There are a lot of actors in the world, but there can never be another Marlon Brando, simple as that. One of our greatest actors (Apocalypse Now, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront), a true ladies man and a beloved patron of the arts, Brando was a rare star we lost in 2004. He took a lot with him, but he left a lot behind, including a few good films, two Oscars for Best Actor and a number of weighty reminders we seem to forget in our busy phone-friendly lives.
Up in the ranks with the Paul Newmans and Ernest P. Worrells of the world, here’s why we’ll never have another Brando and why we should appreciate the man.
There can be only one Godfather
Photo: Paramount Pictures
If you only know one thing about Brando, it’s that he was thee Godfather, Vito Corleone, in the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola film. While it wasn’t their only film together, it’s a hallmark amongst mob films and classic alike. Brando sank into the role like no other could. Name one other person who could fill those shoes? Al Pacino followed him to the throne, and while that was impressive, that’s still no Brando.
He kept good company
Photo: New Line Cinema (Getty)
From Jack Nicholson to Johnny Depp, there wasn’t a great actor who wasn’t influenced by the man. Depp, however, along with many others, had the fortunate experience to really know and befriend Brando, a man who made a point to surround himself with good people outside of the public eye. He once told Depp he was doing too many films, to pace himself and do good work.
Too often, we rush around trying to leave pieces of ourselves everywhere to make a name or a leave a legacy, but more often than not we spread ourselves too thin.
Marlon always had a classy gal by his side
In a world of ridiculous Tinder profiles, Brando is a shining example that we needn’t settle for the ridiculous in order to avoid our lonesomeness. Rita Moreno, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe are just a few of the lovely ladies to grace his arm in his heydays, reminding us the importance of a good woman by our side, be it business or personal (or hopefully both).
There was something in his voice
Unlike any other actor, he definitely had a unique voice, a raspy mumble you’d lean in to hear because you knew the words would mean something. But it wasn’t just his actual voice; it was more than five decades of acting, a battle with depression and fame, the loss of his daughter to suicide and a son to murder. He was a tortured soul, and he had seen, done and heard enough to know to use his voice sparingly and impeccably.
He could really commit to a role, unlike actors today
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Actors like Heath Ledger and Brando, rare in their day and seemingly nonexistent today, seemed more concerned with doing well and making great art. While Ledger went a little too method for his role as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Brando confined himself to a hospital bed for his role as a paraplegic in The Men.
While some actors are still melted to being method, the machine that is Hollywood moves almost a little too quickly to allow for great preparation, it seems. When was the last time you saw an actor in a major role who really took his time and brought it home? Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood perhaps? That was 2007.
He taught the greats
Robin Williams and Sean Penn are just a few of the greats to participate in Brando’s acting workshop. In 2001, he showed up in drag, blonde wig and all, for a 10-day workshop that has been well-kept under wraps. He wasn’t just an actor; he was every great actor’s favorite actor. He even grabbed a dumpster-diving hobo off the streets and dragged him into the workshop. Brando was a man of the people.
He was number one on the call list for a reason
Photo: Warner Bros.
The only guy suited to play Jor-El in the first live-action Superman in 1978 was the beautifully white-haired Brando. The film had Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve on the call sheet, but who else other than Brando was at the top. His role as Superman’s father is historic and unprecedented. The best part? He read his lines off the baby Superman’s diaper.
He (still) rocks our world
Michael Jackson even knew the greatness that was Marlon. While the recent documentary Listen to Me, Marlon depicts a tortured soul, we remember fondly Brando’s appearance in Michael Jackson’s last great stand in the mob-friendly music video for You Rock My World in 2001. Personally, it’s my last great memory of both those legends, other than The Score in which Brando teamed up with Robert De Niro, the second greatest actor on the planet at the time.
They call it Last Tango in Paris for a reason
Photo: United Artists
When we say “last,” we mean there is no remaking a classic like that. He was out before Hollywood really went to hell. While there are countless crap Hollywood remakes, Brando is shining example that you don’t have to succumb to outside pressures or pander to an audience to be loved and celebrated. Let that be a lesson to always fly your kite whichever way the wind blows, keep it weird and don’t make decisions based on what other people think. Because no matter how shitty you do something, chances are there will be a sequel anyway.