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'Weird' Brando, 77, acts the fool
Ageing, overweight film star calls director 'Miss Piggy' and appears
on set half-naked
Edward Helmore in New York
Thursday July 12, 2001
Five years since Marlon Brando's last major film role, and five
decades since he revolutionised acting in On the Waterfront and A
Street Car Named Desire, the legendary actor is making a rare
appearance in a film opening in the US tomorrow.
But by some accounts, the 77-year-old's efforts on the set of The
Score, a crime caper starring Brando's method acting acolytes, Robert
De Niro and Edward Norton, were as bizarre as Brando watchers have
come to expect.
Brando, who plays an elderly homosexual crook about to pull off the
biggest job of his career, received about £2m for just three weeks'
work of which all but a few minutes ended up on the cutting room
Accounts of the filming of The Score suggest that he clashed with the
director, the former Muppet Show puppeteer Frank Oz, and refused to go
on the set when Oz was present. The bizarre outcome, according to one
report, was that De Niro was forced to direct while Oz, off set,
directed De Niro through an assistant.
When not regaling Oz with four-letter words, Brando took to calling
him Miss Piggy and has been reported as saying: "I bet you wish I was
a puppet so you could stick your hand up my ass and make me do what
The actor, who alarmed The Score's makers on the first day of filming
when he ate two enormous steaks in one sitting, turned up to the set
naked from the waist down - a ploy, apparently, to ensure Oz could not
film him below the shoulders and reveal the full measure of his
"He was kind of monstrous," reported a source on the set. "At first I
thought that the guy might be senile and had simply forgotten to get
dressed, but it was part of this weird tactic. Nobody knew where to
But co-star Norton played down Brando's nudity, saying it was hot on
the set so the actor put on shorts instead of suit trousers. "It was
the most practical thing to do," Norton explained.
Brando, the once beautiful champion of the Stanislavskian acting
revolution who is regularly named the greatest actor of the past
century, has followed a strange and haphazard course, often
denigrating the acting profession and his own achievements.
"A movie star is nothing important," he once said. "Freud, Gandhi,
Marx - these people are important. Movie acting is just dull, boring,
childish work. Everybody acts - when we want something."
In the 1970s, on the set of Apocalypse Now, he turned up without
learning his lines and famously messed around during production of The
Island of Dr Moreau, five years ago. But as far back as A Streetcar
Named Desire in 1951 Brando was marked as a mercurial character.
The film's director, Elia Kazan, loved his performance because of the
way he "challenges the whole system of politeness and good nature and
good ethics and everything else". Kazan found in the man-boy "a soft,
yearning, girlish side... and a dissatisfaction that can be
dangerous". There's "a hell of a lot of turmoil there", he warned.
Brando lives by himself in Los Angeles. He reportedly has three young
children by his former housekeeper, Christina Ruiz.
A forthcoming biography by Patricia Bosworth suggests that he is
practically a recluse. He sometimes shares a Chinese takeaway with
Johnny Depp but his main contact with the outside world is via
email. He communicates with people anonymously, occasionally
correcting mistakes on Marlon Brando websites.
"I'm going to live to be one hundred, and then I plan to clone myself,
with all my talent and none of my neuroses," he recently told a
Brando still struggles with his diet. Periodically, he will telephone
Oprah Winfrey to discuss their weight gains and losses. He keeps the
fridge padlocked to prevent him bingeing on ice cream or eating an
Still, as America gets to see its legendary screen son once more this
weekend, his reputation as the grandest, most disordered personality
will again overshadow anything he may do.
Asked by Newsday whether Miss Piggy or Brando was more difficult to
direct, Oz tactfully replied: "He's a very sweet, gracious - childlike
in some ways - very, very humane, very complex person. I can't say
that we got along all the time. And it wasn't because he was
difficult. He felt one way, quite sincerely and earnestly, and I felt
the other... and Marlon did come around to my side."