He was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two for his performances in On The Waterfront and The Godfather.
|1951||A Streetcar Named Desire|
|The Wild One|
|1954||On the Waterfront|
|1955||Guys and Dolls|
|1956||The Teahouse of the August Moon|
|1958||The Young Lions|
|1960||The Fugitive Kind|
|1962||Mutiny on the Bounty|
|1963||The Ugly American|
|1967||A Countess from Hong Kong|
|Reflections in a Golden Eye|
|The Night of the Following Day|
|Last Tango in Paris|
|1976||The Missouri Breaks|
|1989||A Dry White Season|
|1992||Christopher Columbus: The Discovery|
|1995||Don Juan DeMarco|
|1996||The Island of Dr. Moreau|
Marlon Brando was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two.
|1952||Nominee||Best Actor in a Leading Role – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)|
|1953||Nominee||Best Actor in a Leading Role – Viva Zapata! (1952)|
|1954||Nominee||Best Actor in a Leading Role – Julius Caesar (1953)|
|1955||Winner||Best Actor in a Leading Role – On the Waterfront (1954)|
|1958||Nominee||Best Actor in a Leading Role – Sayonara (1957)|
|1973||Winner||Best Actor in a Leading Role – The Godfather (1972) – Sacheen Littlefeather (a.k.a. Maria Cruz) Refused The Award on His Behalf|
|1974||Nominee||Best Actor in a Leading Role – Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972)|
|1990||Nominee||Best Actor in a Supporting Role – A Dry White Season (1989)|
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. ~ Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando Jr. was born on April 3, 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr. (1895–1965), a pesticide and chemical feed manufacturer, and Dorothy Julia (née Pennebaker; 1897–1954). Brando had two older sisters, Jocelyn Brando (1919–2005) and Frances (1922–1994). He was raised a Christian Scientist.
His mother, known as Dodie, was unconventional for her time; she smoked, wore trousers and drove cars. An actress herself and even a theatre administrator, she helped Henry Fonda begin his acting career. However, she was an alcoholic and often had to be brought home from Chicago bars by her husband. In his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando expressed sadness when writing about his mother: “The anguish that her drinking produced was that she preferred getting drunk to caring for us.” Dodie and Brando’s father eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Brando harbored far more enmity for his father, stating, “I was his namesake, but nothing I did ever pleased or even interested him. He enjoyed telling me I couldn’t do anything right. He had a habit of telling me I would never amount to anything.” Brando’s parents moved to Evanston, Illinois, when his father’s work took him to Chicago, but separated when Brando was 11 years old. His mother took the three children to Santa Ana, California, where they lived with her mother. In 1937, Brando’s parents reconciled and moved together to Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago. In 1939 and 1941, he worked as an usher at the town’s only movie theatre, The Liberty.
Brando, whose childhood nickname was “Bud”, was a mimic from his youth. He developed an ability to absorb the mannerisms of kids he played with and display them dramatically while staying in character.
He was introduced to neighborhood boy Wally Cox and the two were unlikely closest friends until Cox’s death in 1973.
His sister Jocelyn was the first to pursue an acting career, going to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She appeared on Broadway, then films and television. Brando’s sister Frances left college in California to study art in New York. Brando had been held back a year in school and was later expelled from Libertyville High School for riding his motorcycle through the corridors.
He was sent to Shattuck Military Academy, where his father had studied before him. Brando excelled at theatre and did well in the school. In his final year (1943), he was put on probation for being insubordinate to a visiting army colonel during maneuvers. He was confined to his room but snuck into town and was caught. The faculty voted to expel him, though he was supported by the students, who thought expulsion was too harsh. He was invited back for the following year but decided instead to drop out of high school. Brando worked as a ditch-digger as a summer job arranged by his father. He tried to enlist in the Army, but his induction physical revealed that a football injury he had sustained at Shattuck had left him with a trick knee. He was classified 4-F and not inducted.
Brando decided to follow his sisters to New York, studying at the American Theatre Wing Professional School, part of the Dramatic Workshop of the New School, with influential German director Erwin Piscator.
In the A&E Biography episode on Brando, George Englund said Brando fell into acting in New York because “he was accepted there. He wasn’t criticized. It was the first time in his life that he heard good things about himself.”
Brando was an avid student and proponent of Stella Adler, from whom he learned the techniques of the Stanislavski system. This technique encouraged the actor to explore both internal and external aspects to fully realize the character being portrayed. Brando’s remarkable insight and sense of realism were evident early on. Adler used to recount that when teaching Brando, she had instructed the class to act like chickens, and added that a nuclear bomb was about to fall on them. Most of the class clucked and ran around wildly, but Brando sat calmly and pretended to lay an egg. Asked by Adler why he had chosen to react this way, he said, “I’m a chicken—what do I know about bombs?” Despite being commonly regarded as a Method actor, Brando disagreed. He claimed to have abhorred Lee Strasberg’s teachings.
Brando was the first to bring a natural approach to acting on film. According to Dustin Hoffman in his online Masterclass, Brando would often talk to camera men and fellow actors about their weekend even after the director would call action. Once Brando felt he could deliver the dialogue as natural as that conversation he would start the dialogue.
In 1944, he made it to Broadway. In 1945, Brando’s agent recommended he take a co-starring role in The Eagle Has Two Heads with Tallulah Bankhead, produced by Jack Wilson. Bankhead had turned down the role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, which Williams had written for her, to tour the play for the 1946–1947 season. Bankhead recognized Brando’s potential, despite her disdain (which most Broadway veterans shared) for method acting and agreed to hire him even though he auditioned poorly. The two clashed greatly during the pre-Broadway tour, with Bankhead reminding Brando of his mother, being her age and having a drinking problem. Wilson was largely tolerant of Brando’s behavior, but he reached his limit when Brando mumbled through a dress rehearsal shortly before the November 28, 1946, opening.
Critics were not as kind, however. A review of Brando’s performance in the opening assessed that Brando was “still building his character, but at present fails to impress.” One Boston critic remarked of Brando’s prolonged death scene, “Brando looked like a car in midtown Manhattan searching for a parking space.” He received better reviews at subsequent tour stops, but what his colleagues recalled was only occasional indications of the talent he would later demonstrate. “There were a few times when he was really magnificent,” Bankhead admitted to an interviewer in 1962. “He was a great young actor when he wanted to be, but most of the time I couldn’t even hear him on the stage.”
Brando displayed his apathy for the production by demonstrating some shocking onstage manners. He “tried everything in the world to ruin it for her,” Bankhead’s stage manager claimed. “He nearly drove her crazy: scratching his crotch, picking his nose, doing anything.” After several weeks on the road, they reached Boston, by which time Bankhead was ready to dismiss him. This proved to be one of the greatest blessings of his career, as it freed him up to play the role of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’s 1947 play , directed by Elia Kazan. Bankhead had recommended him to Williams for the role of Stanley, thinking he was perfect for the part.
Pierpont writes that John Garfield was first choice for the role, but “made impossible demands.” It was Kazan’s decision to fall back on the far less experienced (and technically too young for the role) Brando. In a letter dated August 29, 1947, Williams confided to his agent Audrey Wood: “It had not occurred to me before what an excellent value would come through casting a very young actor in this part. It humanizes the character of Stanley in that it becomes the brutality and callousness of youth rather than a vicious old man.
In 1947, Brando performed a screen test for an early Warner Brothers script for the novel Rebel Without a Cause (1944), which bore no relation to the film eventually produced in 1955. The screen test is included as an extra in the 2006 DVD release of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Brando’s first screen role was a bitter paraplegic veteran in The Men (1950). He spent a month in bed at the Birmingham Army Hospital in Van Nuys to prepare for the role.
Brando brought his performance as Stanley Kowalski to the screen in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). The role is regarded as one of Brando’s greatest. The reception of Brando’s performance was so positive that Brando quickly became a male sex symbol in Hollywood. The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category.
He was also nominated the next year for Viva Zapata! (1952), a fictionalized account of the life of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. It recounted his peasant upbringing, his rise to power in the early 20th century, and death. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and co-starred Anthony Quinn. Most critics focused on the actor rather than the film, with Time and Newsweek publishing rave reviews.
Brando’s next film, Julius Caesar (1953), received highly favorable reviews. Brando portrayed Mark Antony. While most acknowledged Brando’s talent, some critics felt Brando’s “mumbling” and other idiosyncrasies betrayed a lack of acting fundamentals and, when his casting was announced, many remained dubious about his prospects for success. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and co-starring British stage actor John Gielgud, Brando delivered an impressive performance, especially during Antony’s noted “Friends, Romans, countrymen …” speech. Gielgud was so impressed that he offered Brando a full season at the Hammersmith Theatre, an offer he declined.
During the filming of Julius Caesar, Brando learned that Elia Kazan had cooperated with congressional investigators, naming a whole string of “subversives” to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. By all accounts, Brando was upset by his mentor’s decision, but he worked with him again in On The Waterfront.
In 1953, Brando also starred in The Wild One, riding his own Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle. Triumph’s importers were ambivalent at the exposure, as the subject matter was rowdy motorcycle gangs taking over a small town. The film was criticized for its perceived gratuitous violence at the time. Brando allegedly did not see eye to eye with the Hungarian director László Benedek and did not get on with costar Lee Marvin.
To Brando’s expressed puzzlement, the movie inspired teen rebellion and made him a role model to the nascent rock-and-roll generation and future stars such as James Dean and Elvis Presley. After the movie’s release, the sales of leather jackets and blue jeans skyrocketed.
Later that same year, the last time Brando acted in a stage play.
In 1954, Brando starred in On the Waterfront, a crime drama film about union violence and corruption among longshoremen. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg; it also stars Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger and, in her film debut, Eva Marie Saint. When initially offered the role, Brando—still stung by Kazan’s testimony to HUAC—demurred and the part of Terry Malloy nearly went to Frank Sinatra. According to biographer Stefan Kanfer, the director believed that Sinatra, who grew up in Hoboken, would work as Malloy, but eventually producer Sam Spiegel wooed Brando to the part, signing him for $100,000.
Brando won the Oscar for his role as Irish-American stevedore Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. His performance, spurred on by his rapport with Eva Marie Saint and Kazan’s direction, was praised as a tour de force. For the famous I coulda been a contender scene, he convinced Kazan that the scripted scene was unrealistic. Schulberg’s script had Brando acting the entire scene with his character being held at gunpoint by his brother Charlie, played by Rod Steiger. Brando insisted on gently pushing away the gun, saying that Terry would never believe that his brother would pull the trigger and doubting that he could continue his speech while fearing a gun on him.
Upon its release, On the Waterfront received glowing reviews from critics and was a commercial success, earning an estimated $4.2 million in rentals at the North American box office in 1954. After Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor, the statue was stolen. Much later, it turned up at a London auction house, which contacted the actor and informed him of its whereabouts.
Following On the Waterfront, Brando remained a top box office draw, but critics increasingly felt his performances were half-hearted, lacking the intensity and commitment found in his earlier work, especially in his work with Kazan. He portrayed Napoleon in the 1954 film Désirée.
Brando and Simmons were paired together again in the film adaptation of the musical Guys and Dolls (1955). Guys and Dolls would be Brando’s first and last musical role. The film was commercially though not critically successful, costing $5.5 million to make and grossing $13 million.
Brando played Sakini, a Japanese interpreter for the U.S. Army in postwar Japan, in The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956). In Sayonara (1957) he appeared as a United States Air Force officer. Newsweek found the film a “dull tale of the meeting of the twain”, but it was nevertheless a box office success.
The movie was controversial due to openly discussing interracial marriage, but proved a great success, earning 10 Academy Award nominations, with Brando being nominated for Best Actor. The film went on to win four Academy Awards. Teahouse and Sayonara were the first in a string of films Brando would strive to make over the next decade which contained socially relevant messages, and he formed a partnership with Paramount to establish his own production company called Pennebaker, its declared purpose to develop films that contained “social value that would improve the world.” The name was a tribute in honor of his mother, who had died in 1954. By all accounts, Brando was devastated by her death. Brando appointed his father to run Pennebaker.
In 1958, Brando appeared in The Young Lions, dyeing his hair blonde and assuming a German accent for the role, which he later admitted was not convincing. The film is based on the novel by Irwin Shaw, and Brando’s portrayal of the character Christian Diestl was controversial for its time.
The Young Lions also features Brando’s only appearance in a film with friend and rival Montgomery Clift (although they shared no scenes together). Brando closed out the decade by appearing in The Fugitive Kind (1960) opposite Anna Magnani. The film was based on another play by Tennessee Williams but was hardly the success A Streetcar Named Desire had been.
In 1961, Brando made his directorial debut in the western One-Eyed Jacks. The picture was originally directed by Stanley Kubrick, but he was fired early in the production. Paramount then made Brando the director. Brando portrays the lead character Rio, and Karl Malden plays his partner “Dad” Longworth. The supporting cast features Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens. Brando’s penchant for multiple retakes and character exploration as an actor carried over into his directing, however, and the film soon went over budget; Paramount expected the film to take three months to complete but shooting stretched to six and the cost doubled to more than six million dollars. Brando’s inexperience as an editor also delayed post-production and Paramount eventually took control of the film. One-Eyed Jacks was poorly reviewed by critics. While the film did solid business, it ran so over budget that it lost money.
Brando’s revulsion with the film industry reportedly boiled over on the set of his next film, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, which was filmed in Tahiti. The actor was accused of deliberately sabotaging nearly every aspect of the production. Mutiny on the Bounty nearly capsized MGM and, while the project had indeed been hampered with delays other than Brando’s behavior, the accusations would dog the actor for years as studios began to fear Brando’s difficult reputation. Critics also began taking note of his fluctuating weight.
Distracted by his personal life and becoming disillusioned with his career, Brando began to view acting as a means to a financial end. Critics protested when he started accepting roles in films many perceived as being beneath his talent or criticized him for failing to live up to the better roles. Previously only signing short term deals with film studios, in 1961 Brando uncharacteristically signed a five-picture deal with Universal Studios that would haunt him for the rest of the decade. The Ugly American (1963) was the first of these films. Based on the 1958 novel of the same name that Pennebaker had optioned, the film, which featured Brando’s sister Jocelyn, was rated positively but died at the box office. Brando was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. All of Brando’s other Universal films during this period, including Bedtime Story (1964), The Appaloosa (1966), A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) and The Night of the Following Day (1969), were also critical and commercial flops. Countess was a disappointment for Brando, who had looked forward to working with one of his heroes, director Charlie Chaplin. The experience turned out to be an unhappy one; Brando was horrified at Chaplin’s didactic style of direction and his authoritarian approach. Brando had also appeared in the spy thriller Morituri in 1965; that, too, failed to attract an audience.
Brando acknowledged his professional decline. Candy, which he did as a favor for a friend, was especially appalling for many; a 1968 sex farce film directed by Christian Marquand and based on the 1958 novel by Terry Southern, the film satirizes pornographic stories through the adventures of its naive heroine, Candy, played by Ewa Aulin. It is generally regarded as the nadir of Brando’s career.
While Brando had lost much of his critical and commercial appeal in the 1960s, he still gave some memorable performances. Brando portrayed a repressed gay army officer in Reflections in a Golden Eye, directed by John Huston and costarring Elizabeth Taylor. The role turned out as one of his most acclaimed in years.
The film overall received mixed reviews. Another notable film was The Chase (1966), which paired the actor with Arthur Penn, Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. The film deals with themes of racism, sexual revolution, small-town corruption, and vigilantism. The film was received mostly positively.
Brando cited Burn! (1969) as his personal favorite of the films he had made. Loosely based on events in the history of Guadeloupe, the film got a hostile reception from critics. In 1971, Michael Winner directed him in the British horror film The Nightcomers with Stephanie Beacham, Thora Hird, Harry Andrews and Anna Palk. It is a prequel to The Turn of the Screw, which later became the 1961 film The Innocents. Brando’s performance earned him a nomination for a Best Actor BAFTA, but the film bombed at the box office.
During the 1970s, Brando was considered “unbankable”. Critics were becoming increasingly dismissive of his work and he had not appeared in a box office hit since The Young Lions in 1958, the last year he had ranked as one of the Top Ten Box Office Stars and the year of his last Academy Award nomination, for Sayonara. Brando’s performance as Vito Corleone, the “Don,” in The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 best-selling novel of the same name, was a career turning point, putting him back in the Top Ten and winning him his second Best Actor Oscar.
Paramount production chief Robert Evans, who had given Puzo an advance to write The Godfather so that Paramount would own the film rights, hired Coppola after many major directors had turned the film down. Evans wanted an Italian-American director who could provide the film with cultural authenticity. Coppola also came cheap. Evans was conscious of the fact that Paramount’s last Mafia film, The Brotherhood (1968) had been a box office bomb, and he believed it was partly due to the fact that the director, Martin Ritt, and the star, Kirk Douglas, were Jews and the film lacked an authentic Italian flavor. The studio originally intended the film to be a low-budget production set in contemporary times without any major actors, but the phenomenal success of the novel gave Evans the clout to turn The Godfather into a prestige picture.
Coppola had developed a list of actors for all the roles, and his list of potential Dons included the Oscar-winning Italian-American Ernest Borgnine, the Italian-American Frank de Kova (best known for playing Chief Wild Eagle on the TV sitcom F-Troop), John Marley (a Best Supporting Oscar-nominee for Paramount’s 1970 hit film Love Story who was cast as the film producer Jack Woltz in the picture), the Italian-American Richard Conte (who was cast as Don Corleone’s deadly rival Don Emilio Barzini), and Italian film producer Carlo Ponti.
Evans told Coppola that he had been thinking of Brando for the part two years earlier, and Puzo had imagined Brando in the part when he wrote the novel and had written to him about the part, so Coppola and Evans narrowed it down to Brando. (Ironically, Olivier would compete with Brando for the Best Actor Oscar for his part in Sleuth. He bested Brando at the 1972 New York Film Critics Circle Awards.) Albert S. Ruddy, whom Paramount assigned to produce the film, agreed with the choice of Brando. However, Paramount studio heads were opposed to casting Brando due to his reputation for difficulty and his long string of box office flops. Brando also had One-Eyed Jacks working against him, a troubled production that lost money for Paramount when it was released in 1961.
Jaffe eventually set three conditions for the casting of Brando: That he would have to take a fee far below what he typically received; he’d have to agree to accept financial responsibility for any production delays his behavior cost; and he had to submit to a screen test. Coppola convinced Brando to a videotaped “make-up” test, in which Brando did his own makeup (he used cotton balls to simulate the character’s puffed cheeks). Coppola had feared Brando might be too young to play the Don but was electrified by the actor’s characterization as the head of a crime family. Even so, he had to fight the studio in order to cast the temperamental actor.
Brando was signed for a low fee of $50,000, but in his contract, he was given a percentage of the gross on a sliding scale: 1% of the gross for each $10 million over a $10 million threshold, up to 5% if the picture exceeded $60 million. According to Evans, Brando sold back his points in the picture for $100,000, as he was in dire need of funds.
Despite the fact Coppola wanted to fire him, Brando was on his best behavior during filming, buoyed by a cast that included Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton. Brando’s performance was glowingly reviewed by critics.
Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, but he declined it, becoming the second actor to refuse a Best Actor award (after George C. Scott for Patton). He boycotted the award ceremony, instead sending aboriginal American rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared in full Apache attire, to state Brando’s reasons, which were based on his objection to the depiction of aboriginal Americans by Hollywood and television.
The actor followed The Godfather with Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 film Last Tango in Paris opposite Maria Schneider, but Brando’s highly noted performance threatened to be overshadowed by an uproar over the sexual content of the film. Brando portrays a recent American widower named Paul, who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young, betrothed Parisian woman named Jeanne. As with previous films, Brando refused to memorize his lines for many scenes; instead, he wrote his lines on cue cards and posted them around the set for easy reference, leaving Bertolucci with the problem of keeping them out of the picture frame. The film features several intense, graphic scenes involving Brando, including Paul anally raping Jeanne using butter as a lubricant, which, it was alleged was not consensual, and Paul’s angry, emotionally charged final confrontation with the corpse of his dead wife. The controversial movie was a hit, however, and Brando made the list of Top Ten Box Office Stars for the last time. The voting membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences again nominated Brando for Best Actor, his seventh nomination.
In 1973, Brando was devastated by the death of his childhood best friend Wally Cox. Brando slept in Cox’s pajamas and wrenched his ashes from his widow. She was going to sue for their return, but finally said “I think Marlon needs the ashes more than I do.”
In 1976, Brando appeared in The Missouri Breaks with his friend Jack Nicholson. The movie also reunited the actor with director Arthur Penn. Critics were unkind.
In 1977, Brando made a rare television appearance in the miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, portraying George Lincoln Rockwell; he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his performance. In 1978, he narrated the English version of Raoni, a French-Belgian documentary film directed by Jean-Pierre Dutilleux and Luiz Carlos Saldanha that focused on the life of Raoni Metuktire and issues surrounding the survival of the indigenous Indian tribes of north central Brazil. Brando portrayed Superman’s father Jor-El in the 1978 film Superman. He agreed to the role only on assurance that he would be paid a large sum for what amounted to a small part, that he would not have to read the script beforehand, and that his lines would be displayed somewhere off-camera. It was revealed in a documentary contained in the 2001 DVD release of Superman that he was paid $3.7 million for two weeks of work. Brando also filmed scenes for the movie’s sequel, Superman II, but after producers refused to pay him the same percentage he received for the first movie, he denied them permission to use the footage. However, after Brando’s death, the footage was reincorporated into the 2006 re-cut of the film, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut and in the 2006 “loose sequel” Superman Returns, in which both used and unused archive footage of him as Jor-El from the first two Superman films was remastered for a scene in the Fortress of Solitude, and Brando’s voice-overs were used throughout the film.
Brando starred as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now (1979). He plays a highly decorated U.S. Army Special Forces officer who goes renegade, running his own operation based in Cambodia and is feared by the U.S. military as much as the Vietnamese. Brando was paid $1 million a week for 3 weeks work. The film drew attention for its lengthy and troubled production. Brando showed up on the set overweight, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, and severe weather destroyed several expensive sets. The film’s release was also postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage. Brando admitted to Coppola that he had not read the book, Heart of Darkness, as the director had asked him to, and the pair spent days exploring the story and the character of Kurtz, much to the actor’s financial benefit.
Upon release, Apocalypse Now earned critical acclaim, as did Brando’s performance. His whispering of Kurtz’s final words “The horror! The horror!”, has become particularly famous.
After appearing as oil tycoon Adam Steiffel in 1980’s The Formula, which was poorly received critically, Brando announced his retirement from acting. However, he returned in 1989 in A Dry White Season, based on André Brink’s 1979 anti-apartheid novel. Brando agreed to do the film for free but fell out with director Euzhan Palcy over how the film was edited; he even made a rare television appearance in an interview with Connie Chung to voice his disapproval. Brando received praise for his performance, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and winning the Best Actor Award at the Tokyo Film Festival. Brando also scored enthusiastic reviews for his caricature of his Vito Corleone role as Carmine Sabatini in 1990’s The Freshman.
Brando also starred alongside his friend Johnny Depp in the box office hit Don Juan DeMarco (1995) and in Depp’s controversial The Brave (1997), which was never released in the United States. Later performances, such as his appearance in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) (for which he was nominated for a Raspberry as “Worst Supporting Actor”), The Island of Dr. Moreau (in which he won a “Worst Supporting Actor” Raspberry) (1996), and his barely recognizable appearance in Free Money (1998), resulted in some of the worst reviews of his career. However, his last completed film, The Score (2001), was received generally positively. In the film, in which he portrays a fence, he starred with Robert De Niro, who had portrayed Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. Brando conceived the idea of a novel called Fan-Tan with director Donald Cammell in 1979, which was not released until 2005.
Brando’s notoriety, his troubled family life, and his obesity attracted more attention than his late acting career. He gained a great deal of weight in the 1970s and by the early to mid-1990s he weighed over 300 pounds (140 kg) and suffered from Type 2 diabetes. He had a history of weight fluctuation throughout his career that, by and large, he attributed to his years of stress-related overeating followed by compensatory dieting. He also earned a reputation for being difficult on the set, often unwilling or unable to memorize his lines and less interested in taking direction than in confronting the film director with odd demands.
He also dabbled with some innovation in his last years. He had several patents issued in his name from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, all of which involve a method of tensioning drumheads, in June 2002 – November 2004. (For example, see U.S. Patent 6,812,392 and its equivalents).
In 2004, Brando recorded voice tracks for the character Mrs. Sour in the unreleased animated film Big Bug Man. This was his last role and his only role as a female character.
The actor was a longtime close friend of entertainer Michael Jackson and paid regular visits to his Neverland Ranch, resting there for weeks at a time. Brando also participated in the singer’s two-day solo career 30th-anniversary celebration concerts in 2001 and starred in his 13-minute-long music video, “You Rock My World,” in the same year. On Jackson’s 30th anniversary concert, Brando gave a rambling speech to the audience on humanitarian work which received a poor reaction and was unaired. The actor’s son, Miko, was Jackson’s bodyguard and assistant for several years.
In April 2001, Brando was hospitalized with pneumonia.
In 2004, Brando signed with Tunisian film director Ridha Behi and began pre-production on a project to be titled Brando and Brando. Up to a week before his death, he was working on the script in anticipation of a July/August 2004 start date. Production was suspended in July 2004 following Brando’s death, at which time Behi stated that he would continue the film as an homage to Brando, with a new title of Citizen Brando.
On July 1, 2004, Brando died of respiratory failure from pulmonary fibrosis with congestive heart failure at the UCLA Medical Center. The cause of death was initially withheld, with his lawyer citing privacy concerns. He also suffered from failing eyesight caused by diabetes and liver cancer. Shortly before his death and despite needing an oxygen mask to breathe, he recorded his voice to appear in The Godfather: The Game, once again as Don Vito Corleone. However, Brando only recorded one line due to his health and an impersonator was hired to finish his lines. Some lines from his character were directly lifted from the film.
Brando was cremated, and his ashes were put in with those of his childhood friend, comedian and actor Wally Cox and another longtime friend, Sam Gilman. They were then scattered partly in Tahiti and partly in Death Valley.
Brando was known for his tumultuous personal life and his large number of wives, girlfriends and children. He was the father to eleven children, three of whom were adopted. In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando wrote he met Marilyn Monroe at a party where she played piano, unnoticed by anybody else there, that they had an affair and maintained an intermittent relationship for many years, and that he received a telephone call from her several days before she died. He also claimed numerous other romances, although he did not discuss his marriages, his wives, or his children in his autobiography.
He met nisei actress and dancer Reiko Sato in the early 1950s; in 1954 Dorothy Kilgallen reported they were an item. Though their relationship cooled, they remained friends for the rest of Sato’s life, with her dividing her time between Los Angeles and Tetiaroa in her later years.
Brando met actress Rita Moreno in 1954, beginning their torrid love affair. Moreno revealed in her memoir that when she became pregnant by Brando, he arranged for an abortion. After a botched abortion she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on his sleeping pills. Years after they broke up Moreno played his love interest in the film The Night of the Following Day.
Brando married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957. Kashfi was born in Calcutta and moved to Wales from India in 1947. She is said to have been the daughter of a Welsh steel worker of Irish descent, William O’Callaghan, who had been superintendent on the Indian State railways. However, in her book, Brando for Breakfast, she claimed that she really is half Indian and that the press incorrectly thought that her stepfather, O’Callaghan, was her biological father. She said that her biological father was Indian and that she was the result of an “unregistered alliance” between her parents. Brando and Kashfi had a son, Christian Brando, on May 11, 1958; they divorced in 1959.
In 1960, Brando married Movita Castaneda, a Mexican-American actress seven years his senior; they were divorced in 1962. Castaneda had appeared in the first Mutiny on the Bounty film in 1935, some 27 years before the 1962 remake with Brando as Fletcher Christian. They had two children together: Miko Castaneda Brando (born 1961) and Rebecca Brando (born 1966).
Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipaia, who played Brando’s love interest in Mutiny on the Bounty, became his third wife on August 10, 1962. She was 20 years old, 18 years younger than Brando, who was reportedly delighted by her naïveté. Because Teriipaia was a native French speaker, Brando became fluent in the language and gave numerous interviews in French. Teriipaia became the mother of two of his children: Simon Teihotu Brando (born 1963) and Tarita Cheyenne Brando (born 1970). Brando also adopted Teriipaia’s daughter, Maimiti Brando (born 1977) and niece, Raiatua Brando (born 1982). Brando and Teriipaia divorced in July 1972.
Brando had a long-term relationship with his housekeeper Maria Cristina Ruiz, with whom he had three children: Ninna Priscilla Brando (born May 13, 1989), Myles Jonathan Brando (born January 16, 1992), and Timothy Gahan Brando (born January 6, 1994). Brando also adopted Petra Brando-Corval (born 1972), the daughter of his assistant Caroline Barrett and novelist James Clavell.
Brando’s close friendship with Wally Cox was the subject of rumors. Brando told a journalist: “If Wally had been a woman, I would have married him, and we would have lived happily ever after.” Two of Cox’s wives, however, dismissed the suggestion that the love was more than platonic.
Brando’s grandson Tuki Brando (born 1990), son of Cheyenne Brando, is a fashion model. His numerous grandchildren also include Michael Brando (born 1988), son of Christian Brando, Prudence Brando and Shane Brando, children of Miko C. Brando, the children of Rebecca Brando and the three children of Teihotu Brando among others.
Upon his death in 2004, Brando left an estate valued at $21.6 million. Brando’s estate still earned about $9 million in 2005, the year following his death, according to Forbes. That year Brando was named one of the top-earning deceased celebrities in the world by the magazine.
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