Marlon Brando is considered one of the greatest actors of all time. He is known for his memorable performances in films like A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now. However, despite his immense talent and contribution to cinema, Brando has also been a controversial figure over the years. Some people have expressed dislike or even hatred towards the actor. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Brando has detractors and why he remains a polarizing figure even after his death in 2004.
Reasons for Dislike of Marlon Brando
One of the main reasons why some people dislike Brando is his reputation for being difficult to work with. He was infamous for showing up late or not at all to sets, refusing to memorize lines, and having conflicts with directors. For example, during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962, Brando constantly argued with director Lewis Milestone and caused major delays with his behavior. He was also known to be temperamental and moody on sets. This difficult reputation made producers and directors wary of working with Brando, despite his talent.
In the 1960s and 70s, Brando became very vocal about various political causes like Civil Rights and Native American rights. He participated in marches and spoke out against discrimination frequently. While his stand against injustice was admirable to many, some saw his activism as overbearing and pretentious. His prominent support of controversial causes like the Black Panthers alienated conservative audiences. Brando refused to back down and continued activism even at the cost of his own fame. This stubbornness irked detractors.
Weight Gain and Lack of Effort
As he aged, Brando began to gain excessive weight and stopped caring about his appearance. He would often show up overweight to film sets. For example, in Apocalypse Now, he was overweight for his role as Colonel Kurtz and had to be filmed in shadows. Brando’s lack of effort to get in shape for roles was seen as unprofessional by some critics and fans. They felt he was wasting his potential by not taking care of his body.
There are numerous anecdotes of Brando being rude to fans, paparazzi, and service staff. He seemed frustrated by fame and was notoriously reclusive. However, his impatient and arrogant behavior rubbed people the wrong way. Brando was arrested multiple times for assaulting paparazzi. He saw fans as an invasion of his privacy. While this may have been understandable, his disdainful behavior disappointed those who admired his work.
Brando has also been accused of being a womanizer who objectified women. He had numerous affairs and failed marriages over the years. A prominently unflattering depiction was in his former housekeeper Stefania Margini’s memoir where she accused him of being a serial seducer of young women. While certain claims about Brando may have been exaggerated, there was enough truth to sully his reputation in the eyes of many, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Misuse of Talent
Brando was so extraordinarily talented as an actor that some believe he misused his gifts. After the initial two decades of his career, he began accepting roles in films like Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and The Island of Dr. Moreau solely for the big paychecks. Critics accused him of squandering his talent just to make money. Many believe he could have utilized his genius for more thoughtful films if he had had more integrity and discretion.
Defense of Marlon Brando
While Brando certainly had his faults and rough edges, there are also arguments that can be made in defense of the acting legend:
- His difficult behavior on sets was often a result of standing up against mistreatment. Brando would speak out if he felt directors were disorganized or actors were being abused.
- His political activism came from a place of sincerity. He participated because he truly believed in equality and justice.
- His contempt for fame stemmed from wanting privacy. He saw himself as an artist, not a celebrity.
- Personal struggles like depression, trauma, and family issues contributed to his behavior, but do not invalidate his talent.
- He had an innate sensitivity and childlike empathy that brought power to his performances. This rare gift should not be dismissed.
- When focused, he could deliver some of the greatest acting displays in cinema history, proving his unparalleled abilities.
So while Brando was certainly not perfect, his contributions as an actor and activist arguably outweigh his controversies. There are reasons both for and against admiration of him. He is complex figure who elicits equally complex reactions from the public.
Marlon Brando’s Most Memorable Performances
Despite the criticism, no one can deny that Marlon Brando has delivered some extraordinarily powerful performances throughout his career. Here are 5 of his most acclaimed roles on screen:
Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
This role as the primal and brutal Stanley established Brando as a serious actor. His raw sensuality and animalistic energy in the film made him an overnight star. The famous “Stellaaahhh!” scene is legendary.
Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)
Brando plays this washed-up boxer turned dock worker who finds redemption. His famous taxi scene where Terry laments “I coulda been a contender” is heartbreakingly memorable. Brando won his first Oscar for this performance.
Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)
As the feared patriarch of a crime family, Brando was utterly convincing. His raspy voice, tense mannerisms, and subtle flair made Don Corleone iconic. He won his second Oscar for the role.
Paul in Last Tango in Paris (1972)
This highly controversial erotic drama contained Brando’s most sexually intense performance. As Paul, a grief-stricken widower, Brando displayed rage, vulnerability, and despair through raw sensuality.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979)
As the deranged Colonel holed up in the Cambodian jungle, Brando delivered philosophical intensity. His climactic monologue about the “horror” of war is haunting. This final career highlight earned Brando his 4th Best Actor Oscar nomination.
Brando’s one-of-a-kind screen presence and ability to inhabit complex characters is evident through these iconic roles. He transformed the possibilities of film acting.
Decline of Marlon Brando’s Career
While the first half of Marlon Brando’s career contains some of the finest acting ever recorded on film, the later stages saw a steady decline in the quality and seriousness of his work. Here are some reasons that contributed to the falling off of Brando’s career:
- Weight gain: As he passed his youth, Brando began to gain weight rapidly. This made him less likely to get roles that required a leading man’s looks.
- Laziness: With money and fame, Brando became less dedicated to his craft. He refused to memorize lines and seemed detached on sets.
- Typecasting: Offers dried up for diverse roles. He was typecast as a mob boss after The Godfather.
- Self-indulgence: Brando took on roles just for the money so he could fund his lavish lifestyle. He lost interest in challenging parts.
- Misguided choices: Films like The Island of Dr. Moreau depended too much on his fame without a good script. Brando took the bait.
- Personal struggles: Constant womanizing, family tragedies, and lawsuits took a toll on his mental health.
It was disheartening for fans to see Brando transform from one of film’s greatest actors to an aging star selling out for money and taking on embarrassing projects just before his death in 2004. But his legendary performances will always remain iconic.
Marlon Brando was a complex figure whose immense talent was accompanied by self-destructive behavior and career choices. His combative nature, activism, and contempt for fame made him a controversial celebrity. However, it is undeniable that in his early career, Brando displayed a volcanic on-screen presence and sensitivity that redefined film acting.
The best of Brando’s performances stand the test of time as monuments to his raw power and skill. Despite his personal demons and professional missteps, Brando created a body of work that influenced generations of actors after him. His cultural impact both on and off screen was immense.
Brando’s story illustrates how even the most gifted of artists struggle to control theirfortunes and foibles. While his legacy is complicated, Marlon Brando remains one of the most captivating American icons of the 20th century.
Frequently Asked Questions about Marlon Brando
Why did Marlon Brando gain so much weight later in his career?
Brando’s significant weight gain in his later years was likely due to a combination of factors like ageing, stress, grief from personal losses, loneliness, and an increasingly indulgent lifestyle. He gave up the fitness regimens he had undergone for roles like Stanley Kowalski which kept him lean.
What was Marlon Brando’s reputation like among fellow actors?
Among his peers, Brando had a reputation for being eccentric but brilliant. Early on, he was admired for his raw talent and courage to take risks. However, his erratic on-set behavior eventually made him unpopular until he was seen as difficult to work with.
Did Marlon Brando have any regrets about his career?
In his autobiography, Brando expressed frustration at not fully utilizing his talents due to wasting time and money. He wished he had been more disciplined earlier on and chosen roles and directors that challenged him to evolve as an actor. He regretted many of the films he made in the 1960s and 1970s.
What was Marlon Brando’s most iconic role?
While he played many memorable roles, Brando’s portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather is considered his most iconic performance. His mannerisms, raspy voice, and subtle charm created an enduring image of the ultimate mob boss that has become a cultural touchstone.
Why did Marlon Brando show disdain towards the Oscars?
Brando was vocal about his dislike of the Oscars, refusing to accept his second trophy for The Godfather as a protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. He saw the Oscars as lacking artistic integrity and meaningful purpose beyond self-congratulation. His stance won him few friends in the industry.