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7 Facts About The Legendary Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando, one of Hollywood’s most famous and iconic actors of the 20th century, led a personal and professional life worthy of a movie itself. Many of his onscreen characters often paralleled his real life and true personality – brooding and difficult to decipher, he remained an enigma to many. Both his personal and professional lives were plagued with soaring highs and deep lows.

Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924, but moved around a lot as a child. His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and his mother moved him and his two younger siblings to Santa Ana, California. The family would later move back to Libertyville, Illinois, after his parents’ reconciliation in 1937. It was in this small town south of Chicago that Marlon “Bud” Brando would begin the early stages of his character work and thus, his acting career. Read on to discover how Brando became such an unforgettable figure…

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Library of Congress

He Was Like Holden Caulfield As A Young Man

Brando attended Shattuck Military Academy in Minnesota during his teenage years, but it definitely wasn’t a place he enjoyed being. He failed to form strong relationships with his fellow students and teachers. Brando would frequently sneak out of the school to go carousing around town, eventually resulting in his suspension. Instead of returning when he was allowed back, he decided that the military life wasn’t for him and he opted to work as a grave digger. At the onset of World War II, a bad knee kept him from being able to enlist, so off he went to New York City.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons

The Great Stella Adler Became His Acting Teacher

Brando began studying the Stanislavski system of acting, under the tutelage of the great Stella Adler. This system taught him to use many of his own true character traits to create a deep, authentic, and believable character. Brando also studied with Lee Strasberg, but he was tight-lipped about their time together. He claimed that Strasberg was trying to take credit for his subsequent acting success. Thus, Brando was adamant to give credit to Adler and later Kazan.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons

As Brando’s Fame Grew, So Did His Eccentricities

Being a bit of a rebel already, Brando made his disgust with Hollywood apparent. He became increasingly difficult to deal with, putting his directors and producers through the ringer. This behavior was especially noted during his filming of Mutiny on the Bounty. Brando would begin adlibbing and make changes to the script whenever he saw fit. The film was not only a disaster on set but at the box office as well, which essentially stalled Brando’s Hollywood career for a decade. He was forced to accept roles that were laughable and became the joke of the town.

Photo: Flickr.com/Steve Troughton

Thank God For The Godfather

The Godfather was to be Brando’s great comeback, with strict stipulations in the hiring process and his employment contract. The film’s producer, Robert Evans, made Brando take a screen test in order to audition for the role. Once hired for the role, Brando was forced to take a lower pay rate and was on the hook financially for any delays in filming that were caused by his behavior.

Even with that safety net, Brando was still known to act very odd throughout the filming process. Brando’s famous Godfather accent came from hiding cotton balls in his cheeks. They helped him look older and speak like an Italian mobster. Despite – or perhaps, due to – his eccentricities, the gamble to hire Brando for the role of Vito Corleone paid off in a big way. Brando actually won an Oscar, but true to his outlier personality, he turned it down.

Photo: Flickr.com/Film Star Vintage

Brando Received Higher Pay Than Superman

Now that Brando was back in Hollywood’s good graces, he could have his pick of bigger, better roles again. Brando signed on to play Superman’s father, for which he was paid $3.7 million and 11.75% royalties on the profits. That’s a lot of money for only 13 days of work and a total of 20 minutes onscreen. Compare that to Christopher Reeve’s salary of only $250,000, and it’s obvious who was the secret star of the movie.

Photo: WIkiMedia Commons/ABC Television

Apocalypse Now And The Island Of Dr. Moreau

These next two films saw Brando return to his eccentric and difficult ways on set. He went right back to changing the script, adlibbing, and generally stalling production on both films with his antics. It seemed that Brando was set on misbehaving.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Sipuede7

Ending Up In Neverland

As Brando aged and retired due to ailing health and weight issues, he befriended another well-known, eccentric individual- Michael Jackson. This was chalked up to the fact that, as Brando’s health declined, his breathing became difficult. Jackson would invite Brando over to his ranch, where he could enjoy time outdoors and out of the public eye.

Marlon Brando passed away from respiratory failure due to pulmonary fibrosis and congestive heart failure on July 1, 2004, leaving behind a fascinating and odd legacy.