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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brando in his own words + Brando by Grobel: Brando with Dick Cavett: Maysles doc: Capote on Brando 1957

screen test

Lawrence Grobel book:

Maysels documentary on Brando:

Capote on Brando 1957

Short Brando documentary: An Actor named Brando

Playboy 1979

  Editor's note: Marlon Brando, who has lived in seclusion for the past decade, died Thursday, July 1 in Los Angeles. He was 80 yea  rs old. This Playboy Interview was originally published in January of 1979, shortly before the release of Apocalypse Now.
He is considered by many to be the world's greatest living actor, the man who changed the style of the movies, the most influential and widely imitated actor of his generation. He burst onto our consciousness wearing a torn T-shirt, mumbling, growling, scowling, screaming for "Stel-la!" as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, first on Broadway, then on film. It marked the beginning of a career that was to be as wild as many of the characters he so expertly portrayed.
An intensely private man, Marlon Brando stirs emotions and elicits reactions that go beyond his status as either actor or political activist. He's been called brilliant, a lout, considerate, arrogant, gentle, selfish, a chauvinist, generous, an egomaniac, selfless. He has passed into myth, become history. The highest paid and most respected actor in America, he is one of the select artists who will doubtless be remembered into the next century.
From the beginning, Brando unleashed a raw power that had never been seen before on the screen. He talked through his body, affecting viewers emotionally each time he got beat up and stood up. What audiences knew of courage they saw enacted by Brando time and time again, from The Men to On the Waterfront to Viva Zapata! And what they thought was evil was reinterpreted and given new dimensions as Brando became a wild punk hoodlum, a Nazi officer, a kidnaper, a bandit, an Ugly American Ambassador, a Mafia chief.
Like a figure in a classical Greek drama, after rising to the top during the Fifties, his career plummeted to disappointing lows in the Sixties. Yet, when people thought he had nothing left to give, he mounted a magnificent and stunning comeback with The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris, a film so brutally and sexually honest that it was hailed as adding a new dimension to the art.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 3, 1924, "Bud," as he was called, had lived in three states and five locations by the time he was six years old. His father, whom Brando describes as "a strong, wild man who liked to fight and drink," was a manufacturer of chemical feed products and insecticides. His mother was a semi-professional actress, who once appeared with Henry Fonda in a 1928 production of a Eugene O'Neill play.
After being expelled from military school, he told his parents he would enter the ministry. They talked him out of it. Then he thought he'd become a musician, as he had a passion for playing the bongo drums. When no one hired his five-piece band, he worked for six weeks laying irrigation ditches for a construction company. Eventually, he drifted to New York, following his two older sisters, who had studied acting and painting. It was 1943 and he enrolled in Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. His teacher was Stella Adler, a disciple of Constantin Stanislavsky, who believed in discovering a role from the inside out.
Under Adler's tutelage, Brando took acting seriously. He demonstrated a love for make-up, wigs and foreign accents, and he began studying philosophy, French, dance, fencing and yoga. What he did mostly, however, was observe people. He had the ability to pick up others' characteristics and translate them into revealing gestures.
He dressed in jeans and T-shirts, lived in numerous cheap apartments and, like most beginning actors, stood in unemployment lines. Occasionally, he worked at odd jobs, such as being a night watchman or an elevator boy at Best's department store. For a while, he roomed with an old school friend, Wally Cox, who eventually moved out because he could no longer tolerate Brando's pet raccoon.
In the summer of 1944, as a member of New York's Dramatic Workshop, he performed in Sayville, Long Island, where casting agent Maynard Morris "discovered" Brando. Morris got him some screen tests and then recommended he audition for the Rodgers and Hammerstein production of I Remember Mama, by John Van Druten. With Stella Adler encouraging him, Brando auditioned, got the part and spent the next year earning $75 a week playing the oldest son of immigrant Norwegians.
During that time, another older woman entered his life: agent Edit Van Cleve, who recognized the young actor's raw energy. She got him other auditions, none of them clicking until Miss Adler convinced her husband, producer-director Harold Clurman, to cast Brando in Maxwell Anderson's Truckline Café. Determined to make him stop mumbling and articulate, Clurman had Brando climbing ropes, screaming, falling, being kicked around the stage during rehearsals. The effort worked, but the play didn't, closing within two weeks. Brando, though, was noticed. A young Pauline Kael remembers feeling embarrassed for him -- "I looked up and saw what I thought was an actor having a seizure onstage" -- until she realized he was acting.
In 1946, he appeared with Paul Muni in A Flag Is Born, about the plight of stateless Jews. It was his first involvement in a political cause and the money raised was sent to the League for a Free Palestine. A year later, when Williams completed A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando was ready to make himself known.
There are those who saw him as the ruthless, savage, sexy Kowalski during his year-and-a-half-long run on Broadway who can still describe the way he moved onstage. Critics quickly hailed him as the most gifted actor of his generation. But the role was demanding and led Brando into analysis, which lasted for a decade. It also led him into films, which he openly disdained but which offered him the opportunity to make more money, work fewer hours and reach a wider audience. Brando went to Hollywood and never returned to Broadway.
From 1950 to 1955, Brando starred in eight films, the first six of which, as actor Jon Voight recently said, "were absolutely enormous." Those films were The MenA Streetcar Named DesireViva Zapata!Julius CaesarThe Wild One and On the Waterfront. Brando had established the Method as the acting force to contend with.
What Muni called Brando's "magnificent, great gift" was recognized in 1955 when he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, which he accepted. Eighteen years later, he won his second Oscar, for his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, but by then, Brando's social consciousness had risen dramatically and he disdained awards, refusing to accept it and asking an American Indian woman to stand before the academy and the world to explain why.
Between On the Waterfront and The Godfather, Brando made 19 pictures (he's made 30 in his 28-year career to date, including Superman and the yet-to-be-released Apocalypse Now). Some of them have been strong and sensitive, such as The   Young LionsReflections in a Golden EyeBurn! and The Nightcomers; and some have been embarrassing and trite, such as A Countess from Hong Kong (written and directed by Charles Chaplin) and Candy. But whatever the role, his acting has consistently surprised and often confused his audience with its unpredictability.
Throughout his career, Brando has preferred to speak out on issues of social importance rather than   on acting and the movies, involving himself in causes far removed from make-believe. He has actively participated in marches and spoken out on behalf of the Jews, the blacks, the American Indians, the downtrodden and the poor; and against capital punishment, bigotry, awards, most politicians, and policing organizations whenever they seem to infringe upon individual rights and freedoms. For UNESCO, he flew to India during a famine; in the state of Washington, he was arrested for participating in an Indian fish-in over river rights; in Gresham, Wisconsin, he ducked bullets along with radical Indians from the Menominee tribe demanding a return of disputed land. Attacking critics who dubbed him insincere, Shana Alexander wrote in a Newsweek column, "No American I can think of has taken his own initiative to reduce injustice in this world more often, and been knocked down for it more often, than Marlon Brando."
His relationships with mostly foreign women have been mysterious and often stormy. He has been legally married and divorced twice: in 1957, to British actress Anna Kashfi, who had claimed to be of East Indian origin, and in 1960, to Mexican actress Movita. He had a child with each woman and, for a dozen years, he publicly battled through the courts with his first wife for custody of their son. In Tahiti for Mutiny on the Bounty in 1960, he met his co-star, Tarita, with whom he now has two children.
While in Tahiti, he discovered Tetiaroa, an atoll of 13 islands 40 miles north. When it came up for sale, he purchased it and he goes there as often as he can, usually about four months of each year. To find out more about this complex and intriguing man, who has refused until now to sit for any lengthy interview, Playboy sent freelancer Lawrence Grobel (who also interviewed Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton for us) to Tahiti at Brando's invitation. Grobel reports:
"When I got this assignment -- 17 months ago -- I was told that Brando was ready to talk and I should prepare for the interview immediately. Having waited nearly a year to see Barbra Streisand, I should have known better. One had only to do a little research to see that the man disliked talking about acting almost as much as he loathed discussing his private life.
"By October 1977, I was ready to see him, but he was far from ready to see me. Phone conversations with his secretary Alice Marchak, who has been with Brando for 23 years, indicated that she was as much in the dark about when we'd get together as I was. Then one day while I was talking with Alice, Brando picked up the phone. He apologized for the delay, wanted to know how old I was and warned me that the only thing he was interested in talking about was Indians. I told him for an all-encompassing interview, Indians was not enough.
"After two more postponements, he asked if I'd like to do the interview in Tahiti. Naturally, I agreed and a date was set for April.
"By mid-June, I finally boarded a jet for Papeete. I landed at 4:30 A.M. and was met by Dick Johnson, an American who lives in Tahiti and works as Brando's accountant there. On the following day, I flew to Tetiaroa, where Brando, looking like a ragged version of an East Indian holy man, was waiting as I disembarked. For the next ten days, we ate our meals together, went for walks along the beach, went night sailing, played chess and managed to tape five sessions, lasting anywhere from two to six hours each. It seems only appropriate to begin the interview with a question about Tetiaroa."

PLAYBOY: This island you own is certainly a perfect place to talk -- no phones, no unexpected visitors, no interruptions.
BRANDO: It's very elemental here. You have the sky, the sea, trees, the crabs, the fish, the sun . . . the basics. Once, I was the only person here, absolutely alone on this island. I really like being alone. I never run out of things to think about when I'm here.
PLAYBOY: As a kid growing up in Nebraska, did you ever imagine you'd end up as the caretaker of a South Sea island?
BRANDO: I knew that when I was 12. In school, I was flunking four out of five subjects and I'd be sent to study hall, where I'd read back issues of the National Geographic. I always felt an affinity toward these islands. Then, in 1960, I came down here and it just sort of confirmed what I'd always known.
PLAYBOY: For most of your career, you've avoided doing any long interviews. Why?
BRANDO: I've regretted most interviews, because they don't write what you say or they'll get you out of context or they'll juxtapose it in such a way that it's not reflective of what you've said. I've read so many interviews with people who are not qualified to give answers to questions asked--questions on economics, archaeological discoveries in Tuscany, the recent virulent form of gonorrhea.... I used to answer those questions and then I'd ask myself. What the fuck am I doing? It's absolutely preposterous I should be asked those questions and, equally preposterous. I found myself answering [laughs]. I don't know a fucking thing about economics, mathematics or anything else. And then you can say something in a certain spirit, with a smile, but when it appears in print, there's no smile.
PLAYBOY: We can always indicate that with brackets. But when you do make a rare public appearance, as you did with Dick Cavett a few years ago, you don't do much smiling. With Cavett, you stubbornly insisted on spending 90 minutes on one topic, Indians, which seemed to make him very nervous.
BRANDO: Yeah. He kept asking me questions, kept me uncomfortable. Dick was having trouble with his ratings at the time. He's a good interviewer: bright, witty, intelligent, he buzzes things along. But he blew it in my case, because I was intransigent and intractable and would not answer what I thought were silly questions. Which made his show dull.
I had another discouraging experience with the BBC. I went on a show that was something like Tonight. I was very nervous. All the host did was ask me questions about Superman--how much money I got and stuff like that. He said, "Were you able to get into your costume for Superman?" And I would say, "Well, in 1973, Wounded Knee took place." I just didn't want to hold still for any of the crap questions, but I wanted to be courteous at the same time. They edited the thing so I said nothing. I really looked like an idiot.
Then I went downstairs to talk to seven reporters from the London Times, from all the papers. I talked for three hours with them about the American Indian. They all ran pictures of me in my Superman costume and that's all they wrote about. Then, once in a while, on the back page, "And . . . blah blah blah blah blah the American Indian." I was appalled. I didn't believe the quality of journalism in England was such that they would have to go for the buck that way. It was revolting.
PLAYBOY: But not very surprising. Getting you to talk about Indians isn't much of a journalistic scoop, is it? Not to denigrate what you have to say about that subject, but the fact is, anyone who interviews you would like to get you to talk about other things as well -- acting, for example.
BRANDO: Yeah, but what a paltry ambition. I know if you want to schlock it up a little, the chances are the interview is going to be more successful, because people are going to read it; it's going to be a little more provocative and down the line--get your finger under the real Marlon Brando, what he really thinks and all that. But I'm not going to lay myself at the feet of the American public and invite them into my soul. My soul is a private place. And I have some resentment of the fact that I live in a system where you have to do that. I find myself making concessions, because normally I wouldn't talk about any of this, it's just blabber. It's not absorbing or meaningful or significant, it doesn't have much to do with our lives. It's dog-food conversation. I think the issue of the Indian is interesting enough so that we don't have to talk about other things. But I have the vague feeling that you know where the essence of a commercial interview lies, and what would make a good commercial story wouldn't necessarily be one that would mention the American Indian at all. To me, it's the only part that matters.
PLAYBOY: But you just mentioned celebrities who talk about things that aren't relevant to their fields of endeavor. Your passion is with the Indians, but your expertise is as an actor.
BRANDO: I guess I have a burning resentment of the fact that when people meet you, they're meeting some asshole celebrity movie actor, instead of a person, someone who has another view, or another life, or is concerned about other things. This idiot part of life has to go in the forefront of things as if it's of major importance.
PLAYBOY: But an entire interview dealing with nothing but the problems of Indians would inevitably become boring.
BRANDO: I'd like to be able to bore people with the subject of Indians . . . since I'm beginning to think it's true, that everybody is bored by those issues. Nobody wants to think about social issues, social justice. And those are the main issues that confront us. That's one of the dilemmas of my life. People don't give a damn. Ask most kids about details about Auschwitz or about how the American Indians were assassinated as a people and they don't know anything about it. They don't want to know anything. Most people just want their beer or their soap opera or their lullaby.
PLAYBOY: Be that as it may, you can be sure that people will be interested in what you'll undoubtedly be saying about past and present social injustices. But why not also respond to topics that may not be serious but are just plain interesting--such as the fact that, to take a random example, Marilyn Monroe's one ambition was to play Lady Macbeth to your Macbeth?
BRANDO: Look, you're going to be the arbiter of what is important and what you think the particular salade niçoise ingredients of this interview ought to be--it's going to have a little shtick, a little charm, a little of Marlon's eccentricities, we're going to lift the lid here and pull the hem of the gown up there, then we're going to talk about Indians. But there are things that you full well know are important. Food is one of them, UNICEF is another, human aggression is another, social injustice in our own back yard is another, human injustice anywhere in the world. . . . Those are issues that we have to constantly confront ourselves and others with and deal with. Maybe what I'm going to say about them is meaningless or doesn't have any solutions, but the fact is, if we all start talking about them and look at them, instead of listening to my views on acting, which are totally irrelevant, maybe something can get done.
When I say irrelevant, it's certainly relevant to money. You have to have something as a sort of shill for the reader, so if he gets to page one and he reads about what I think about Marilyn Monroe's thoughts about me, King Lear to her Cordelia or something as absurd as that, or did she have a nice figure and what do you think about women using dumbbells to develop their busts? -- I'm exaggerating to make the point -- then people are going to read that, and then they may go on a little further and read something about Indians that they didn't know.
PLAYBOY: Well, we're finally coming to some agreement. You're absolutely right. So how do you respond to that little item about Marilyn?
BRANDO: I don't know how to answer the question. [Mockingly] "Oh, well, that's nice, my goodness, I didn't know Marilyn cared for me in that respect. . . . Hey, well, she's a remarkable actress, I certainly would have enjoyed----" I can't respond to that. It bores the shit out of me.
PLAYBOY: Can you respond to what happened to her?
BRANDO: No, I don't want to talk about that, that's just prattle, gossip, shitty . . . it's disemboweling a ghost. . . . Marlon Brando's view of Marilyn Monroe's death. That's horrifying. What she said about me and what I'm to say about her can lead to the consequence of nothing.
PLAYBOY: Not necessarily. What if the point of this were to lead to the subject of suicide? You don't know what directions these questions might take.
BRANDO: Now you're giving me your yeshiva bocher, you know what that is? That's two Jews under the Williamsburg Bridge. It's the equivalent of the Christians' arguing about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. I'm not casting aspersions on your efforts. All I'm saying is these are money-oriented questions. Those that have the best return are the most controversial, the most startling, the most arresting. The idea is to get a scintillating view that has not yet been seen by somebody, so that you have something unusual to offer, to sell. I just don't believe in washing my dirty underwear for all to see, and I'm not interested in the confessions of movie stars. Mike Wallace had a program, it was an astounding program, some years ago. He got people to come on and talk about themselves. And in conversation, they'd throw up all over the camera and on him, the desk, in their own laps, and tell us about their problems with B.O. or drinking or their inability to have a proper sexual relation with their pet kangaroo. I was floored. I was fascinated with that program. He was wonderful. He's a damn good investigative reporter. Anyway, what people are willing to do in front of a public is puzzling. I don't understand why they do it. I guess it makes them feel a little less lonely. I always found it distasteful and not something I cared to do. Did you ever read any of Lillian Ross's Hollywood profiles in The New Yorker? They were mostly quotes of what celebrities said. They just hung themselves by their own talk.
PLAYBOY: That's what many critics said about you when Truman Capote profiled you in The New Yorker during the making of Sayonara, 22 years ago. Was that the piece that turned you away from doing interviews?
BRANDO: No. What I was very slow in realizing was that money was the principal motivation in any interview. Not necessarily directly but indirectly. We're money-bound people and everything we do has to do with money, more or less. Our projects and activities have to do with the making of money and the movement of money. I am a commodity sitting here. Our union has to do with money. You're making money, Playboy's making money and, I suppose, in some way, I'm making money. If money were not involved, you wouldn't be sitting here asking me questions, because you wouldn't be getting paid for it. I wouldn't be answering the questions if there weren't some monetary consideration involved. Not that I'm getting it directly, but I'm paying a debt, so to speak. When Hugh Hefner paid the bail for Russell Means [leader of the American Indian Movement] a couple of years ago, I was grateful. But people look for the money questions, the money answers, and they wait for a little flex of gelt in the conversation. You can tell when you're talking, they get very attentive on certain subjects.
PLAYBOY: Why don't we just proceed? You know people are interested in you for more complicated reasons than those.
BRANDO: No, they're not. You know you wouldn't interview out-of-work movie stars. I just happen to be lucky and have had a couple of hits and some controversial pictures lately, but I was down the tubes not long ago. I always made a living, but I wasn't . . . I wasn't . . . sought after. I suppose if I hadn't been successful in a couple of movies that I would have been playing different kinds of parts for different kinds of money, and you wouldn't be sitting here today.
PLAYBOY: No one wanted to interview you when your career took a dive?
BRANDO: You could see it on the faces of the air hostesses; you could see it when you rented a car; you could see it when you walked into a restaurant. If you've made a hit movie, then you get the full 32-teeth display in some places; and if you've sort of faded, they say, "Are you still making movies? I remember that picture, blah blah blah." And so it goes. The point of all this is, people are interested in people who are successful.
PLAYBOY: And in people who will be remembered. Which is why we're talking.
BRANDO: I don't know. I think movie stars are ... about a decade. Ask young kids now who Humphrey Bogart or Clark Gable was. "Didn't he play for the Yankees?" "No, no, he was a tailback at Cincinnati."
PLAYBOY: So you think the fascination with someone like yourself is fleeting?
BRANDO: There's a tendency for people to mythologize everybody, evil or good. While history is happening, it's being mythologized. There are people who believe that Nixon is innocent, that he's a man of refinement, nobility, firmness of purpose, and he should be reinstated as President, he did no wrong. And there are people who can do no right. Bobby Seale, for some people, is a vicious, pernicious symbol of something that is destructive in our society that should be looked to with great caution and wariness, a man from whom no good can emanate. To other people, he's a poet, an aristocratic spirit.
People believe what they will believe, to a large degree. People will like you who never met you, they think you're absolutely wonderful; and then people also will hate you, for reasons that have nothing to do with any real experience with you. People don't want to lose their enemies. We have favorite enemies, people we love to hate and we hate to love. If they do something good, we don't like it. I found myself doing that with Ronald Reagan. He is anathema to me. If he does something that's reasonable, I find my mind trying to find some way to interpret it so that it's not reasonable, so that somewhere it's jingoist extremism.
Most people want those fantasies of those who are worthy of our hate--we get rid of a lot of anger that way; and of those who are worthy of our idolatry. Whether it's Farrah Fawcett or somebody else, it doesn't make a difference. They're easily replaceable units, pick 'em out like a card file. Johnnie Ray enjoyed that kind of hysterical popularity, celebration, and then suddenly he wasn't there anymore. The Beatles are now nobody in particular. Once they set screaming crowds running after them, they ran in fear of their lives, they had special tunnels for them. They can walk almost anyplace now. Because the fantasy is gone. Elvis Presley--bloated, over the hill, adolescent entertainer, suddenly drawing people into Las Vegas--had nothing to do with excellence, just myth. It's convenient for people to believe that something is wonderful, therefore they're wonderful.
Kafka and Kierkegaard are remarkable souls; they visited distant lands of the psyche that no other writers dared before--to some people, they were the heroes, not Elvis Presley.
PLAYBOY: Do you think all people have heroes?
BRANDO: They have to have. Even negative heroes. Richard the Third: "Can I do this and cannot get a crown? Were it further off, I'll pluck it down!" In other words, the fact that life was denied to him, then he would do his best at being bad, he would make a career of being bad. The worst kind of bad you could be: memorably bad, frighteningly bad, powerfully bad. Had he had the opportunity, he might have been powerfully creative, powerfully loving, powerfully noble. He didn't have the opportunity, because he was twisted and deformed and embittered by that experience. It's wonderfully stated, Shakespeare: "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York." People's energies--whether negative or positive--are there to be used and they will apply, somehow.
PLAYBOY: Bringing this back to you and your own energies, you once said that for most of your career, you were trying to figure out what you'd really like to do.
BRANDO: "You once said." There ought to be a handbook for interviewers and one of the don'ts should be: Don't say, "You once said," because 98.4 percent of the time, what you were quoted as having said once isn't true. The fact is, I did say that. For a long time. I had no idea really what it was that I wanted to do.
PLAYBOY: And you didn't feel that acting was worth while or fulfilling enough?
BRANDO: There's a big bugaboo about acting; it doesn't make sense to me. Everybody is an actor; you spend your whole day acting. Everybody has suffered through moments where you're thinking one thing and feeling one thing and not showing it. That's acting. Shaw said that thinking was the greatest of all human endeavors, but I would say that feeling was. Allowing yourself to feel things, to feel love or wrath, hatred, rage. . . . It's very difficult for people to have an extended confrontation with themselves. You're hiding what you're thinking, what you're feeling, you don't want to upset somebody or you do want to upset somebody; you don't want to show that you hate them; your pride would be injured if they knew you'd been affected by what they said about you. Or you hide a picayune aspect of yourself, the prideful or envious or vulnerable, and you pretend that everything's all right. "Hi, how are you?" People look at your face and it's presentable: "And I shall prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet."
So we all act. The only difference between an actor professionally and an actor in life is the professional knows a little bit more about it--some of them, anyway--and he gets paid for it. But actually, people in real life get paid for acting, too. You have a secretary who has a lot of sex appeal and a great deal of charm and she knows it, she's going to get paid for that, whether she delivers sexual favors or not. A very personable, attractive young man, who reflects what the boss says, is smart enough to know what the boss feels and likes and wants and he knows how to curry favor . . . he's acting. He goes in in the morning and he gives him a lot of chatter, tells him the right kind of jokes and it makes the boss feel good. One day the boss says, "Listen, Jim, why don't you go to Duluth and take over the department there? I think you'd do a bang-up job." And then Jim digs his toe under the rug and says, "Oh, gosh, I never thought, J. B. . . . Gee, I don't know what to say. . . . Sure, I'll go. When?" And he jumps into the plane and checks off what he's been trying to do for four years--get J. B. to give him the Duluth office. Well, that guy's acting for a living, singing for his supper, and he's getting paid for it.
The same thing is true in governmental promotion or of a member of a Presidential advisory committee, if he's playing the power game--'cause a lot of people don't want to get paid in money, they want to get paid in something else, paid in affection or esteem. Or in hard currency.
PLAYBOY: But there does seem to be a difference between the professional actor, who does what he does consciously, and the subconscious behavior of the nonprofessional.
BRANDO: Well, the idiot tome on acting was written by Dale Carnegie, called How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's a book on hustling. Acting is just hustling. Some people are hustling money, some power.
Those in Government during the Vietnam war were trying to hustle the President all the time so their opinion would be taken over that of others and their recommended course of action would be implemented. That play was running constantly. I can't distinguish between one acting profession and another. They're all acting professions.
PLAYBOY: What about acting as an art form?
BRANDO: In your heart of hearts, you know perfectly well that movie stars aren't artists.
PLAYBOY: But there are times when you can capture moments in a film or a play that are memorable, that have meaning----
BRANDO: A prostitute can capture a moment! A prostitute can give you all kinds of wonderful excitement and inspiration and make you think that nirvana has arrived on the two-o'clock plane, and it ain't necessarily so.
PLAYBOY: Do you consider any people in your profession artists?
PLAYBOY: None at all?
BRANDO: Not one.
PLAYBOY: Duse? Bernhardt? Olivier?
BRANDO: Shakespeare said. . . . Poor guy, he gets hauled out of the closet every few minutes, but since there're so few people around, you always have to haul somebody out of the closet and say, "So-and-so said." That's like saying, "You once said." [Laughs] But we know what he said. "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face." Which very plainly means that being able to discover the subtle qualities of the human mind by the expression of the face is an art, and there should be such an art. I don't think he meant it seriously, that it should be established among the seven lively arts, to become the eighth: the reading of physiognomy. But you can call anything art. You can call a short-order cook an artist, because he really does that--back flips, over and under his legs, around his head, caroms 'em off the wall and catches them. I don't know that you can exclude those things as art, except you know in your bones that they have nothing to do with art.
PLAYBOY: So you have never considered yourself an artist?
BRANDO: No, never, never. No. Kenneth Clark narrated a television program called Civilization. It was a remarkable series. It was erudite, communicative, polished, interesting to listen to. There was a man who knew who the artists of the world were. He didn't talk about any paltry people that you and I might mention. He doesn't know those people. He talked about great art. He certainly didn't refer to the art of film.
PLAYBOY: But film is reflective of our art and culture. Clark's Civilization covered a broad spectrum of history. Maybe in 50 or 100 years, the next Kenneth Clark will include the art of film.
BRANDO: Why don't you do an interview with Kenneth Clark and tell him that I want to know [laughs] if he considers Marlon Brando an artist?
PLAYBOY: Assume he would say yes.
BRANDO: If Kenneth Clark said that I was an artist, I would immediately get him to a neurosurgeon.
PLAYBOY: Now you're ignoring the authority you've cited. If actors can't be artists, could films be works of art? Would you consider Citizen Kane a work of art?
BRANDO: I don't think any movie is a work of art. I simply do not.
PLAYBOY: Would you go as far as saying that a collaborative effort can't be a work of art?
BRANDO: Well, the cathedral in Rouens or Chartres was a collective work, brought about over perhaps 100 years, where each generation did something. But there was an original plan. Michelangelo's Saint Peter was created by him, but thousands of people were involved in it. Bernini or Michelangelo would conceive a piece of sculpture and then have their students, artisans, knock the big chunks out.
PLAYBOY: Who is the artist in such cases?
BRANDO: The person who conceives it, and also executes it.
PLAYBOY: In A Streetcar Named Desire and Hamlet, Williams and Shakespeare are artists, right?
PLAYBOY: So couldn't there be artists who interpreted those works?
BRANDO: Sure. Heifetz certainly is an artist, for God's sake. He is a particular kind of artist; he's not a creative artist, he's an interpretive artist.
PLAYBOY: Can singers be artists?
BRANDO: [Long pause] No.
PLAYBOY: Lyricists? Cole Porter, Harold Arlen?
BRANDO: Shakespeare's a lyricist, he wrote many songs. Yeah, I suppose any creative writing. But you get so far down on the scale. You're not going to call The Rolling Stones artists. I heard somebody compare them--or The Beatles--to Bach. It was claimed they had created something as memorable and as important as Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. I hate rock 'n' roll. It's ugly. I liked it when the blacks had it in 1927.
PLAYBOY: When it was called jazz?
BRANDO: No, it was called rock 'n' roll.
PLAYBOY: We thought Alan Freed coined the term in the Fifties.
BRANDO: That's not a new phrase. Rock 'n' roll is as old as the beard of Moses.
PLAYBOY: What about someone like Bob Dylan, who both writes and performs his own work?
BRANDO: There are people who aspire to being artists, but I don't think they're worthy of the calling. I don't know of any movie actors, or any actors. . . . There are no people. . . . We can call them artists, give them the generic term if they're comfortable with that, but in terms of great art--magnificent art, art that changes history, art that's overwhelming--where are they? Where are the great artists today? Name one. When you look at Rembrandt or Baudelaire or listen to the Discourses of Epictetus, you know the quality of men is not the same. There are no giants today. Mao Tse-tung was the last giant.
PLAYBOY: If we limit the discussion to the world of film, there are plenty of actors today who bow to you as a giant. You may be repelled by that, but people such as Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, Pauline Kael, Elia Kazan have given you that label.
BRANDO: I don't understand what relevance that has. Chubby Checker was the giant among twisters. I don't know what that illustrates. When you talked earlier about film being reflective of art and culture, the question went flaming through my mind: What culture? There's no culture in this country. The last great artist died maybe 100 years ago. In any field. "And we petty men peep about between his legs to find ourselves dishonorable graves."
PLAYBOY: Shakespeare?
BRANDO: Shakespeare. So we've somehow substituted craft for art and cleverness for craft. It's revolting! It's disgusting that people talk about art and they haven't got the right to use the word. It doesn't belong on anybody's tongue in this century. There are no artists. We are businessmen. We're merchants. There is no art. Picasso was the last one I would call an artist.
PLAYBOY: Picasso, you know, was also a very commercial property. If he signed a check for less than $75, it would be worth more if you sold the signature than if you cashed the check.
BRANDO: I think that's a wonderful joke. It's enormously clever. That he could draw the outlines of an outhouse and give it to somebody and it's worth $20,000. 'Cause it's making a commentary on the obscenity of our standards. He knew it was absolute trash, horseshit, but it's just like a Gucci label. Yeah, it's just a label, a Picasso label.
PLAYBOY: Well, the Brando label is also highly valued. Are you astounded by the money you get for a film?
BRANDO: I don't know how we segued into that.
PLAYBOY: A lot of artists, like Picasso, who received large sums of money also considered themselves worthy.
BRANDO: Are you making an association of worthiness with money? These are hustling questions. It's a disposition to get Brando to talk about these issues. You can always feel when something in the conversation is fertile and it's got a dollar sign on it.
PLAYBOY: What we're getting at is that the L.A. County Museum, for one, considers you enough of an artist to have recently sponsored a Marlon Brando Film Festival.
BRANDO: Oh, gee, I missed that. Shucks.
PLAYBOY: There aren't many film festivals of contemporary actors in museums. Isn't that at least ... kind of nice?
BRANDO: Kind of nice, I guess that covers it. Better than a poke in the eye with a stick. How come you have to know about acting all the time? What else ya got?
PLAYBOY: All right. We'll work politics into our next question: Didn't the Italian-American Civil Rights Organization say that you defamed their community with your role as Don Corleone in The Godfather?
BRANDO: I don't know. If they said that about me, then they must have felt that was true.
PLAYBOY: Is it true that you vetoed Burt Reynolds for James Caan's part in The Godfather?
BRANDO: Francis would never hire Burt Reynolds.
PLAYBOY: But do you have that kind of control over who acts with you?
BRANDO: Well, you have to have rapport.
PLAYBOY: Have you been accused of ethnic slurs when you've played other nationalities in your films?
BRANDO: No. I played an Irishman who was a freak psychopath [ The Nightcomers] and I didn't get any letters from any Irish-American organizations. It would have been difficult to make The Godfather with an eighth Chinese, a quarter Russian, a quarter Irish and an eighth Hispanic. Very difficult to take those people to Sicily and call them O'Houlihan.
PLAYBOY: Did you receive $100.000 from Paramount to talk to the press after making The Godfather?
BRANDO: I can't remember. When I hear something like that, I always remind myself of the Congressman with his hand in the till.
PLAYBOY: Another lapse of memory associated with you is your inability or your refusal to memorize lines. Do you have a bad memory or is it that you feel remembering lines affects the spontaneity of your performance?
BRANDO: If you know what you're going to say, if you watch people's faces when they're talking, they don't know what kind of expressions they're going to have. You can see people search for words, for ideas, reaching for a concept, a feeling, whatever. If the words are there in the actor's mind. . . . Oh, you got me! [LaughingYou got me right in the bush. I'm talking about acting, aren't I?
Actually, it saves you an awful lot of time, because not learning lines . . . it's wonderful to do that.
PLAYBOY: Wonderful not to learn lines?
BRANDO: Yeah, you save all that time not learning the lines. You can't tell the difference. And it improves the spontaneity, because you really don't know. You have an idea of it and you're saying it and you can't remember what the hell it is you want to say. I think it's an aid. Except, of course, Shakespeare. I can quote you two hours of speeches of Shakespeare. Some things you can ad-lib, some things you have to commit to memory, like Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams--where the language has value. You can't ad-lib Tennessee Williams.
PLAYBOY: But how does it affect an actor who is working with you if he's got your lines written out on his forehead or wherever?
BRANDO: It doesn't make any difference. They're not going to see the signs. [Names a book title.] I just saw a title on the bookshelf. You didn't see me looking for it, you didn't know that I was even doing that. I can do the same thing if I have. . . . Well, anyway, it's more spontaneous.
PLAYBOY: So it is true that you no longer memorize lines when you act. But you did during the early stages of your career, when you were doing Williams and Shakespeare.
BRANDO: That's quite a different thing, because you cannot. . . . Well, you're getting me. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: But not nearly enough. You can be very interesting when you talk about your profession, but you have an almost psychological reluctance to divulge experiential information that comes naturally to you. Why?
BRANDO: Some politicians will play full ball; that means they'd do anything to get their point across. Some people draw the line at various places.
PLAYBOY: It's interesting that you so easily interchange the words politician and actor. You obviously won't play full ball in an interview, but can't you go at least a few innings? A lot of readers will feel cheated if you simply refuse to discuss the roles you've played as well as your personal background.
BRANDO: That's an odd word to use.
PLAYBOY: Because we're playing, circling. When you said before, "You got me!" we thought you were quoting a line. It's like the minute you click on the word acting, you stop talking about it.
BRANDO: Because I know that your antenna's up.
PLAYBOY: All right, let us ask you about Superman, which is opening the same month this interview appears.
BRANDO: I don't want to talk about it.
PLAYBOY: Is there anything at all you can say about it?
BRANDO: I don't want to talk about Superman. That's not relevant.
PLAYBOY: For a man who likes to talk, it's a pity that you brake yourself.
BRANDO: I'm fascinated with everything. I'll talk for seven hours about splinters. What kind of splinters, how you get them out, what's the best technique, why you can get an infection. I'm interested in any fucking thing.
PLAYBOY: But will you talk for seven hours about your career?
BRANDO: Of course not. Not two seconds about it.
PLAYBOY: But you have, on occasion, talked with reporters about acting.
BRANDO: I was in error. I made a lot of errors and I don't want to repeat the errors. If we repeat our errors, then it makes this seem forlorn. There's nothing sadder or more depressing than to see yourself in a series of similar errors.
PLAYBOY: Why do you insist on putting down acting?
BRANDO: I don't put it down. But I resent people putting it up.
PLAYBOY: Where would you put acting, then?
BRANDO: It's a way of making a living. A very good way.
PLAYBOY: Do you like acting?
BRANDO: Listen, where can you get paid enough money to buy an island and sit on your ass and talk to you the way I'm doing? You can't do anything that's going to pay you money to do that.
PLAYBOY: You do take acting seriously, then?
BRANDO: Yeah; if you aren't good at what you do, you don't eat, you don't have the wherewithal to have liberties. I'm sitting down here on this island, enjoying my family, and I'm here primarily because I was able to make a living so I could afford it. I hate the idea of going nine to five. That would scare me.
PLAYBOY: Is that what bothered you about acting in the theater?
BRANDO: It's hard. You have to show up every day. People who go to the theater will perceive the same thing a different way. You have to be able to give something back in order to get something from it. I can give you a perfect example. A movie that I was in, called On the Waterfront: there was a scene in a taxicab, where I turn to my brother, who's come to turn me over to the gangsters, and I lament to him that he never looked after me, he never gave me a chance, that I could have been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum. . . . "You should of looked out after me, Charley." It was very moving. And people often spoke about that, "Oh, my God, what a wonderful scene, Marlon, blah blah blah blah blah." It wasn't wonderful at all. The situation was wonderful. Everybody feels like he could have been a contender, he could have been somebody, everybody feels as though he's partly bum, some part of him. He is not fulfilled and he could have done better, he could have been better. Everybody feels a sense of loss about something. So that was what touched people. It wasn't the scene itself. There are other scenes where you'll find actors being expert, but since the audience can't clearly identify with them, they just pass unnoticed. Wonderful scenes never get mentioned, only those scenes that affect people.
PLAYBOY: Can you give an example?
BRANDO: Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow. "Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly, birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh, why can't I?" Insipid. But you have people just choking up when they hear her singing it. Everybody's got an over-the-rainbow story, everybody wants to get out from under and wants . . . [laughing] . . . wants bluebirds flying around. And that's why it's so touching.
PLAYBOY: Had another person sung that song, it might not have had the same effect. Similarly, if someone else had played that particular Waterproof scene with Rod Steiger--a scene considered by some critics among the great moments in the history of film--it could have passed unnoticed.
BRANDO: Yeah, but there are some scenes, some parts that are actor-proof. If you don't get in the way of a part, it plays by itself. And there are other parts you work like a Turk in to be effective.
PLAYBOY: Did you know that Waterfront scene was actor-proof when you were doing it?
BRANDO: No, at the time. I didn't know.
PLAYBOY: Was it a well-rehearsed scene or did Kazan just put the two of you there to act spontaneously?
BRANDO: We improvised a lot. Kazan is the best actor's director you could ever want, because he was an actor himself, but a special kind of actor. He understands things that other directors do not. He also inspired me. Most actors are expected to come with their parts in their pockets and their emotions spring-loaded: when the director says, "OK, hit it," they go into a time slip. But Kazan brought a lot of things to the actor and he invited you to argue with him. He's one of the few directors creative and understanding enough to know where the actor's trying to go. He'd let you play a scene almost any way you'd want.
As it was written, you had this guy pulling a gun on his brother. I said, "That's not believable; I don't believe one brother would shoot the other." The script never prepared you for it, it just wasn't believable; it was incredible. So I did it as if he couldn't believe it, and that was incorporated into the scene.
PLAYBOY: Many actors cite your performance in Reflections in a Golden Eye as an example of superb improvisational acting. Did any of that have to do with the direction of John Huston?
BRANDO: No. He leaves you alone.
PLAYBOY: What about Bernardo Bertolucci's direction of Last Tango in Paris? Did you feel it was a "violation," as you once said?
BRANDO: Did I say that once? To whom? [Laughing] "As you once said."
PLAYBOY: What you said was that no actor should be asked to give that much.
BRANDO: Who told you that?
PLAYBOY: I read it.
BRANDO: I don't know what that film's about. So much of it was improvised. He wanted to do this, to do that. I'd seen his other movie, The Conformist, and I thought he was a man of special talent. And he thought of all kinds of improvisations. He let me do anything. He told me the general area of what he wanted and I tried to produce the words or the action.
PLAYBOY: Do you know what it's about now?
BRANDO: Yeah, I think it's all about Bernardo Bertolucci's psychoanalysis. And of his not being able to achieve. . . . I don't know, I'm being facetious. I think he was confused about it; he didn't know what it was about, either. He's very sensitive, but he's a little taken with success. He likes being in the front, on the cover. He enjoys that. He loves giving interviews, loves making audacious statements. He's one of the few really talented people around.
PLAYBOY: Pauline Kael made some pretty audacious statements when she reviewed Last Tango, saying it had altered the face of an art form. Did such critical reaction to the film surprise you?
BRANDO: An audience will not take something from a film or a book or from poetry if it does not give something to it. People talk about great writers, great painters, great thinkers, great creators, but you cannot fully understand what a great writer is writing about unless you have some corresponding depth, breadth of assimilation. To some people, Bob Dylan is a literary genius, as great as Dylan Thomas was. And Pauline Kael, unconsciously, gave much more to the film than was there. You learn an awful lot about reviewers by their reviews--a good reviewer, that is. From bad reviewers, you can't learn anything, they're just dummies. But Pauline Kael writes with passion, it's an important experience to her. No matter what they like or dislike, talented reviewers reveal themselves, like any artist.
PLAYBOY: For a moment there, we thought you said artist. Are there any directors you'd like to work with, such as Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut?
PLAYBOY: What happens when you improvise and the actor you're working with wants to stick to the script?
BRANDO: If an actor can't improvise, then perhaps the producer's wife cast him in that part. You wouldn't be in the film with such a person. Some actors don't like it. Olivier doesn't like to improvise; everything is structured and his roles are all according to an almost architectural plan.
PLAYBOY: Critics often lean toward either you or Olivier as the greatest living actor. Since Olivier's done the classics, do you think that gives him the edge?
BRANDO: That's speculation. Speculation's a waste of time. I don't care what people think.
PLAYBOY: Do you care, though, when people say you don't always give 100 percent when you act?
BRANDO: Stella Adler, who was my teacher, a most remarkable woman, once told me a story about her father, Jacob P. Adler, a great Yiddish actor who brought the European tradition of theater to this country with him. He had said that if you come to the theater and you feel 100 percent inspiration, show 70. If you come to the theater another night and you feel maybe 50 percent, show 30. If you come to the theater feeling 30 percent, turn around and go home. Always show less than you have.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever just walked through a part?
BRANDO: Certainly. Yeah.
PLAYBOY: What about A Countess from Hong Kong, directed by Charles Chaplin?
BRANDO: No, I tried on that, but I was a puppet, a marionette in that. I wasn't there to be anything else, because Chaplin was a man of sizable talent and I was not going to argue with him about what's funny and not funny. I must say we didn't start off very well. I went to London for the reading of the script and Chaplin read for us. I had jet lag and I went right to sleep during his reading. That was terrible. [Laughs] Sometimes sleep is more important than anything else. I was miscast in that. He shouldn't have tried to direct it. He was a mean man, Chaplin. Sadistic. I saw him torture his son.
PLAYBOY: In what way?
BRANDO: Humiliating him, insulting him, making him feel ridiculous, incompetent. He [Sydney Chaplin] played a small part in the movie and the things Chaplin would say to him. . . . I said, "Why do you take that?" His hands were sweating. He said, "Well, the old man is old and nervous, it's all right." That's no excuse. Chaplin reminded me of what Churchill said about the Germans, either at your feet or at your throat.
PLAYBOY: Was he that way with you?
BRANDO: He tried to do some shit with me, I said, "Don't you ever speak to me in that tone of voice." God, he really made me mad. I was late one day, he started to make a big to-do about it. I told him he could take his film and stick it up his ass, frame by frame. That was after I realized it was a complete fiasco. He wasn't a man who could direct anybody. He probably could when he was young. With Chaplin's talent, you had to give him the benefit of the doubt. But you always have to separate the man from his talent. A remarkable talent but a monster of a man. I don't even like to think about it.
PLAYBOY: What about when you direct yourself, as you did in One-Eyed Jacks? That was a first and last experience for you; did it cure your desire to direct?
BRANDO: I didn't desire to direct that picture. Stanley Kubrick quit just before we were supposed to shoot and I owed $300,000 already on the picture, having paid Karl Malden from the time he started his contract and we weren't through writing the picture. Stanley, Calder Willingham and myself were at my house playing chess, throwing darts, playing poker. We never got around to getting it ready. Then, just before we were to start. Stanley said, "Marlon, I don't know what the picture's about." I said, "I'll tell you what it's about. It's about $300,000 that I've already paid Karl Malden." He said, "Well, if that's what it's about, I'm in the wrong picture." So that was the end of it. I ran around, asked Sidney Lumet. Gadge [Kazan] and, I don't know, four or five people: nobody wanted to direct it. [Laughs] There wasn't anything for me to do except to direct it or go to the poorhouse. So I did.
PLAYBOY: Was it a new experience for you?
BRANDO: No, you direct yourself in most films, anyway.
PLAYBOY: Didn't the studio take the film away from you, finally?
BRANDO: I kept fiddling around and fiddling around with it, stalling, so they went and cut the film. Movies are made in the cutting room.
PLAYBOY: Looking back at your body of work, are there any of your films that you aren't at all happy with, that you would like to erase if you could?
PLAYBOY: Would you change many of them if you had a chance to re-edit them now?
BRANDO: No, I wouldn't want to do that. Good God, one of the most awful places in the world to be is the cutting room. You sit all day long in a dark place filled with cigarette smoke.
PLAYBOY: Do you always see the final results of what you do?
BRANDO: Sometimes you see it in the dubbing room. I've been in the screening room sometimes. Some films I haven't seen. You're bound to run into them on television someplace. One film I liked a lot--the only time I ever really enjoyed myself--it was called Bedtime Story, with David Niven. God, he made me laugh so hard. We got the giggles like two girls at a boarding school. He finally had to ask me to go to my trailer, I couldn't stop laughing. [Laughing] We both thought it was such a funny script, a funny story.
PLAYBOY: Would you have liked to do more comedy?
BRANDO: No, I can't do comedy.
PLAYBOY: Are there any recent films that have made you laugh?
BRANDO: I haven't gone to that many movies. I liked High Anxiety. Mel Brooks makes me laugh. They had a Laurel and Hardy festival on television; boy, I laughed at that. It went on all night long; I was up half the night laughing.
PLAYBOY: Was it anything special Laurel and Hardy did that cracked you up?
BRANDO: I suppose Hardy's exasperation with Laurel and doing dead takes into the camera and shaking his head. Exasperatedly patient. [Laughing] That's ridiculous.
PLAYBOY: What about Marx Brothers films?
BRANDO: No. When I was young, they were funny, but I look at them now and it's embarrassing.
PLAYBOY: How about The Honeymooners?
BRANDO: Art Carney is a marvelous actor. And Jackie Gleason is a really wonderful entertainer. I love to watch The Honeymooners. Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner had some wonderful routines in Your Show of Shows. God, they made me laugh. They bent me out of shape. They were all funny guys.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever watch Saturday Night Live?
BRANDO: That's a funny program. Barbara Wawa. [Laughs] What is that girl's name?
PLAYBOY: Gilda Radner.
BRANDO: [Laughing] They were giving a newscast and somebody gave an opinion about something and she went arrgghhhhh [sticks finger into mouth, fakes throwing up]. They're sometimes outrageous.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever seen John Belushi do his imitation of you?
BRANDO: I don't know his name, but I probably have seen him.
PLAYBOY: Let's get back to movies you've seen. What are some of the more important films made in the past decade?
BRANDO: What do you mean important?
PLAYBOY: In whatever sense you think films might be important--significant, meaningful, of social value.
BRANDO: I don't know that films are important.
PLAYBOY: What about a film like The Battle of Algiers?
BRANDO: It was a good film, but whether it was important or not, I don't know.
PLAYBOY: What about foreign films?
BRANDO: There's a Japanese film called Ikiru that was very touching. Most of the Japanese films--Woman in the Dunes, Gate of Hell, Ugetsu.
PLAYBOY: Ugetsu'd if you're rich and famous.
BRANDO: Jesus Christ! God! [Laughing] I love those jokes! I don't know why I always laugh at that dumb shtick. [Laughing more] I have a heart attack on that stuff. It's so silly. You don't find many silly comics anymore. Comedians who stand up there and do flatfoot gapes like Willie Howard. Oh, God, he was so funny. What a funny man. The faces he made. I can't think of anybody who made me laugh more.
PLAYBOY: Who was he?
BRANDO: Willie Howard was a Jewish comedian in New York. I was a kid doing plays there and I'd go see him between the matinee and evening show. Good God, did he ever make me laugh. He had this guy who worked with him who did a double-talk routine--the guy would talk to him in double talk and he would share the bewilderment of it with the audience and the frustration of trying to get this guy to say something simple. [Laughs] Then his partner died and he worked solo. He made funny faces. He was ridiculous. The most ridiculous person I ever saw in my life. I was hanging on the orchestra pit, just roaring with laughter, and nobody else got the jokes. He was playing to me, just because somebody appreciated him so much. There are very few people who are truly silly and have a sense of the ridiculous. He was one such man. I never got to meet the guy. It's always better if you don't know them . . . comics are famously tragic people.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever seen Lily Tomlin?
BRANDO: Yeah. Good God, is she angry. Whew! She gives me the impression of somebody incandescent with rage that comes out in this crinkle-eyed smiling face. Acid. She's funny, but all of her humor comes from anguish, rage and pain. Don Rickles, too. Most humor does.
PLAYBOY: Even Bob Hope's?
BRANDO: Bob Hope will go to the opening of a phone booth in a gas station in Anaheim, provided they have a camera and three people there. He'll go to the opening of a market and receive an award. Get an award from Thom McAn for wearing their shoes. It's pathetic. It's a bottomless pit. A barrel that has no floor. He must be a man who has an ever-crumbling estimation of himself. He's constantly filling himself up. He's like a junkie--an applause junkie, like Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy desperately longs to be loved, approved of. He's very talented. What happens to those people when they can't get up and do their shtick, God only knows. Bob Hope, Christ, instead of growing old gracefully or doing something with his money, be helpful, all he does is he has an anniversary with the President looking on. It's sad. He gets on an airplane every two minutes, always going someplace. It didn't bother him at all to work the Vietnam war. Oh, he took that in his stride. He did his World War Two and Korean War act. "Our boys" and all that. He's a pathetic guy.
PLAYBOY: What about Woody Allen?
BRANDO: I don't know Woody Allen, but I like him very much. I saw Annie Hall--enjoyed it enormously, He's an important man. Wally Cox was important. Wally Cox was a lifelong friend of mine. I don't know why I put them together. They're similar to me. Woody Allen can't make any sense out of this world and he really tells wonderful jokes about it. Don't you think it was remarkable that his time came to get his door prize at the Academy Awards and he stayed home and played his clarinet? That was as witty and funny a thing as you could do.
PLAYBOY: Wit certainly wasn't your intention when you had an Indian woman turn down your Academy door prize for The Godfather, or was it?
BRANDO: No. I think it was important for an American Indian to address the people who sit by and do nothing while the Indians are expunged from the earth. It was the first time in history that an American Indian ever spoke to 60,000,000 people. It was a tremendous opportunity and I certainly didn't want to usurp that time. It wasn't appropriate that I should. It belonged much better in the mouth of an Indian. I thought an Indian woman would generate less hostility. But those people considered it an interference with their sanctified ritual of self-congratulations.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel all awards are ridiculous?
BRANDO: Of course they are. They're ridiculous. The optometrists are going to have awards for creating inventive, arresting, admirable, manufactured eyeglass frames--things that hook onto the nose, ones that go way around under the armpit for evening wear. Why shouldn't they? We have newscasters' awards, Globe awards . . . they should have an award for the fastest left-handed standby painter who's painted the sets with his left hand and who has dropped appreciably less paint on the floor while doing it. And then the carpenter's union should have an award for somebody who can take a three-pound hammer and nail two-by-fours together.
PLAYBOY: When you were given the NAACP's Humanitarian Award in 1976, you turned that down.
BRANDO: Yeah, I did. I don't believe in awards of any kind. I don't believe in the Nobel Peace Prize.
PLAYBOY: You did, however, accept the Academy Award in 1955.
BRANDO: I've done a lot of silly things in my day. That was one of them. At the time, I was confused about it and I made a judgment in error. An error in judgment.
PLAYBOY: Do you have a sense of guilt that perhaps----
BRANDO: No, I don't. [Laughs] I know some people do, but I've been fortunate in escaping that, I don't know why.
PLAYBOY: Not once in your life did it strike you----
BRANDO: No, and I've been amazed that most people are struck down with that. It hasn't fazed me!
PLAYBOY: Would you like to finish the question yourself?
BRANDO: Do I have guilt about . . . [thinks, long pause, yawns] . . . no, I cannot. OK, finish it.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any guilt about----
BRANDO: No, I don't. [Laughing] I answered that before; why do you keep asking me?
PLAYBOY: Well, you've effectively answered, so let's move on. There's a certain quote having to do with women that has been following you around for some time now.
BRANDO: That's a much better way of saying "You once said." You been rehearsing that?
PLAYBOY: It has to do with your saying, "With women, I've got a long bamboo pole with a leather loop on the end of it. I slip the loop around their necks so that they can't get away or come too close. Like catching snakes." Do you know that quote?
BRANDO: I don't know that quote. That's: When did you stop beating your wife? It's odious. It's unfair. And it's unimaginative to refer to quotes, because you know as well as I do, the press being what it is, it's going to write anything that sounds sensational. To take that as a frame of reference for a potentially volatile question or one that has color in it, it's not proper.
PLAYBOY: Why not think of it as clearing the record, especially if you didn't say it, or if you said it in sarcasm, in jest, and it came out in seriousness?
BRANDO: Who in the world cares? Who would want to dignify that claptrap and crap? We'd be all day doing that. It's a hopeless and useless task. I don't care what people write or what they think. Good Lord, I gave up caring about 20 years ago. Those are mostly conversational scavengers who sit around and wait for some slop to fall off the table. If there isn't any, then they invent some. It's of no consequence at all. Just like all questions about acting.
PLAYBOY: [Later, lying on the beach late at night, Brando pointed at the sky.]
BRANDO: That star next to the moon is always there. I remember I was in Marrakesh on a sparkling, crystalline desert night and I saw the same star. I'd been talking to this girl a long time--it was four in the morning--and the muezzin came out in his minaret and started chanting. It was an enchanted moment. It made me feel like I was in Baghdad in the 12th Century.
PLAYBOY: Was she a Moslem girl?
BRANDO: Nah. Airline hostess.
PLAYBOY: All right, let's stay with women but move away from your personal affairs. Have you had any involvement with the women's movement or with the passage of the E.R.A.?
PLAYBOY: Any feeling about it?
BRANDO: Yeah, it's something that has to pass inevitably and I'm absolutely astounded that the business community has not seen the E.R.A. as an advantage to it, because the intellectual force women can bring to production standards would be very much to its interests. When you consider something like 75 percent of the doctors in Russia are women and 30 percent of the judges in Germany are women, we rank perhaps second only to Switzerland with an antiquated view that women belong in the kitchen doing menial chores.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think certain states won't ratify the amendment?
BRANDO: Why do people hate blacks? Why do people discriminate against Indians? Why is AIM referred to as Assholes in Moccasins in South Dakota rather than the American Indian Movement? People have unconscious fears and floating anxieties, maybe guilt, and they will attach themselves like a raindrop to a speck of matter. People have built-in prejudice, they've got hatred piled up in a very neat place and they don't want to have it scattered by logic.
PLAYBOY: What is it that men hate about women?
BRANDO: I think, essentially, men fear women. It comes from a sense of dependence on women. Because men are brought up by women, they're dependent on them. In all societies, they have organizations that exclude women; warrior societies are famous the world over for that. It comes from fear of women. History is full of references to women and how bad they are, how dangerous. There are deprecating references to women all through the Bible. The mere fact that a woman was made out of a man's rib, as a sort of afterthought. Men's egos are frightened by women. We all have made mistakes in that respect. We've all been guilty, most men, of viewing women through prejudice. I always thought of myself not as a prejudiced person, but I find, as I look over it, that I was.
PLAYBOY: So you do feel guilty about your feelings about women in your past?
BRANDO: Not at all. I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt. Guilt's a useless emotion; it doesn't do anybody any good. A healthy sense of conscience is useful.
PLAYBOY: What about gay rights?
BRANDO: The lack of rights that apply to children are the ones that appall me. That's head and shoulders above any other rights group. Down here in Tahiti, and in many places, children are treated with respect, like small adults without much of a frame of reference. But for some reason, we feel superior to children, and we also feel a sense of ownership. Mothers feel about their children the way husbands feel about women. It's my kid. Women who are in the women's movement, some of them say they are not their husband's possession, but then they'll unconsciously refer to their child as a possession. They use the same kind of language about their children as they would hate for their husbands to use about them.
PLAYBOY: A part of your life that's not widely known is your long involvement with UNICEF. How long has it been?
BRANDO: About 20 years.
PLAYBOY: What kind of work do you do for them?
BRANDO: We've put on shows in Paris, London, Japan, the United States, traveled around the world, done promos. This has been the Year of the Child. Mainly, my task has been trying to communicate what UNICEF has done, how much the world needs UNICEF, and what a valuable investment children are, and what an enormous deficit they can be if they're not raised properly. Bring a half-sick child into the world and it costs you a great deal more, because the child will never become independent, the child will constantly be needing attention. You can't bring him up educationally deprived, physically and morally deprived. By the Eighties, there will be some 700,000,000 children without enough to eat, with no jobs and no education. It will hit Southeast Asia first. The most rapidly increasing birth rate is in Mexico. But Bangladesh now has a runaway population growth.
PLAYBOY: Have you done any commercials for them?
BRANDO: We do TV spots, film spots, radio. Last year, I did six spots for UNICEF.
PLAYBOY: How do you get people to give?
BRANDO: The best way to get people is to hire the guys who work for the United Jewish Appeal. They know how to get the dough. They're really terrific at separating people from their money.
PLAYBOY: Weren't you once involved in a film made in India that had some connection with UNICEF?
BRANDO: I was in the state of Behar during the emergency feeding program. I was with Satyajit Ray, the Indian director. We were walking along, seeing the nadir of human experience. These children kept coming around and, oh, God, the horror. . . . And he was just walking along like he was walking through fields of wheat, pushing the children aside. It's a human obscenity. He said to me, "You don't pay attention to it, you ignore it or you'll go mad. There's nothing you can do." I wanted to film it and show it to people in the United States. I made an entire film, about 45 minutes. It showed children in the last stages of life, of starvation; little crooked, whimpering things, covered with sores, scabrous from head to foot, lining up to get their food that was brought by UNICEF.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever show the film?
BRANDO: I showed it to a number of people in my home, including Jack Valenti [president of the Motion Picture Association of America], who was a good friend of President Johnson. It showed children dying right on the camera. One woman offering me a child who was dying, died right on the camera. Children were staggering, falling down. I showed it to somebody at NBC. They said that their news department would cover that and I felt that they didn't want any outside contribution.
PLAYBOY: Which brings us to the subject of the news media and another one of those "You once saids." This time, the quote of yours is that media are "oppressively resistant to feeding the truth to the American people, simply because it doesn't sell." Do you still believe--after the Pentagon papers and Watergate--that we never get the truth?
BRANDO: It's all the news that's print to fit. When I say fit, I mean the market. Because there is a market for news, we see that on television: fierce competition between one news program and another that turns into Jolly Jack and the Fijian dancers. They're entertainment shows. They have teasers all the way along, telling you to tune in at 11, a massacre in Wisconsin. The editor picked that out as a teaser. Or, if they haven't got anything going, they'll put a tank-car explosion in there. It's tailored violence; they have what they call the tasteful frontier of violence.
PLAYBOY: Do you think the media encourage violence or react to it?
BRANDO: It's a subtle question. Especially now with terrorism the way it is. Look, we've had more than 100 derailing incidents, and almost always it's a tank car with flammable substances in it. We had about five major grain-elevator disasters in one year. That's put down to coincidence. We're not told they're acts of sabotage. I would assume that the Government has gotten together with the news people and said, "Listen, don't broadcast alarming stories about terrorists in the United States." But there are plans afoot to counteract terrorism in the U.S.
PLAYBOY: On the subject of alarming stories, do you think that the oil crisis we suffered a few years ago was a conspiracy rather than a crisis?
BRANDO: I don't know whether or not it was a conspiracy, but there are enough industrial executives who have gone to jail over the past 20 years for price fixing that you wouldn't be going wide off the mark if you said they were manipulating us. For example, if the power companies would quit fighting solar energy and quit leaning on the legislatures and get behind it, it could happen. But the oil and steel companies' interests are allied, manufacturers of cars, plastics--which means oil companies--steel companies, metal, rubber companies, don't want to alter, to retool, it will cost them too much. They say it's going to hurt them, wreck the economy, they're not making enough in profit. The way they piss and moan about their profit ratings, it makes you think over the years they'd have gone out of business long ago. The Godfather said that a man with a briefcase can steal more money than a man with a pistol.
PLAYBOY: Do you think big business is out of control?
BRANDO: Corporations have no sense of social responsibilities. They tell lies from morning till night. You see advertisements of the petroleum outfits, everybody wants to take care of the environment, so they show you a doe taking a sip of water in a marsh and in the background we see an oil derrick, and Exxon wants us to know that even the doe is being looked after. They give you all this claptrap that Madison Avenue cranks out. There's an art form: advertising. Making people do what you want them to do, that's what Americans are good at. They can manipulate anybody at any moment. And it makes precious little difference whether we're manipulated by the state, as in Russia, or by big business, as we are through advertising.
PLAYBOY: What about our being manipulated by organized crime?
BRANDO: Sure, organized crime exists, no question. Whether or not it has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, I don't know. It's going to give the military-industrial complex a run for its money. But it doesn't consider it organized crime. It thinks it's just business. The other businesses--Big Business--start wars in the name of right, liberty and all that. The Mafia says, "That's just a front; what they really want and what they're after is the goods. It's just money, and they're no different than we are. We have the same objectives, we take better care of our people than they do." I think, quite possibly, that's true.
PLAYBOY: Isn't there something other than money that both kinds of businesses are after? Such as power?
BRANDO: Money is power. Money translates into guns, in the name of defense, of course. If you have enough money, you can do anything. You can even get a President shot. All you have to do is hire Sam Giancana, Sirhan Sirhan. You can get anybody killed for a can of beer. Hire some dumbo hit man, pay him $50,000. You can hire a 17-year-old kid, he'll be out in the streets in two or three years.
PLAYBOY: Let's talk about the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr. Do you think it's possible that it was a lone assassin in each case?
BRANDO: It's possible but by no means probable. And certainly, if they had not been killed, there were plans afoot to kill them. For political reasons. No different from Diem or Allende. If the CIA had known that Castro was a Communist, it would have assassinated him long before the Bay of Pigs. It would have had troops fighting on the side of Batista.
PLAYBOY: Do you suspect the FBI and/or the CIA as having anything to do with the assassinations in the Sixties?
BRANDO: They had to have been involved in them. It's safe to assume that the FBI or the CIA is capable of committing murder. The assassination, for instance, of Fred Hampton in Chicago was FBI-coordinated. When the FBI started out, there was never a force in the world more efficient and better at what it did. But gradually it became politicized, it was reflective of Hoover's jingoistic concepts of the world: life as it should be in the United States according to Saint Hoover. Hoover very cleverly had information on everybody.
PLAYBOY: Getting back to the Kennedys, did you ever meet John Kennedy?
BRANDO: Yeah, it was at a fund-raising affair at the Beverly Hills Hotel while he was President. He was table-hopping, as he had to, and he said, "Hello, how are you, nice to meet you"--he didn't say that, but he had his shtick. I said to him, "Aren't you bored to death?" He looked at me and said, "No, I'm not bored." I said, "You've got to be bored." He thought I was being hostile. Then he realized that he was bored having to do that, going around, people gawking at him. Then a Secret Service man came to the table and said, "Kennedy would like to see you after dinner." So we went to his room there and the evening consisted of everybody getting drunk, including Kennedy. Then he told me that I was overweight and I said that he was getting fat and jolly and I could hardly recognize him. We all stormed into the bathroom and weighed ourselves. Afterward, he said, "I know what you've been doing with the Indians, I know what you've been doing." And that was that. A kind of strange interlude.
PLAYBOY: What did you think of Robert Kennedy?
BRANDO: I think Bobby Kennedy really, finally, cared; he realized that all of the rhetoric had to be put down into some form of action. That's perhaps the reason they killed him. They don't care what you say, you can say as much as you want to, provided you don't do anything. If you start to do something and your shuffling raises too much dust, they will disestablish you. That's what happened to Martin Luther King. J. Edgar Hoover hated black people, hated Martin Luther King. If he stayed in the civil rights area, fine, that's just what they wanted him to do: Let the Civil Rights bill pass so we can deal with the Africans and get their raw materials. So Martin Luther King was in service to what the Government wanted, anyway. But when he got on the issue of the Vietnam war, he was talking to 23,000,000 people who were pretty willing to go down the road he told them to go down. That was too heavy. He upped the ante and they didn't want to go that high.
PLAYBOY: Is that also why Malcolm X was killed, in your opinion?
BRANDO: He was a dynamic person, a very special human being, who might have caused a revolution. He had to be done away with. The American Government couldn't let him live. If the 23,000,000 blacks found a charismatic leader like he was, they would follow him. The powers that be could not accept that.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever meet him?
BRANDO: No, I'm sorry I didn't; he was a great man. We won't see the likes of Malcolm X again in our lifetime. He was a man of extraordinary talents, capacities, abilities. If he had lived, America would have been far better off. Our consciousness, who we are, what we do, what we intend . . . instead of believing the clap-trap that we read about ourselves, and listening to The Marines' Hymn and all the romantic jingoistic jargon that we're shook to death with every day.
I'm often amused when I read American history and I read what great things America was going to be, what great things we were going to produce, the magnificent life we were going to have. We were determined to be an impressive and strong nation that needed a lot of people and a lot of land. And all those people who came: "Give us your great unwashed." Well, we got all the great unwashed there were. From every prison we certainly got a lot of scum and dummies. We didn't get the cream of the crop. We got people from the lowest echelons of society who couldn't make it or weren't happy where they were. Or who were taken from Africa, brought to America in chains and turned into animals.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about President Carter's stand on human rights?
BRANDO: Carter has done something that no other President has done: He has brought into the sharpest contrast the hypocrisy of the United States in respect to human rights. He's done a great favor to the Indians, because you couldn't find a President who'd given them the opportunity to point out the disparity between what Carter says and what actually happens. He's taken up the issue of human rights like the Holy Grail--put the rhetoric in Mondale's mouth and sent him off to do Sir Galahad's work. I don't know whether it was oversight or political stupidity, I can't imagine what it was that made him think that he was going to get away with it; that somehow the world was not going to know that we don't have any human rights for Indians, we don't want to reinstate them. The only time I've ever heard him refer to Indians was when someone asked him a question about the infiltration of people from Mexico into the U.S. and called them immigrants, and he said, "Well, outside of a few Indians, we're all immigrants." So I would take that to mean that he dispensed with the Indians because they were few in number and therefore entirely irrelevant. But the fact is that there are about 40,000,000 Indians in North and South America. People tend to forget that there are 1,000,000 Indians in Canada. And Mexico is primarily an Indian nation. They were possessors of great civilizations. Of the five races in the world, they're the only ones who are not represented in the UN.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever tried to meet with Carter, perhaps with a delegation of Indian leaders?
BRANDO: My guess is it wouldn't do any good. Carter would give you a mint julep and a tap dance, but that's all it's going to amount to.
PLAYBOY: Sounds like you won't be endorsing Carter in 1980.
BRANDO: If Jerry Brown runs against him, I'll vote for Jerry Brown. I think he's a terrific fellow and would make a hell of a President.
PLAYBOY: Are there other politicians you trust?
BRANDO: Jim Abourezk [Senator from South Dakota] has done something without equal as far as I know. In his own state, he's come out very strongly in support of AIM. He's taken some rather strong clouts, been beaten about the head and shoulders politically for supporting the Indians. But what's right to him is right.
PLAYBOY: Well, we've come this far without really getting into the issue of the Indians as much as you hoped for, so let's begin with----
BRANDO: Let me ask you why you want to talk about the Indians.
PLAYBOY: Well, as you know, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than discussing our views on sex or show business or----
BRANDO: [Cracking up, strong laughter. Finally]: It's funny, I was laughing, seeing the words in the interview, and then your line. [More laughter] That's funny. I love those kinds of outrageous retorts.
PLAYBOY: Do Indians have the kind of sense of humor you do?
BRANDO: People never think of Indians' having a sense of humor, but they are the most hilarious people I ever met. They'll laugh at anything. They'll laugh at themselves. They're sarcastic, sardonic, they're funny on every single level. They simply could not have survived without their superb sense of humor.
PLAYBOY: How did you first become conscious of the Indians?
BRANDO: I read a book by D'Arcy McNickle, a Flathead Indian who had a degree in anthropology from the London School of Anthropology or something, and another book by John Collier, who was then head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Then I went to see D'Arcy McNickle in Tucson. I discussed with him Indian affairs and history. He recommended that I see a group called the National Indian Youth Council. So I attended many of its meetings and, through that, I became absorbed in American Indian affairs.
PLAYBOY: And through your absorption, what is it that is most shocking to you?
BRANDO: What is shocking to me is that we can consistently try to expunge an entire people from this planet and not have known to the world the silent execution that has taken place over a period of 200 years. And that this Government that we live under--which we all say is wonderful and fall to our knees and worship--has systematically deprived the Indian of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and, at the same time, has screamed around the world, like a whistling skank with rabies, that we believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How in the world can we do that at the same time that we're strangling the life out of the only native culture that existed on this land? The American Government has shot them, murdered them, starved them, tried to break their spirit, stolen from them, kidnaped their children and reduced them to rubble. That is what shocks and angers me.
I am ashamed to be an American and to see fellow human beings who, if human rights mean anything at all, have every right to the land they live on, and more land than they have. There were 10,000,000 Indians, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, at the time of Columbus. There are now about 1,000,000. They owned all of the United States; they have precious little to call their own now. They were independent; they have nothing now. Any time a white man wanted a piece of land from an Indian, he was able to get it. So they took all the river valleys, they took all the fertile land, they took almost all the forests, they took everything and left the Indian nothing. Nothing but memories, and bitter ones at that.
When the Government didn't do it militarily, it did it with documents and promises. We lied, we chiseled, we swindled; swindle, swindle, swindle, nothing less than swindle. Swindled the Indian. And we now will say we did not swindle. We did swindle. We did kill. We did maim. We did starve. We did torture. We did the most heinous things that could be done to a people. We will not admit it, we do not recognize it, it is not contained in our history books, and I want to pull my hair out when I read high school textbooks that deal with the destruction of a people in two paragraphs.
Our relationship with the American Indian is unprecedented in history. There's no country in the world that has made as many solemn documents, agreements, treaties, statements of intention as the United States has and broken every one of them, and had every intention of breaking them when it made them. No group of people has ever so consistently and cruelly suppressed another group of people as the Americans have the Indians. There were some 400 treaties written--not one was kept. That's a terrific record. Not one treaty! It is outrageous, it's shocking and unfair and a lot more important than whether or not I like to get up in the morning, put my Equity card in my pocket, go to the studio and put on my make-up and do my tap dance, going through a day of let's pretend. There's something obscene about that.
PLAYBOY: With all that has been done to them, what is it the Indians now want from the Government?
BRANDO: What the Indians want is very plain: They want their own laws to apply in Indian land; they want an increase in the land base that was stolen from them; they want their treaties recognized. They want sovereignty, hunting and fishing rights, no taxation. They want to pursue their lives as they see fit. They want their economy reinstated.
They want nothing more and nothing less than what the Jews have in Israel. We have long, loud and often said people have a right to self-determination, and we stand behind any country in the world that so determines that it is going to be an entity unto itself. We went to Vietnam and killed millions of Vietnamese and thousands of Americans to prove that what we've said was true; we backed it up with force. But we are not willing to offer reinstatement to the American Indian, because there's no future in it. We reinstated the Japanese and the Germans because we wanted to be a presence in Asia and Germany. And a lot of Nazis got back into power so that the organization could be created to resist the Russians. But the American Government just hopes that the Indian will face away into history and disappear.
PLAYBOY: Do you really think the American Government would willingly carve up American land and give it to the Indians, establishing a separate country within the United States?
BRANDO: Of course; why not? Drive through the Southwest and you're impressed with how little of the country is used. We probably have the fewest people per square mile in the United States than almost anyplace in the world. There's ample room for the Indian to be given back enough land to live on; future populations could be accommodated in that area. There are enough riches in this country so that the Indian could be properly re-established as a viable community. France gave all of its colonies back; for the most part, so have the Dutch, the Belgians, the British. Some of them gave up their colonies screaming, kicking, scratching, fighting; some did it because they read the handwriting on the wall. No Indian has the hope that the Niˆ±a, the Santa Maria and the Pinta are going to sail up the Hudson one day and we're all gonna get on them and go back to jails in England. But it's a very reasonable and logical expectation to assume that America is going to do what every other colonial power has done.
PLAYBOY: What do you think was the biggest mistake the Indians made?
BRANDO: If Indians had joined together and made a concerted effort to keep the white man from stealing their land and decimating their people, they could have wiped the people off the face of the earth as soon as they hit Plymouth Rock. But the Indians don't get along with one another. They never thought of themselves as a unified people.
But I'm on the horns of a dilemma, because I am not the spokesman for the American Indian. They have orators, poets, people who are giants, people who are able to talk better than most poets we know who write. Wonderfully articulate people. But they're never asked for an interview in Playboy, they're never asked to go on 60 Minutes. When there's an occasion, newsmen always stick the microphone in my face. I don't know how many times I've said, "Listen, there are perfectly eloquent gentlemen standing to my left and to my right, please ask them, they are Indians, I am not; they know far better than I do why they're here; don't ask me why I'm here." But their editors say, "Go out and get a recording of the fire coming out of Marlon's nose." It's so distasteful to me that nobody gives a shit. I've called up I don't know how many magazines, spoken to writers of international renown, to Senators who head the investigating committees--everybody's out to lunch.
PLAYBOY: Would you say that Indians have been more discriminated against than blacks were before the Civil Rights Act?
BRANDO: It's not an ouch contest.
PLAYBOY: What about missionaries? Have they done any good for the Indians?
BRANDO: The Church has a tremendous debt that it owes to the Indian. The Church was borrowed by the Government as a force to so-call civilize the Indian. It was simply designed to disenfranchise the Indian, which it did. The Church was in control; they sat in a room and they divided Indian reservations up like pies: Catholics here, Protestants here, you take this, we'll take that, go get 'em, boys. And they went in there in force and threw the Bible around with a will.
PLAYBOY: Had you been born an Indian, do you think, knowing what you know, that you'd be militant?
BRANDO: That's like saying if your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle. I don't know what it's like to be an Indian. I can only imagine. And what I imagine is it's pretty horrible to be an Indian who cares about being an Indian, cares about maintaining himself as an Indian, cares about trying to establish an image of himself in front of his children. I suppose it would make me pretty goddamn mad.
PLAYBOY: Let's talk about some of your personal involvements. In 1964, you were arrested at a fish-in for Indian river rights in Washington, weren't you?
BRANDO: It was a priest from San Francisco, myself and an Indian from the Puyallup reservation. They wanted to test whether or not we would be willing to be arrested. We were arrested, but they didn't book us. We went to the jail and then they just dismissed us. They got a call from the governor's office or something. Soon after that first fish-in, we went to northern Washington and fished there, but it was the wrong place. We just froze to death. I almost got pneumonia. I was dying. Oh God, I was sick. That was my last fish-in.
PLAYBOY: Then, in 1975, you joined a group of Menominee Indians who had taken over a monk's abbey in Gresham, Wisconsin, in their attempt to get back the deed for land that had once been theirs. Didn't that turn into violence?
BRANDO: They were shooting bullets twice a day, in the afternoon and at night. Dog soldiers came and they were fighting it out for over a month. One guy was shot, a white guy. I was in there for about a week, with Father Groppi and some other priests. It was unbelievable, people going out with guns and ammunition, lying in the snow and firing at 2:30 in the morning; everybody sleeping, huddled, trying to get warm, bullets flying around. I was up on the roof one time and bullets started sizzling by me, whheew, whheww--sounds very funny. The bullets come by before you hear the gun.
PLAYBOY: Were you scared?
BRANDO: No. The Indians were determined that they should get that deed to the land. It was previously Indian land that had just been grabbed. The Church wasn't using it, it was just sitting around in a Catholic bank book. There were contingent plans to go in with percussion bombs and gas. That would have killed a lot of people, because the Indians wouldn't have surrendered; the expression they had on their arm bands was Deed Or Death. They finally got the deed. And then those goddamn Alexian Brothers, the group of priests who owned the property, took it back after everything died down. Those lying bastards! I was right there in the room when they were negotiating. They gave their word that the [abbey] should go to the Indians for a hospital and that the land should be returned to the Menominee reservation. They subsequently, arbitrarily, took it back, broke their word. After the Indians were arrested, they said, "We didn't mean that." There was no noise about it then. And some Indians are still sitting in jail.
PLAYBOY: Dennis Banks is the Indian activist who was recently granted political asylum in California by Governor Brown. Banks had fled South Dakota, where he faced sentencing on riot and assault convictions, and he was involved in a shooting with the Oregon highway patrol some time ago. His trailer was shot up and when the police traced the ownership, it was found that it belonged to you. Could you have been charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive?
BRANDO: I am not now nor have I ever been a Communist. [Laughs] Let me put it this way: I would certainly aid and abet any Indian if he came to me at this time. I had Dennis down here in Tahiti. I invited him to come down, because they were after him.
PLAYBOY: How long did he stay?
BRANDO: About two months.
PLAYBOY: Did the Government know Banks was here?
BRANDO: Yeah. Dennis Banks is a remarkable man, he's a man who's got finely honed instincts; lives by his wits, which are considerable. He's the kind of man young Indians can look to to be inspired by. Russell [Means] is the same.
PLAYBOY: Why didn't the FBI go after you?
BRANDO: The Justice Department didn't see a practical way of indicting me, because it would have inflamed the issues and gotten a lot of coverage. For Russell Means to be thrown in jail is one thing, but for me to be put under indictment for aiding and abetting an American Indian who was forced to go underground due to political pressure--the entire thing was fraught with a very special kind of concern that it did not get too large.
Had the people in Wounded Knee been black or white, they would have had them dead within 20 minutes. You would have seen something that would have made the S.L.A. shoot-out look like a strawberry festival. But they couldn't do it. The only reason they didn't do it was not for any humanitarian reason but because the silhouette of the American Indian around the world is so famous, thanks to Hollywood.
PLAYBOY: When did you come to feel that, second only to the Government, Hollywood has done more harm to the American Indian than any other institution?
BRANDO: I can't give you a date when the light bulb went off in my head. I became increasingly aware just recently of the power of film to influence people. I always enjoyed watching John Wayne, but it never occurred to me until I spoke with Indians how corrosive and damaging and destructive his movie were--most Hollywood movies were.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever discussed this with Wayne?
BRANDO: I saw John Wayne only once. He was at a restaurant. He came over, very pleasant, wished us all a good evening and a happy meal and walked away. First and last time I saw him.
PLAYBOY: In 1971, in his Playboy Interview, John Wayne said that he didn't feel we did wrong in taking America away from the Indians. He thought the Indians were "selfishly trying to keep it for themselves" and that what had happened in the past was so far back that he didn't feel we owed them anything. Care to comment?
BRANDO: That doesn't need a reply, it's self-evident. You can't even get mad at it; it's so insane that there's just nothing to say about it. He would be, according to his point of view, someone not disposed to returning any of the colonial possessions in Africa or Asia to their rightful owners. He would be sharing a perspective with Vorster if he were is South Africa. He would be on the side of Ian Smith. He would have shot down Gandhi, called him a rabble rouser. The only freedom fighters he would recognize would be those who were fighting Communists; if they were fighting to get out from under colonial rule, he'd call them terrorists. The Indians today he'd call agitators, terrorists, who knows? If John Wayne ran for President, he would get a great following.
PLAYBOY: Do you think his views are prevalent in Hollywood?
BRANDO: Oh, sure, I think he's been enormously instrumental in perpetuating this view of the Indian as a savage, ferocious, destructive force. He's made us believe things about the Indian that were never true and perpetuated the myth about how wonderful the frontiersmen were and how decent and honorable we all were.
PLAYBOY: Besides Wayne, you've been outspoken about the insensitivity of many of the Jewish heads of studios, who were in power during the heyday of the cowboy-and-Indian pictures. What made you so angry?
BRANDO: I was mad at the Jews in the business because they largely founded the industry. The non-Jewish executives you take granted are going to exploit any race for a buck. But you'd think that the Jews would be so sensitized to that that they wouldn't have done it or allowed it. You've always seen the wily Filipino, the treacherous Chinese, the devilish Jap, the destructive, fierce, savage, blood-lusting, killing buck, and the squaw who loves the American marshal or soldier. You're seen every single race besmirched, but you never saw an image of the kike. Because the Jews were ever watchful for that--and rightly so. They never allowed it to be shown onscreen. The Jews have done so much for the world that, I suppose, you get extra disappointed because they didn't pay attention to that.
PLAYBOY: Has there been any Jewish reaction to what you've said about the Jews in the movie industry?
BRANDO: No. You have to be very careful about that issue, because the blacks are concerned about the blacks, the Indians are concerned about the Indians, the Jews are concerned about the Jews. In the United States, people are trying to look out for their own. The Puerto Ricans are not going to take up the Indian cause. The Indian cause is not going to be concerned about the injustice to the Japanese. Everybody looks to whatever's close at hand.
PLAYBOY: You once mentioned two films--Broken Arrow, with Jeff Chandler, and John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn--as not having treated Indians negatively. Are there any others you can add?
BRANDO: Not Cheyenne Autumn. That was worse than any other film, because it didn't tell the truth. Superduper patriots like John Ford could never say that the American Government was at fault. He made the evil cavalry captain a foreigner. John Ford had him speak with a thick accent, you didn't know what he was, but you knew he didn't represent Mom's apple pie.
PLAYBOY: Do you approve of any of the films Hollywood has made about the Indians?
BRANDO: I can't think of any offhand.
PLAYBOY: What about one called Soldier Blue?
BRANDO: Oh, yeah, with Candice Bergen. That film left a lot to be desired; it dealt more with blood and guts than with the philosophy, which is important. It was certainly horrifying--the attack at Sand Creek, when they slaughtered the Indians. In many ways, that was representative of what happened. There were also parts of Little Big Man that I thought were useful. It had a lot of good, fair things in it.
PLAYBOY: I imagine you expect to have a lot of good, fair things in The First American, the TV project you've agreed to do for ABC. It's your first venture into television; can you talk about it?
BRANDO: We've been given a chunk of money to do as many programs as we can on that. Hopefully, we're going to get four programs out of it. If they like them, they will do more. We're certainly going to work as hard as we can to make them interesting, provocative and truthful. These issues are going to be clearly drawn, so that people can't duck them anymore. The Indian view will be heard, and it will be heard round the world. I'll take it to every country, I'll get arrested, I'll give them a show, I'll entertain them. People will say, "Where's Marlon been arrested this time?" I'm totally committing myself to getting this issue across.
PLAYBOY: How long will each show be?
BRANDO: An hour and a half. Hopefully, there's gonna be 13 or 14 made. We shouldn't have to go around, hat in hand, scratching and tapping on doors, climbing transoms, to get money to do a historical survey of the American Indian and how we reduced him to rubble. Jesus Christ!
PLAYBOY: Will you act in every show?
BRANDO: I will be in a number of them. So far, I see myself in one of the four, and I'll probably be in another.
PLAYBOY: Is it your intention to play figures like Kit Carson and Custer?
BRANDO: I'm too old to play Kit Carson and Custer. Kit Carson was a relatively young man, most of those guys were. You can cheat 20 years . . . but there are a lot of people I could play.
PLAYBOY: Well, if they could turn Dustin Hoffman into a 120-year-old Indian in Little Big Man----
BRANDO: Oh, I've played a 70-year-old man--you can go older, but it's very hard to go younger. Loretta Young finished her days in a blaze of ectoplasm, along with the number of silk screens that they had to put on the lights to soften them so her wrinkles wouldn't interfere with the fun.
PLAYBOY: Will The First American be commercialized, as Holocaust was, or will you have some control over the way it's presented?
BRANDOHolocaust was as obscene as anything I've seen on television. I was infuriated by that. It made me gag. I was embarrassed for the people who did it; it was horrifying! Elie Wiesel, who was a man who survived Auschwitz, came out and broadsided the program. It should be treated sanctimoniously as an event in history, it should not be sandwiched between some dog-food ads. How can you go from a concentration-camp scene to a smiling woman selling dog food? God! It was appalling. Finally, it's better that they put that on than nothing.
PLAYBOY: Aren't you also going to play the part of American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell in the upcoming second half of Roots? What made you want to portray him?
BRANDO: Everybody ought not to turn his back on the phenomenon of hatred in whatever form it takes. We have to find out what the anatomy of hatred is before we can understand it. We have to make some attempt to put it into some understandable form. Any kind of group hatred is extremely dangerous and much more volatile than individual hatred. Heinous crimes are committed by groups and it's all done, of course, in the name of right, justice. It's John Wayne. It's the way he thinks. All the crimes committed against Indians are not considered crimes by John Wayne.
PLAYBOY: Will you play Rockwell as an evil character?
BRANDO: I don't see anybody as evil. When you start seeing people as evil, you're in trouble. The thing that's going to save us is understanding. The inspection of the mind of Eichmann or Himmler. . . . Just to dispense with them as evil is not enough, because it doesn't bring you understanding. You have to see them for what they are. You have to examine John Wayne. He's not a bad person. Who among us is going to say he's a bad man? He feels justified for what he does. The damage that he does he doesn't consider damage, he thinks it's an honest presentation of the facts.
PLAYBOY: So your motivation is to understand prejudice, shed light on the darker parts of souls such as Rockwell's?
BRANDO: Understanding prejudice is much more helpful than just condemning it out of hand. There is a point, however, where you can understand so much and then you've got to take a gun out and say, "I'm not gonna let you do this to me anymore; if you do that, I'm gonna kill you." If somebody came to my house, I'd do damage. I'd kill somebody. I wouldn't hesitate.
PLAYBOY: You say that, but the act of doing it is something else.
BRANDO: I've pointed guns at people. Loaded guns.
PLAYBOY: Did you have your finger on the trigger?
BRANDO: Damn right I did. I've told people to get down, lie on the floor, frisked them, got their identification.
PLAYBOY: Burglars?
BRANDO: You betchya.
PLAYBOY: Did any intruder ever not lie down immediately?
BRANDO: No. Three or four times, I've pulled a gun on somebody. I had a problem after Charles Manson, deciding to get a gun. But I didn't want somebody coming in my house and committing mayhem. The Hillside Strangler victims--one of the girls was found in back of my Los Angeles house. My next-door neighbor was murdered, strangled in the bathroom. Mulholland Drive is full of crazy people. We have nuts coming up and down all the time.
PLAYBOY: Do you get a lot of hate mail?
BRANDO: Not a lot. I've gotten some threatening letters.
PLAYBOY: Do you give them to the FBI or are you under surveillance by them for other reasons?
BRANDO: Jack Anderson got some stuff from the Secret Service that had me on the list of those who had to be put under surveillance every time the President came to town. Back in the Sixties, there was a truck from the electric company parked in front of my house, around 11 at night. I said to them, "What's going on?" "Oh, just fixing the lines." I happen to know something about electricity, so I asked some questions and the guy in charge didn't know and gave me dumb answers. I've had the FBI visit me on five occasions, asking me a lot of questions.
PLAYBOY: Which probably gave you some good material for that movie you've wanted to do about Wounded Knee. What's happened to that project?
BRANDO: I have a very specific notion to make a film out of Wounded Knee to show the FBI and the Justice Department how what happens to Indians happens, and the way the minds of the politicians work in respect to the Indian. I think it would make a very good movie. It would start with the trial of Banks and Means and keep flashing back to how it happened.
PLAYBOY: Didn't Abby Mann, who wrote Judgment at Nuremberg, do a script for you?
BRANDO: He did three scripts.
PLAYBOY: Were any of them close to what you wanted?
BRANDO: Hardly. Really bad scripts.
PLAYBOY: Did you have anyone in mind to direct it?
BRANDO: I tried to get a guy I did a movie with before, Gillo Pontecorvo. He did The Battle of Algiers. I thought he'd be perfect for this movie. I was in another movie with him, almost fucking killed him, and he almost killed me. Good God, what a battle that was.
PLAYBOY: That was Queimada, or Burn!
BRANDO: Yeah, Queimada, which I thought was a wonderful movie. Jesus, they couldn't flush it away fast enough. I couldn't believe it, about an interesting time well told.
PLAYBOY: Why was it flushed away so fast?
BRANDO: I don't know. They let it die, it never appeared anyplace, as though it got the plague or something. Very mysterious. Anyway, Gillo met with the Indians and they scared him to death. Bunch of guys met him at the airport, with about half a bag on, scared the shit out of him. He came back, didn't know what was going on. I told him, he won't understand for a long time what the Indians are--they're very strange folks. And he was going along with it. And then he wanted Franco Solinas, a full-fledged Marxist, to write the script. And it was then the Indians backed off and said, "Nothing doing, we're not going to have a goddamn Communist writing our story." So that was the end of that.
PLAYBOY: What really happened when you worked with Pontecorvo? What it just a conflict between director and actor?
BRANDO: No, the guy was a complete sadist. He did an awful thing: He paid the black extras a different salary than he paid the whites on location in Colombia. Then he gave the blacks different food because he thought they'd like it.
PLAYBOY: So what did you do?
BRANDO: I started out saying, "Jesus Christ, Gillo, you can't pay the blacks different money, you've got to give them the same food, what the fuck, black journalists are coming down here, you think they're gonna hang around here ten minutes without talking to the blacks and finding out what the fuck's going on?" I said, "I'm not gonna take the fall for that, goddamn it; you can't do that, that's what this picture's about." I went raving on.
PLAYBOY: Did you finally have it out with him?
BRANDO: One day, he had me do so many takes on one scene, I just blew fucking up. Screamed at the top of my lungs, "You are eating me like ants!" [Laughs at the memory] He jumped off the floor about four feet. I could have broken glasses if there'd been any around. I didn't know I was going to do it, it just happened.
There were so many horror stories with that film. I came to the set one day, on location on this mountain road, and the wardrobe woman was sitting near the camera and she had a kid. I said, "What's the matter with the kid?" She said he was sick. I said, "What's the matter?" "Well, he vomited a worm at lunch." I said, "He vomited a worm?" She said, "Yeah, he's got a fever." I said, "Where's the doctor?" She said, "We're going to take him to the doctor after the next shot." I said, "Take him now!" She said, "Gillo wants to finish the scene first, then that will kill the location." So I called out and had the chauffeur come up and I said, "Take the kid to the fucking hospital right now." I really got steamed. If Gillo had been taller, I would have fucking fought with him. I really would have punched the guy out. I just looked at him. He said something and I got in the car and went home.
PLAYBOY: After all that happened, how was Pontecorvo to work with?
BRANDO: He started carrying a gun. Finally sent word to me that he was going to use it if I didn't do what he said. He laughed, but he actually had a gun on his belt. He was very superstitious, hysterically superstitious. He had two pocketsful of lucky charms. On Thursdays, you could not ask him any questions. He could not stand purple. If there was anything purple on the set, he would get rid of it--including wine at lunch. And I found out that the prop man has to play the first part in every picture. And that the prop man has to wear certain tennis shoes in all his pictures. And that he has to print a certain take.
I went after his superstitions. I walked under ladders. I had him fainting, staggering, just hanging on the ropes. I would spill salt all over the place, throw it around, on the ground. I'd open a door, take a mirror and say, "Hey, Gillo!" Then I'd take a hammer and go, "Whoom, whoom" [laughs]. He was trying to bullshit with me, he treated me like one would treat Burt Reynolds--I don't know why I've got it in for that poor apple.
But, as I said, you have to separate people from their talent. And, even at the time, I did not want to blow the picture, because it was an important picture. I really felt that it could have been a wonderful movie. But I had to give the very strong impression that I didn't give a fuck and I was willing to blow it all.
PLAYBOY: Wasn't it during the making of that picture that you were thrown off a plane because they thought you were a hijacker?
BRANDO: Yeah. One time I was coming back from a three-day vacation, dragging my poor ass to the plane in Los Angeles. It was National Airlines, the only connecting flight to Colombia for three days. As I got on the plane, I said, "Are you sure this is the flight to Havana?" The hostess was tired. She didn't say anything, she just went to the pilot and said, "We've got a wisenheimer on board who wants to know if this is the flight to Havana." And the pilot said, "Get him off the flight." [Laughs] I couldn't believe my ears. I said, "I'm awfully sorry." She said, "You get off this flight or I'm going to have the FBI man here in a minute." I had a beard, so she didn't know who the fuck I was. I got off and ran past the counter and the guy said, "Mr. Brando, wait, what happened? Mr. Brando?" I was running like a son of a bitch, because I knew that he was going to tell the hostess, who would tell the captain, who would call the tower; the tower would call the desk and they were going to stop me and say, "Oh, it's all a big error." I was streaking down that thing like Jesse Owens in the old days. Then, of course, it appeared in the papers and all that shit. But I got three extra days out of it that I never would have gotten. Oh, I was never so glad. That was just wonderful.
PLAYBOY: Was Burn! the most frustrating of all your films?
BRANDO: I never had any trouble like that. Never.
PLAYBOY: What about Mutiny on the Bounty?
BRANDO: Oh, no, that's just all horseshit. Carol Reed wasn't doing the picture that they wanted and he was taking too much time. They also didn't have a script. And Reed quit. The stockholders meeting was coming up and the next thing I know, it appeared in the paper, some magazine article blaming me for the whole fucking thing. They did that to Elizabeth Taylor on Cleopatra.
PLAYBOY: Was that the magazine you sued for $4,000,000?
BRANDOThe Saturday Evening Post. I just couldn't believe that they would do that. They dumped it all on me--its costs, its delays--and then the publicity mills just kept grinding it out. They were making up all these stories and they paid some fella to do a job on me in The Saturday Evening Post. So I hired a publicist for the first and only time in my life and said to him, "Listen, I'm not going to hold still for this; find out what's going on." He was Sam Spiegel's public-relations man, Bill Something, who later got hit by a taxi--serves him right.
BRANDO: Yeah. As it turned out, MGM was paying him off. They were paying him a salary and he was telling the head of the studio everything I told him. He wasn't representing me at all.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever follow through with your suit?
BRANDO: Yeah. I can't remember what happened; I think the Post settled, gave me some money.
PLAYBOY: Was that the only time you've ever sued a magazine?
BRANDO: Yeah; I wouldn't do it again. It's not worth the effort. Magazines want you to sue them. They'll write anything that's scurrilous, that sells a few hamburgers. What they get out of publicity is far in excess of what they pay in lawyers' fees. So Evel Knievel got a baseball bat and broke that guy's arms. I don't think that's such a bad idea.
PLAYBOY: Especially since you've broken at least one photographer's jaw yourself, when you punched Ron Galella in the mouth when he was taking pictures while you were going to dinner with Dick Cavett in Chinatown. Was that the only time you've lost your temper like that?
BRANDO: Oh, I've punched photographers out. Any time it has to do with the kids, I just go berserk. I can't stand any kind of invasion of privacy like that. I can't go to Italy anymore, because I'll be in jail. Last time I was there, a bunch of paparazzi were out there. I was saying good night to some guests. I had my son in my arms and I was outside and they started taking pictures. I put the kid down and ran after this guy. [Laughs] I took a terrific fucking swing at this guy. I couldn't see, they had lights on me, hell. I missed him and fell on my ass. Then I ran in and got a bottle of champagne and came running out the front door looking for anybody I could get hold of. One guy jumped on the hood of a car and then on the sidewalk. I followed him, chased him two fucking blocks. He was more scared than I was mad. I reached out to catch him and he jumped onto this streetcar and took off. I went back, two o'clock in the morning, and there's this tough guy banging on the door. My kids are in there, my wife. So I got a knife and I was just going to have it out with him. Tarita was wrestling and fighting me for the knife. Then I got myself together and realized, What the fuck am I doing? Go out and stab somebody in Italy and it's goodbye, Rachel.
So I called the American Embassy and said, "Let me speak to the Ambassador." They said he was asleep. I said, "I don't care what the fuck he's doing, I didn't ask you that, I told you to get him on the phone?" I was just pissing mad. Poor guy was intimidated. He got the Ambassador out of bed. "Mr. Ambassador," I said, "I'm being intimidated here and I'm not going to stand for much more of this. You're going to have to make some arrangements." I went on and on.
The next morning, two carabinieri are out in front of my house in their fucking uniforms. And a photographer was out there, too. I had to go to work and the guy pointed his camera at me and the carabinieri put his hand right over the lens. He had no business doing that at all, it's completely against the law. But he did that, pushed the guy into a car, took him down to headquarters, said, "What have you got here, dope in this camera? Heroin? What is this stuff?" Opened the camera. "Oh, film. Sorry." They never bothered me after that.
PLAYBOY: What about Galella?
BRANDO: With Ron Galella, I really had to sit down and talk about that. I broke the guy's jaw. Sure, he was annoying me, but then, if it's so annoying to me, I should be in the lumber business. But the guy wanted to get hit. He was looking for some kind of incident like that. This guy was following me all day long. Taking pictures while I was on [Cavett's] show. And afterward, Dick and I went to Chinatown to get something to eat and the fucking guy comes around to take pictures. Finally, I started to get exasperated. I went over to the guy and said, "Would you please just take a few more pictures? You've had enough for today; give us a break." He was drawing crowds around us. So he said, "Well, if you'll give me some decent poses, take off your glasses, maybe I'll think about it." I didn't think. Just the attitude was overbearing. And that was it. He sued me. Cost me $40,000. No, it cost me $20,000; the rest was taken off in taxes. The last time I saw him, he was wearing a football helmet with a feather coming out of the top.
PLAYBOY: You're known to have kept friends since childhood. Do any of them talk about you?
BRANDO: None of my friends, if they're my friends, talk.
PLAYBOY: What happens to friends who write books about you?
BRANDO: They're not friends to begin with. Friends don't write books, acquaintances do.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever read any of those books?
BRANDO: No. Life is not about that. Surely, life is about something other than sitting and reading books about yourself.
PLAYBOY: Are there many people in your profession for whom you have a lot of respect?
BRANDO: There are not many people in anybody's life that one can have a lot of respect for. No. How many people in your life do you have a lot of respect for?
PLAYBOY: A handful.
BRANDO: A handful? Well, same here.
PLAYBOY: What about Jane Fonda, Robert Redford?
BRANDO: I think Jane Fonda has done something. I could see her doing most anything. Redford's certainly been effective in pursuing his interests. Who always sings I Left My Heart in San Francisco?
PLAYBOY: Tony Bennett.
BRANDO: Yeah, Tony Bennett. He's been extremely helpful all the way along. He's a very decent guy, a very kind man. But I've never met a movie actor yet who made me fall to my knees in awe and wonder.
PLAYBOY: What about Tennessee Williams?
BRANDO: He's an enormously sensitive and cruelly honest person. If there are men who have a clean soul, he's one of them. He's an important and very brave man.
PLAYBOY: Any others?
BRANDO: Stella Adler and Elia Kazan were extremely important to me. I don't think I would have been able to ply my trade as well had I not been with them.
PLAYBOY: What distinguished Stella Adler from other acting teachers? What was she able to show you?
BRANDO: She was a very kind woman full of insights and she guided and helped me in my early days. I was certainly confused and restless. Outside of her phenomenal talent to communicate ideas, to bring forth hidden sensitivity in people, she was very helpful in a troubled time in my life. She is a teacher not only of acting but of life itself. She teaches people about themselves. I wouldn't want to say that it's psychotherapy, but it has very clear psychotherapeutic results. People learn about the mechanism of feeling. Whether they ever go on to being actors or not, it's irrelevant, they've learned a lot from her.
PLAYBOY: She once said, though, that she never taught you anything; she just opened doors for you and you kicked them down.
BRANDO: I would like to ask you, Vas ya dere, Charley? [Laughs] That's the great phrase that sustains me from one problem to another. It's so simple: Finally it comes down to saying, Vas ya dere, Charley?
PLAYBOY: One man with whom you were impressed was Justice William O. Douglas. Didn't you once go to see him about something?
BRANDO: Yes, I did. I was absolutely tongue-tied. I didn't know what in the world to say. I met him twice. Once in his chamber, he was gracious enough to admit me. I had a briefcase full of notes and wanted to talk about the American Indian. I couldn't put a sentence together. He sat there, "Yes?" He listened attentively. I suppose that intimidated me more than anything, that he was listening. I stuttered around, stammered. He said, "I have to go to the bench now." I said, "Oh, yes, yes, of course, quite so. Goodbye, Mr. Justice, Mr. Dougal, uh. . . ."
PLAYBOY: Was that the only time that's ever happened to you?
PLAYBOY: That doesn't seem to happen to people like Bob Hope, John Wayne or Sammy Davis Jr. when they meet with politicians like Nixon and Ford. How effective are such people in influencing others to support someone like Nixon?
BRANDO: Well, we ate the pudding, so. . . . I think it's just window dressing. Politicians go and get a few movie star to put behind their ears like political flowers. It's parsley. They're just attention-getting devices, like those flags in the used-car lots that wave in the wind, multicolored iridescent things, drive along and they attract your attention for two seconds and that's the end of the show.
PLAYBOY: But when celebrities lend their names to $1000-a-plate dinners, it does seem to bring in the money.
BRANDO: They're shills. Political shills.
PLAYBOY: Do you think that was Carter's intention when he named Paul Newman to be a delegate to the UN special session concerning disarmament?
BRANDO: [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Why are you laughing?
BRANDO: [Laughing] I wasn't laughing, I was coughing. Something in my drink.
PLAYBOY: You're not drinking anything. Anyway, would you get involved if Carter asked you?
BRANDO: I would not be involved in any formal or informal way with the Government. If I can be helpful, it will not be because I'm an officeholder. I think Paul would be very effective as a politician. He's an intelligent, personable, fair-minded guy.
PLAYBOY: Since we've got you talking about one actor, you'll understand it if we segue into opinions on other actors. Wasn't there a rivalry between you and Montgomery Clift in the old days?
BRANDO: I think that's beneath me. It's too silly.
PLAYBOY: We had to ask.
BRANDO: I know you had to ask me, but then I had to say it's too silly when you did ask me.
PLAYBOY: Another such rivalry, according to the press, is between you and Frank Sinatra, stemming from the fact that you got the better role--and better songs--in Guys and Dolls. Sinatra has apparently called you the most overrated actor in the world.
BRANDO: I don't think that's true. You didn't hear him say that. Vas ya dere, Charley? And you weren't. So, unless he says that to my face, it's not going to have any great significance. And even if he did say it, I don't know if it's going to break my stride.
PLAYBOY: The press does play up rivalries, obviously.
BRANDO: Of course they do. That's how they make their bread and butter. What else are they going to do, write serious stories about people?
PLAYBOY: What magazines do you read?
BRANDOScientific American, Science Digest, The New York Review of Books, The Co Evolution Quarterly.
PLAYBOY: Serious stuff. Do you ever lighten it with something like the Reader's Digest, to keep in touch with the common man?
BRANDO: The Reader's Digest is the most popular publication in America, outside of the Bible, as far as I know. It is also the worst piece of trash I've ever seen in my life. I shouldn't say that--maybe they'll do an article about Indians. [Laughs] But I think they know it is not The New York Times Book Review; it's not Esquire; it's not Playboy; it's not Scientific American.
PLAYBOY: What about books?
BRANDO: I used to read an awful lot. Then I found that I had a lot of information and very little knowledge. I couldn't learn from reading. I was doing something else by reading, just filling up this hopper full of information, but it was undigested information. I used to think the more intelligence you had, the more knowledge you had, but it's not true. Look at Bill Buckley; he uses his intelligence to further his own prejudices.
Why one reads is important. If it's just for escape, that's all right, it's like taking junk, it's meaningless. It's kind of an insult to yourself. Like modern conversation--it's used to keep people away from one another, because people don't feel assaulted by conversation so much as silence. People have to make conversation in order to fill up this void. Void is terrifying to most people. We can't have a direct confrontation with somebody in silence--because what you're really having is a full and more meaningful confrontation.
PLAYBOY: It's a good thing you didn't express that in the beginning of this interview or it would have been a very short interview, indeed. Before we began taping, you told us of a recurrent nightmare you have about being sick, in the Korean War----
BRANDO: I didn't say the Korean War. I said that it just would be horrible . . . to be someplace in a war where you're freezing and sick, you have diarrhea, no way of getting back . . . it would be awful.
I always wondered why people went off to war, get themselves blown apart. The Korean War, the Vietnam war, why would they do it? Why not say, Christ, I'll go to jail for five years and that will be worth it, but I'm not going to get my head blown off, that's absurd, I'm not going. A lot of them did it. But the number who did not go was not so impressive as the number who went.
PLAYBOY: When you were of draft age, how did you avoid the Army?
BRANDO: I beat the Army by being declared psychoneurotic. They thought I was crazy. When I filled in their forms, under "Race," I wrote, "Human"; under "Color," I wrote, "It varies." Also, I got thrown out of military school, which helped.
PLAYBOY: You must have made your parents proud.
BRANDO: When I was kicked out of military school, my father thought I was a nogoodnik, I wasn't going to amount to anything. When I went into acting, that was the worst thing. When I started making money at it, he couldn't believe the kind of money I was making. It kind of blew his mind. He didn't know how to handle it.
PLAYBOY: How about yourself? How did you respond to the pressure? Did you ever become dependent on drugs or drink?
BRANDO: How individuals or society responds to pressure is the determination of their general state of mental health. There isn't a society in the world that has not invented some artificial means to change their minds, their mood, whether it's cacao or kola nut or alcohol. There are 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 alcoholics in the United States.
But all kinds of drugs have been with man forever and a day. If they're used as a means of escaping from problems, then the problems are only going to increase. Confrontation of problems is the only manner of solution of problems. Problems don't go away. Drugs are not a solution, they're a temporary relief.
PLAYBOY: A lot of people who can afford it go into analysis to get help with their problems, but those who can't often resort to drugs or alcohol.
BRANDO: It would be nice to say that poor people aren't happy, but rich people are snorting cocaine, that's the rich people's drug. When all the kids are smoking, dropping acid, taking cocaine, then you have to say there must be something wrong. In the main cities, when you can't walk out in the streets without getting mugged or being in fear of your life, something's wrong. All the rich people do is move farther and farther away from the areas of trouble.
PLAYBOY: Until you finally come to an island?
BRANDO: Until you finally come to an island.
PLAYBOY: Do you think the rich take cocaine as a means of escape or for pleasure, to enhance sexual activity, as a stimulation, whatever?
BRANDO: If it's a pleasure not to be yourself, not to have doubts about yourself, or to have an exaggerated sense of your own importance, then perhaps it is a pleasure. But it's a questionable one, because you're dealing with an unreal world and eventually you're going to have a rendezvous with a brick wall, and you'll have to return to whatever you are.
PLAYBOY: Well, we all know who you are, at least as an actor and an activist, but who would you have liked to be if you could choose any period in history in which to have lived?
BRANDO: I think I would have liked to be a cave man, a neolithic person. It would have been nice to see what the common denominator of human existence was before it started to be fiddled with.
PLAYBOY: Would you have wanted to be an extraordinary cave man?
BRANDO: I would have been Ralph Kramden. Just your average cave dweller.
PLAYBOY: We think we just spotted another segue--at least it makes us think of the mumbling cave man you portrayed in Streetcar, which made Method acting a household word. Does being labeled a Method actor mean anything to you?
PLAYBOY: Does it bother you?
BRANDO: B-O-R-E. Bore.
PLAYBOY: Is that what a Method actor does--to bore through to the core of a character's being?
BRANDO: It bores through and goes beyond the frontiers of endurable anguish of interviews.
PLAYBOY: Well, this painful interview is almost over.
BRANDO: Oh, listen, it hasn't been painful at all. It's been delightful. Although I feel like I got in a rummage sale: Would you want this dress? No, that shmatte. How about this corset? Well, we could take the rubber out and make a slingshot out of it. I'm dizzy. We've gone from the shores of Marrakesh to the halls of William O. Douglas.
PLAYBOY: A couple of final questions: Do you believe in God?
BRANDO: I believe there must be some order in the universe. So far as there is order, there is some force in the universe. It's hard for me to conceive it's just happenstance or a confluence of disorder that makes the universe what it is.
PLAYBOY: And are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of life on this planet?
BRANDO: You can't live a life saying, Well, this is the end, so we might as well get out the banjo and the rowboat and get it on, just go laughing and scratching along until Gabriel blows his horn. Whatever the circumstances are, one has to keep trying to find solutions. Even if it seems impossible. They have never invented a system that worked: Religion didn't do it, philosophy didn't do it, ethics didn't do it, economic systems won't do it. None of the systems that deal with man's problems have ever worked. But to live a life of hopelessness, it's not possible.
PLAYBOY: Are you afraid of death? Do you think about it?
BRANDO: "Of all the wonders I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come." Another wonderful speech on death.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember more of Shakespeare than of any other author?
BRANDO: He's worth remembering. "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings." I can't remember it all. Thinks "That rounds the mortal temples of a king / Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits, / Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp." "And with a little pin / Bores through his castle wall, and farewell, king!"
PLAYBOY: It was announced in the papers that you had consented to play King Lear on Broadway and that Elia Kazan would direct. Yes or no?
PLAYBOY: Here's an offbeat question for you: What are things that repulse you?
BRANDO: The most repulsive thing that you could ever imagine is the inside of a camel's mouth. It's so awful! That and watching a girl eat small octopus or squid. I mean, I'm not squeamish about anything, I could make an ocarina out of a petrified turd with no problem, but that. . . . There's a certain frog that carries its eggs on its back and after they are fertilized, these froglings burst forth from the skin. . . . It just makes me sick. I don't like to look at somebody's sticky saliva. These people who laugh--ha, ha, ha--and there's a stringer of saliva from their upper tooth to the bottom lip and it bends every time they go ha, ha, it pulsates. Jesus, with one girl, you could take her saliva and walk across the street with it and lay it down on the sidewalk and still be connected. The viscosity of some people's saliva is remarkable.
PLAYBOY: What else offends you?
BRANDO: Bullfighting. I'd like to be the bull but have my brain. First, I'd get the picador. Then I'd chase the matador. No, I'd walk at him until he was shitting in his pants. Then I'd get a horn right up his ass and parade him around the ring. The Spaniards don't think anything more of picking an animal to pieces than the Tahitians do of cutting up a fish.
PLAYBOY: Which brings us, full circle, back to Tahiti. This island of yours is an unbelievably beautiful setting.
BRANDO: Yeah. I could open this up for tourism and make a million dollars, but why spoil it?
PLAYBOY: Do you find it impossible to leave this place once you're here?
BRANDO: It's very hard. But . . . "miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."
PLAYBOY: Didn't Marilyn Monroe write that?
BRANDO: I think Marilyn did, yeah. It was either her or Fatty Arbuckle, I can't remember

Brando talks to Edward R Murrow

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