Marlon Brando is considered to be one of the finest actors of the 20th century, but what do we really know about the man behind the actor? For the most part, the public persona of Brando is by no means is based on a complete person. Brando is partly to blame for this as he was incredibly guarded about his personal life and kept that part of his world very private. Now, due to a discovery of hundreds of audio recordings made by the actor, we finally will get to meet the real man behind the enigmatic name of Brando. A new documentary titled “Talk to me Marlon,” by Stevan Riley and with the permission of the Brando estate, reveals Brando as only he could be revealed – by his own words. In this exclusive interview with Rebecca Brando, daughter of the famous actor, she explains how this all came about and the characteristics about her father that may truly have you redefine who Marlon Brando really was.
Not long after his death in 2004, as his children were going through his home looking for special mementos, Marlon Brando’s daughter Rebecca found a large stash of audio tapes, “I tried to listen to one right then, but I couldn’t. It was hard to hear his voice then.”
The audio tapes and most of Brando’s possessions were put into storage and the audio tapes were rediscovered when the Brando estate started to catalogue and bring out the items out of storage.
Eventually it was discovered that the tapes, that seemed to be meditation tapes at first, were much more than that. Along with meditation tapes, Brando recorded himself during episodes of self-hypnosis and while having conversations with visitors to his home.
Filmmaker Stevan Riley was enlisted to go through the tapes and see if he could make a film out of them. After reading every book written about Brando and interviewing Brando’s friends and family, Riley was able to craft a documentary that helps to fill in the gaps and bring Brando back to light in a whole new fashion. The film combines insights on the art of acting, Brando’s philosophical look on life and Brando recounting his own painful childhood.
Rebecca talks about finding the tapes, “It was a surprise to find that there were hundreds of audio recordings. We didn’t know that he was being so philosophical, we thought they were mostly meditation tapes.”
She continues to talk about the Brando that she knew, “My dad always wanted to make big changes in the world and to be known for someone who did something. I know that that was very important to him and that he wanted to make a mark. Not through acting either, he would have loved to have been a great scientist. He was very much a forward thinker.”
It is dichotomy why such a private man, would record such intimate details about his life. Did he know someone would finally discover his recordings and craft a documentary out of them? Rebecca gave her answer to this question, “It wouldn’t surprise me that he was thinking somewhere in his head that he might have said to himself, ‘Maybe I am saying something important here and maybe something will become of this someday.’”
Not only does the documentary touch on Brando’s guide to being a good actor, it delves into the tumultuous events surrounding the making of two of Brando’s films – “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Apocalypse Now.” According to Rebecca Brando, “People will understand what went on behind the making of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ and ‘Apocalypse Now.’ He is setting the story straight. This documentary is his truth.
“You will see in the film how he was made the scapegoat for ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. He explains what happened. The script wasn’t done. He had to rewrite the script and finish it for them. Nobody was taken responsibility for the time delays and going over budget. He was blamed for all of it.
“And the same thing with ‘Apocalypse Now,’ he would go over and over things with Francis Ford Coppola. He was able to say his truth. The press didn’t speak positively about him and didn’t give him a chance to say his side of the story. It’s almost like he has come from the grave to set the facts straight.”
Rebecca continued, “His movies inspired people to change their lives. Now you are going to hear about the person behind the iconic roles. It’s so insightful. It speaks to anyone human. He talks about how everyone wants to be a contender. We all want to be validated and be accepted.”
Rebecca claims that his acting tips are so profound that she is telling other actors to prepare to take notes, “He talks to the actor and says this is how you do it. I tell actors to bring your paper and a pen – you will want to take notes. He is actually giving some really fresh techniques.”
Speaking to Rebecca, gives a powerful portrait of a man who loved his children, “As a father he was very protective of all of us and he was there for us when he could be. He brought us together on his family trips and tried to always create that family setting.”
When you see “Listen to me Marlon,” you will see that the movie opens with a large digitized portrait of Brando. This was not done as just artwork for the film, but tells about Brando’s vision. Rebecca explains, “There is a digitized photo of his face in the beginning of the film, and I remember him saying: ‘You better watch out, this is the way actors are going to act in the future. They won’t have to come to work, they’ll just be digitized.’ He was very much a forward thinker; he knew where we were headed.”
Brando was obsessed with technology. His daughter tells about his love for electronics and computers, “He was always interested in technology. He was always on a ham radio; he had only the best gadgets. When Apple Computer came out he had me take classes. We always had the best electronics. He knew about the internet and was “catfishing” (pretend to be someone else) before there was a name for it. He would talk in chat rooms and using the name China Girl. It was a freedom for him to talk on the Internet; he didn’t have to hide behind any glasses. He loved to have fun with people and get reactions. He was quite a prankster. He liked to pull pranks on people, because he knew that their first reaction, in that moment, they were their true selves.”
He also predicted the ever changing scope of home entertainment, “He had the idea of a web television. He thought about doing TV, back in the early 90’s, on the Internet.”
He was talented and smart, but Brando also loved to have fun, Rebecca remembers, “My dad could sing any standard. You could pick some words, and he could sing a standard with those words.”
With the documentary done, I asked Rebecca if her father would like the finished product, “He was a very private person and didn’t like to expose his inner self. Perhaps he would have thought ‘I guess I am a pretty interesting fellow. I guess I did do some profound and revolutionary things in my day. But here is where he would point out that the only reason for the documentary is to make money.” Brando struggled with art being commerce most of his life.
One thing that Brando may have not thought about is that when the ideas of making money are lost as the centuries past, the art remains. Do we think of the money it took to paint the Sistine Chapel or do we only wonder in the glory of the beautiful art that remains? I would like to think that later is true and for all the movie lovers that will come in the future, they will treasure the work of our generation’s Renaissance man – Marlon Brando.
“Listen to me Marlon” is not rated and has a run-time of 95 minutes.