Marlon Brando, Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American actor who appeared in films spanning over half a century.
Brando became a superstar after appearing in such films as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront (winning an Oscar). However, in the mid 1960s, he appeared in a series of flops that made him unhirable, until Francis Ford Coppola fought to have him play Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, a role that would earn Brando a second Academy Award.
His performance as Vito Corleone in 1972's The Godfather was a mid-career turning point. Director Francis Ford Coppola convinced Brando to submit to a "make-up" test, in which Brando did his own make-up (he used cotton balls to simulate the puffed-cheek look). Coppola was electrified by Brando's characterization as the head of a crime family, but had to fight the studio in order to cast the temperamental Brando. Mario Puzo always imagined Brando as Corleone. However, Paramount studio heads wanted to give the role to Danny Thomas in the hope that Thomas would have his own production company throw in its lot with Paramount. Thomas declined the role and actually urged the studio to cast Brando at the behest of Coppola and others who had witnessed the screen test.
Eventually, Charles Bluhdorn, the president of Paramount parent Gulf + Western, was won over to letting Brando have the role; when he saw the screen test, he asked in amazement, "What are we watching? Who is this old guinea?"
Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, but turned down the Oscar, becoming the second actor to refuse a Best Actor award (the first being George C. Scott for Patton). Brando boycotted the award ceremony, sending instead American Indian Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared in full Apache dress, to state Brando's reasons, which were based on his objection to the depiction of American Indians by Hollywood and television.
The actor followed with one of his greatest performances in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1973 film, Last Tango in Paris, but the performance was overshadowed by an uproar over the erotic nature of the film. Despite the controversy which attended both the film and the man, the Academy once again nominated Brando for the Best Actor.
Brando, along with James Caan, was later scheduled in 1974 to appear in the final scene of The Godfather Part II. However, rewrites were made to the script when Brando refused to show up to the studio on the single day of shooting due to disputes with the studio.
He also appeared in a later Coppola film Apocalypse Now, which won acclaim, but on set experiences made him almost uncastable again. After winning a final Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in A Dry White Season, Brando effectively retired from acting, making only a few token appearances thereafter.
However, he provided the voice of Don Corleone for The Godfather: The Game, but most of the work was considered unfit to use. In 2004, he died of respiratory failure and his role was filled by voice actor Doug Abrahams.
Brando had a significant impact on film acting. He was the foremost example of the "method" acting style, and became notorious for his "mumbling" diction, but his mercurial performances were highly regarded and he is now considered one of the greatest American film actors of the twentieth century.
Characters voiced by Marlon Brando
The Godfather: The Game
Brando once again used his iconic Frank Costello (see Trivia section) impression for the game. However, due to ill health and the fact that he had to use an oxygen tank that decreased the quality of the recordings, his lines had to be redone. Only one of Brando's recorded lines was kept. It can be heard in the "Intensive Care" mission. Brando's Costello impression sounds very similar to how he did it in the film, but due to his health, his voice sounds weaker than before. There is a lot of wheezing in his voice and it has a very ill-sounding rasp. The oxygen tank made things worse. The oxygen mask muffled Brando's voice and the tank generated a hissing sound that ruined the quality of the recording. Ultimately, however, that may have been the purpose that the recording was left in, as during that scene Vito himself needed an oxygen supply, and the player character was to have heard him through a door, which would have muffled the sound. There are four more lines from Brando, but these are lifted directly from the film.
- Marlon Brando used tapes of Frank Costello from the Kefauver hearings to emulate his voice for the role.
- Mario Puzo sent Marlon a copy of the script and said that he couldn't imagine anybody else playing Don Vito Corleone.
- Marlon Brando was the patriarch of a large family. He fathered thirteen children, the youngest of whom was born when he was seventy years of age.