Thanks to the discovery of private audiotapes made by legendary actor Marlon Brando, a new documentary, Listen to Me Marlon, is hitting the airwaves July 31 on Showtime.
The shadow Marlon Brando cast on the acting world was certainly legendary, but this was a man deeply troubled by memories of a haphazard childhood. Marlon Brando was equally haunted by personal trauma and tragedy as he got older as well.
Listen to Me Marlon is entirely narrated by Marlon Brando’s private tapes, and it is somewhat eerie to listen to the actor narrating his own story when he is absent from this world. Director Stevan Riley conducted interviews as he was researching the project but he opted not to include any of the footage from those interviews as he instead chose to have Marlon Brando himself tell his story. The personal audiotapes were found among Brando’s personal effects and, until the documentary bows to the public at large July 31, were previously unheard.
Riley believes that Marlon Brando was an outstanding actor but was also, in fact, caught in the trappings of fame.
“He was trapped,” Riley added, “but I am not entirely sure he would have relinquished the fame if given the choice.”
Rebecca Brando, Marlon Brando’s daughter with actress Movita Castaneda, said she did not feel that she learned anything new about her father but added that she was delighted with Riley’s take on Marlon Brando the man.
“It makes me very happy that Stevan was able to piece it all together, showing the human side of my father,” she noted. “Showing that he basically has the same struggles as anyone has—feeling very vulnerable at times, fearful even on the set.”
Rebecca said she realized that she was able to learn a great deal about her father’s acting life as a result of the Marlon Brando documentary.
“He rarely talked to us about his work. Or rather, I should say me,” she said. “He didn’t talk to me about his acting and what would happen on the sets. It was interesting to see that side of him, how he was a professional.”
Producer John Battsek said that Rebecca Brando was so affected by the results of the documentary that she ended up walking out of the Sundance Film Festival screening of Listen to Me Marlon. He said he found her outside the theater, sobbing because it had been over a decade since she’d heard her father discuss anything to do with his life, and she was deeply moved at seeing him go through the trials of life once again.
Nothing of the controversies of his life are discussed in the documentary, as Riley felt that side of Marlon Brando should be kept out of the film. That included theories that Marlon Brando was bisexual or any stories about his daughter Cheyenne’s suicide or his son Christian serving time for voluntary manslaughter in the death of Cheyenne’s lover Dag Drollet. Instead, Listen to Me Marlon focuses on the human side of Marlon Brando, ensuring that the actor’s legacy was really left where it should have been – his own hands.
[Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone Features/Getty Images]