and Clark Gable. They were off-the-shelf products you expected always to be the same, actors and actresses with likable personalities who played themselves more or less the same role the same way every time out.
Everyone on a movie deserves an award - not just one person.
I know it can be hard for a troubled kid like James Dean to have to live up to sudden fame and the ballyhoo Hollywood created around him. I saw it happen to Marilyn Monroe and I also knew it from my own experience. In trying to copy me, I think Jimmy was only attempting to deal with these insecurities, but I told him it was a mistake.
Acting is an illusion, a form of histrionic slight of hand, and in order to carry it off, an actor must have intense concentration. Before I go into a scene, I study it, almost psychoanalyze it. Then I discuss it with the director and then rehearse it. When actual shooting commences, I put in earplugs to screen out the extraneous noises that inevitably prick at one's concentration.
With so much prejudice, racial discrimination, injustice, hatred, poverty, starvation and suffering in the world, making movies seemed increasingly silly and irrelevant.
Food has always been my friend. When I wanted to feel better or had a crisis in my life, I opened the icebox.
I hated authority and did everything I could to defeat it by resisting it, subverting it, tricking it and outmaneuvering it. I would do anything to avoid being treated like a cipher.
If I hadn't been an actor, I've often thought I'd have become a con man and wound up in jail.
An actor's a guy who, if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.
I'm just another son-of-a-bitch sitting in a motor home on a film set and they come looking for Zeus.
[on his regret at not appearing in the movie version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)] I know more about being a homosexual than Paul Newman. It's very clear to me that Tennessee Williams modeled Alexandra Del Lago after Tallulah Bankhead. I surely know how to appear opposite a Tallulah character better than Newman.
[on working with David Niven on Bedtime Story (1964)] Working with David was the only time I ever looked forward to filming. I just couldn't wait to wake up each morning and go to work so he could make me laugh.
I'm often amused when I read American history and I read what great things America was going to be, what great things we were going to produce, the magnificent life we were going to have. We were determined to be an impressive and strong nation that needed a lot of people and a lot of land. And all those people who came: "Give us your great unwashed." Well, we got all the great unwashed there were. From every prison we certainly got a lot of scum and dummies. We didn't get the cream of the crop. We got people from the lowest echelons of society who couldn't make it or weren't happy where they were. Or who were taken from Africa, brought to America in chains and turned into animals.
I think Robert F. Kennedy really, finally, cared; he realized that all of the rhetoric had to be put down into some form of action. That's perhaps the reason they killed him. They don't care what you say, you can say as much as you want to, provided you don't do anything. If you start to do something and your shuffling raises too much dust, they will disestablish you. That's what happened to Martin Luther King.
If you have enough money, you can do anything. You can even get a President shot. All you have to do is hire Sam Giancana, Sirhan Sirhan. You can get anybody killed for a can of beer. Hire some dumbo hit man, pay him $50,000. You can hire a 17-year-old kid, he'll be out in the streets in two or three years.
The Godfather (1972) said that a man with a briefcase can steal more money than a man with a pistol.
Mothers feel about their children the way husbands feel about women. It's 'my' kid. Women who are in the women's movement, some of them say they are not their husband's possession, but then they'll unconsciously refer to their child as a possession. They use the same kind of language about their children as they would hate for their husbands to use about them.
I don't know Woody Allen, but I like him very much. I saw Annie Hall (1977) -- enjoyed it enormously, He's an important man. Woody Allen can't make any sense out of this world and he really tells wonderful jokes about it. Don't you think it was remarkable that his time came to get his door prize at the Academy Awards and he stayed home and played his clarinet? That was as witty and funny a thing as you could do.
Bob Hope will go to the opening of a phone booth in a gas station in Anaheim, provided they have a camera and three people there. He'll go to the opening of a market and receive an award. Get an award from Thom McAn for wearing their shoes. It's pathetic. It's a bottomless pit. A barrel that has no floor. He must be a man who has an ever-crumbling estimation of himself. He's constantly filling himself up. He's like a junkie -- an applause junkie, like Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy desperately longs to be loved, approved of. He's very talented.
[on Lily Tomlin] Good God, is she angry. Whew! She gives me the impression of somebody incandescent with rage that comes out in this crinkle-eyed smiling face. Acid. She's funny, but all of her humor comes from anguish, rage and pain. Don Rickles, too. Most humor does.
[on Charles Chaplin] A remarkable talent but a monster of a man.
If an actor can't improvise, then perhaps the producer's wife cast him in that part. You wouldn't be in the film with such a person. Some actors don't like it. Laurence Olivier doesn't like to improvise; everything is structured and his roles are all according to an almost architectural plan.
[on Last Tango in Paris (1972)] I don't know what that film's about. So much of it was improvised. [Bernardo Bertolucci] wanted to do this, to do that. I'd seen his other movie, The Conformist (1970), and I thought he was a man of special talent. And he thought of all kinds of improvisations. He let me do anything. He told me the general area of what he wanted and I tried to produce the words or the action.
[on the taxi cab scene in On the Waterfront (1954)] People often spoke about that, "Oh, my God, what a wonderful scene, Marlon, blah blah blah blah blah." It wasn't wonderful at all. The situation was wonderful. Everybody feels like he could have been a contender, he could have been somebody, everybody feels as though he's partly bum, some part of him. He is not fulfilled and he could have done better, he could have been better. Everybody feels a sense of loss about something. So that was what touched people. It wasn't the scene itself.
[on acting] I don't put it down. But I resent people putting it up.
[on claims he defamed Italian-Americans with his portrayal of The Godfather (1972)] I played an Irishman who was a freak psychopath (in The Nightcomers (1971))and I didn't get any letters from any Irish-American organizations. It would have been difficult to make The Godfather (1972) with an eighth Chinese, a quarter Russian, a quarter Irish and an eighth Hispanic. Very difficult to take those people to Sicily and call them O'Houlihan.
We've somehow substituted craft for art and cleverness for craft. It's revolting! It's disgusting that people talk about art and they haven't got the right to use the word. It doesn't belong on anybody's tongue in this century. There are no artists. We are businessmen. We're merchants. There is no art. Pablo Picasso was the last one I would call an artist.
Mao Tse-tung was the last giant.
I don't think any movie is a work of art.
A prostitute can give you all kinds of wonderful excitement and inspiration and make you think that nirvana has arrived on the two-o'clock plane, and it ain't necessarily so.
Acting is just hustling.
George Bernard Shaw said that thinking was the greatest of all human endeavors, but I would say that feeling was. Allowing yourself to feel things, to feel love or wrath, hatred, rage.
People will like you who never met you, they think you're absolutely wonderful; and then people also will hate you, for reasons that have nothing to do with any real experience with you. People don't want to lose their enemies. We have favorite enemies, people we love to hate and we hate to love. If they do something good, we don't like it. I found myself doing that with Ronald Reagan. He is anathema to me. If he does something that's reasonable, I find my mind trying to find some way to interpret it so that it's not reasonable, so that somewhere it's jingoist extremism.
If you've made a hit movie, then you get the full 32-teeth display in some places; and if you've sort of faded, they say, "Are you still making movies? I remember that picture, blah blah blah." And so it goes. The point of all this is, people are interested in people who are successful.
What people are willing to do in front of a public is puzzling. I don't understand why they do it. I guess it makes them feel a little less lonely. I always found it distasteful and not something I cared to do.
I just don't believe in washing my dirty underwear for all to see, and I'm not interested in the confessions of movie stars.
[on his refusal to talk about Marilyn Monroe's death] It's disemboweling a ghost.
Ask most kids about details about Auschwitz or about how the American Indians were assassinated as a people and they don't know anything about it. They don't want to know anything. Most people just want their beer or their soap opera or their lullaby.
I'm not going to lay myself at the feet of the American public and invite them into my soul. My soul is a private place. And I have some resentment of the fact that I live in a system where you have to do that.
You can say something in a certain spirit, with a smile, but when it appears in print, there's no smile.
[on American Indians] When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did. For them, we do not have to restore these people, we do not have to live up to some agreements, because it is given to us by virtue of our power to attack the rights of others, to take their property, to take their lives when they are trying to defend their land and liberty, and to make their virtues a crime and our own vices virtues.
[on Charles Chaplin] Chaplin you got to go with. Chaplin is a man whose talents is such that you have to gamble. First off, comedy is his backyard. He's a genius, a cinematic genius. A comedic talent without peer.
[To his cast on the set of One-Eyed Jacks ]: I don't know how this film is going to end. But I want a scene where someone gets shot in the back. Who wants to be the shooter? Who wants to be the shootee?
[To his cast and crew on the set of One-Eyed Jacks ]: I've got to have clouds, not a clear sky, before we can go on shooting.
(On Hollywood) A small-minded little town in the middle of nowhere.
[Observation, 1952] One more film and I will have my pile. My mother and father are taken care of. I have eight hundred head of cattle on my ranch in Nevada. This ['Viva Zapata'] should soon bring me an income of $80,000 a year. That will be enough. Any acting I do will be on the stage.
I don't think it's the nature of any man to be monogamous. Men are propelled by genetically ordained impulses over which they have no control to distribute their seed.
[on Burt Reynolds] He's the epitome of everything that's disgusting about the thespian. He worships at the temple of his own narcissism.
If you want something from an audience, you give blood to their fantasies. It's the ultimate hustle.
I'm not a film fanatic. If I never saw another movie in my life, it wouldn't bother me. Acting is what I do to make money, but it's certainly not my life-style. Compared to world affairs, to peace conferences, making a movie is absolutely nothing!
To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.
|The Men (1950)||$50,000 (equivalent of $477,354 in 2012 dollars)|
|A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)||$75,000 (equivalent of $663,706 in 2012 dollars)|
|Viva Zapata! (1952)||$100,000 (equivalent of $868,245 in 2012 dollars)|
|On the Waterfront (1954)||$100,000 (equivalent of $855,334 in 2012 dollars)|
|Guys and Dolls (1955)||$200,000 (equivalent of $1,710,668 in 2012 dollars)|
|Sayonara (1957)||$300,000 (equivalent of $2,456,423 in 2012 dollars)|
|Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)||$1.25m (equivalent of $9.5 million in 2012 dollars)|
|The Chase (1966)||$750,000 plus $130,000 fee to his production company Pennebaker (equivalent of $6,249,222 in 2012 dollars)|
|Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)||$750,000 + 10% of the net profits (equivalent of $5,326,041 today)|
|The Night of the Following Day (1968)||$50,000|
|The Godfather (1972)||$250,000 plus percentage of gross (equivalent of 6.5 million in 2012 dollars)|
|Last Tango in Paris (1972)||$250,000 + 10% of the profits (equivalent of $10,000,00 in 2012 dollars)0|
|The Missouri Breaks (1976)||$1.25m plus 11% of gross receipts over $8.85 million (equivalent of $5 million in 2012 dollars)|
|Superman (1978)||$3 million|
|Apocalypse Now (1979)||$3.5 Million|
|The Formula (1980)||$2,700,000|
|A Dry White Season (1989)||$3.3 million plus 11.3% of gross with proviso M.G.M. would contribute his upfront payment plus a similar amount to an anti-apartheid group|
|Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)||$5,000,000|
|The Score (2001)||$3,000,000|
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