Why Do People Hate Yul Brynner?

Yul Brynner was a famous actor best known for his role as King Mongkut in the 1956 film The King and I.

Despite his successful acting career and iconic bald look, Brynner has garnered a fair share of haters over the years. There are several reasons why some people dislike or even hate the late actor.

Reasons Why People Dislike Yul Brynner

His Arrogance and Bad Attitude

One of the most commonly cited reasons for disliking Yul Brynner is his arrogance and bad attitude. Many accounts from directors, co-stars, and fans paint Brynner as self-absorbed and difficult to work with.

He reportedly refused to learn the names of crew members and extras. Brynner also had a reputation for being extremely demanding on set. He would lose his temper if cast and crew did not meet his precise expectations. This arrogant behavior rubbed many people the wrong way.

His Womanizing Ways

Brynner was married four times and had numerous extramarital affairs. His inability to commit to one woman and his unfaithful behavior led many to see him as a womanizer.

In particular, his affair with Deborah Kerr during the filming of The King and I while both were married to other people caused public disapproval. Some saw Brynner as a homewrecker for pursuing married women.

His Exaggerated Background

Another source of distaste for Brynner was his tendency to fabricate and exaggerate parts of his early life and family history.

He claimed to be half-Swiss and half-Japanese. In reality, he was born in Russia to Mongol parents and had little Japanese heritage. Brynner also invented tales of his father being a circus acrobat. This misleading backstory caused people to see the actor as a fabricator.

His Shaving of the Head

Audiences associate Brynner’s shaved head as his trademark look. However, he only shaved his head for the role of The King and I.

Off-camera, he wore hairpieces and toupees. But the studio ordered him to shave his head for the rest of his life to maintain the same look on and off camera. Some fans saw this as unfair control over his body.

His Threats Over Photographers

As a public figure, Brynner was often hounded by the paparazzi. But he despised having his photo taken in public. Brynner even struck photographers’ cameras.

At one point, he issued an open threat to beat up any photographers that approached him. Many felt this violent attitude toward his unwanted photos was unjustified.

His Multiple Marriages

As mentioned, Yul Brynner was married four times. While some stars at the time had similar marital histories, Brynner’s inability to stay married rubbed conservative fans the wrong way.

They saw him as an immoral womanizer unwilling to commit to one person. This distaste grew as his number of marriages increased.

His Later Years

In his later life and career, some critics accused Brynner of lacking passion and phoning in performances solely for the paycheck. Fans of his early work were disappointed by his perceived indifference and lack of effort in lackluster projects that seemed beneath his talents.

Positive Qualities of Yul Brynner

However, despite the various criticisms against him, Brynner did have positive qualities as well. Here are some of the admirable traits that his fans and defenders tend to cite:

His Acting Talent

At his peak, Yul Brynner’s acting talent was undeniable. He had a commanding presence and gravitas that lent weight to any role. Directors like Cecil B. DeMille specifically sought out Brynner’s charisma.

His Academy Award win for The King and I proves his skill. Audiences were also moved by his performances for decades.

His Strong Work Ethic

While demanding on set, Brynner was also known for possessing an incredibly strong work ethic. He was very disciplined and put great effort into his acting roles.

Co-stars said he was always prepared and worked hard at his craft. Brynner took roles seriously and gave memorable performances.

His Intelligence and Multilingual Skills

In addition to acting talent, Brynner was highly intelligent. He was skilled at playing chess along with several musical instruments.

Yul was fluent in Russian, French, and English along with some German, Italian, and Romanian. His intellect proved he was more than just an actor.

His Kindness to Fans

Despite his arrogance with co-workers, Brynner was surprisingly kind and generous with fans. He would spend hours speaking with them patiently and signing autographs.

Many fans expressed how gracious and friendly the actor was during in-person encounters in public. He treated his admirers with respect.

His Support of Human Rights

Unlike many stars of his era, Brynner supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He was outspoken about equality and voting rights.

Brynner also donated money to Martin Luther King Jr. and anti-segregation causes. His progressive views made him beloved by human rights advocates.

Why Do Certain People Dislike Him?

When examining the entire scope of Yul Brynner’s life, why do some people harbor such animosity or hatred toward him while others admire him greatly? There are a few psychological factors that may explain this divide:

People Dislike Arrogance and Pretentiousness

Fans are more willing to embrace flaws and shortcomings in celebrities who behave humbly. However, arrogance and pretentious behavior cause people to turn on stars, despite their achievements or talents. Yul Brynner’s ego and demands tended to rub people the wrong way.

We Dislike Those Who Disappoint Our Expectations

Audiences put stars on a pedestal and hold them to high standards. So when a beloved actor like Brynner starts appearing in subpar movies later in life or gives unfocused performances, it disappoints people who expected more. Fans take this letdown personally and it can breed resentment.

Harsh Judgment of Womanizers

Men who date and marry multiple women like Brynner tend to face severe judgment, especially from female fans. The infidelity and inability to commit makes womanizers unappealing and distasteful figures in the public eye for many observers.

We Feel Deceived by Fabricated Histories

When people discover that a celebrity has outright lied or exaggerated their background or life story, they tend to feel betrayed. Fans want to feel that they know the real persona behind a star. Made up narratives shatter that illusion of intimacy.

So learning that Brynner fabricated parts of his past made people dislike his perceived phoniness and deception.

People Link Actors With Their Roles

Audiences often subconsciously link actors to their most famous roles. So if we feel antipathy toward a character, it transfers to the actor. For instance, Brynner played aggressors in films like The Magnificent Seven. Associating the actor with such villainous roles on an emotional level can spur animosity.

Critical Reassessment of His Legacy

While some fans and critics look harshly upon Yul Brynner for the above reasons, over time, others have reassessed his legacy in a more nuanced light:

Product of His Time

Some of Brynner’s negative traits or behaviors reflect the social norms of his era. Certain attitudes or choices seemed less unusual in the 1940s-60s compared to today’s standards. Viewing the actor in the context of his times lends understanding.

Recognition of His Talents

More modern evaluations acknowledge Brynner’s evident skills and on-screen magnetism despite his flaws. Appreciation for his iconic roles has grown over generations. His acting prowess clearly contributed memorable cinema.

He Made Amends Later

In his later years, Yul Brynner changed some behaviors. He reconciled with ex-wives and was not as difficult on set. This suggests maturity and personal growth – a chance at redemption that everyone deserves in life.

Complex Personal History

Looking deeper into Yul Brynner’s past offers clues into his personality issues. His early life struggles as an immigrant fleeing Russia’s upheaval help explain his fabrications and shapeshifter identity. Rather than deceit, these acts hint at survival and reinvention skills.

We All Have Flaws

The modern tendency is to recognize that all people – including celebrities – are imperfect and complicated. Judging Brynner only on his worst traits distorts a complete picture. More balanced understanding accepts shortcomings alongside talents.

In the end, Yul Brynner’s journey reflects the universal struggle between our darker and better angels. While his egocentricity earned detractors, portraying larger-than-life characters also captured the imagination of generations of fans. Perhaps embracing the totality of his story – blemishes and brilliance – is the most thoughtful legacy.


Yul Brynner’s mix of iconic screen roles and controversial personal behavior cultivated a complex legacy ranging from ardent fans to extreme haters. The reasons he rubbed many the wrong way stem from perceived arrogance, womanizing, fabrications, and hypocrisy.

However, Brynner’s undeniable on-screen magnetism, work ethic, intelligence, human rights advocacy also merit acknowledgement along with a more nuanced view of his flaws in context.

Rather than definitively loving or hating Brynner, perhaps an educated understanding of his multi-faceted life and character serves his memory best in the end. Brynner was neither villain nor saint but a gifted yet imperfect human being as we all are.

FAQs about Why People Dislike Yul Brynner

What was Yul Brynner best known for?

Yul Brynner was best known for his iconic Academy Award-winning role as King Mongkut in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I in 1956.

His completely shaved head, unique accent, and commanding screen presence became his signature look and spawned a successful acting career in films and stage productions.

How many times was Yul Brynner married?

Yul Brynner was married four times in his lifetime. He married actress Virginia Gilmore from 1944 to 1960, then Doris Kleiner from 1960 to 1967, Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume from 1971 to 1981, and Kathy Lee from 1983 until his death in 1985. He also had affairs with other women like Deborah Kerr while still married.

Why did Yul Brynner shave his head?

Brynner only shaved his head for his initial role in The King and I to achieve the right look as King Mongkut.

But the studio ordered him to keep shaving his head for the rest of his acting career to maintain the same unique image from the hugely popular film. He had to shave his head for the rest of his life.

Did Yul Brynner really have a Russian background?

No. Although Brynner claimed he had a Swiss father and Russian-Japanese mother and childhood, he was actually born in Russia (Vladivostok) to a Mongolian mining engineer and a Russian gypsy mother. He fabricated much of his “mysterious” background.

Was Yul Brynner difficult to work with as an actor?

Yes, by many accounts. Yul Brynner earned a reputation for being arrogant, demanding, and difficult on the sets of his movies.

He refused to learn the names of crew and extras. The actor also lost his temper when co-stars did not meet his strict expectations or standards of performance.

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