Hostage of His Own Genius
Marlon Brando, 1924-2004
There is no room for genius in the theatre, Laurence Olivier once remarked. It is too much trouble. He was right.
~the devotees of Method acting so eagerly claimed Brando. They believed he was pulling all that conflict out of himself, out of his troubled and rebellious past cruel and drunken father, wistful and drunken mother and using it. Just as their great guru, Lee Strasberg, preached. In the first years of his fame, that was O.K. with Brando. It saved his a lot of tedious explanations. And it was more than O.K. with the crowd at the Actors Studio, which he briefly joined. It was the headquarters of Stanislavskian acting in America, inheritor of the Group Theater tradition, where in the 1930s Strasberg first came to controversial prominence. They had long needed a star to lead their revolution, against the well-spoken, emotionally disconnected acting style that had long prevailed on stage and film, indeed against the whole slick, corrupt Broadway-Hollywood way of doing show business.
Brando was their stud, possibly the most gorgeous, and authentically sexy, male the movies had ever seen. But he was in his nature ill suited to superstardom. Maybe he did not want to be anyones figurehead. He said, truly, that he had an attention span of about seven minutes. Besides, he did not like delving too deeply into himself. He called that activity pearl diving, and it upset and scared him. Actors have to observe, he once said, and enjoy that part of it. They have to know how much spit you have in your mouth and where the weight of your elbows is. I could sit all day in the Optimo Cigar Store on Broadway, which he often did, and just watch the people go by.
His first teacher, Stella Adler, who also was not much for affective memory, Strasbergs fancy phrase for pearl diving, agreed. He is the most keenly aware, empathic human alive. He just knows. If you have a scar, physical or mental, goes right to it. He cannot be cheated or fooled. If you left the room, he could be you. In those days, he truly loved acting and was fully devoted to it.
By Richard Schickel
Time Magazine, July 12, 2004
Top 10 Marlon Brando Performances 7:39
enter Marlon Brando
Director Francis Ford Coppola on completing Apocalypse Now despite serious
setbacks, Kurtz and his disposition on Bravo, Inside the Actors Studio.
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