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What Actors Can Learn from Marlon Brando, Ellen Page and James Franco (VIDEO)

Video
by Anne Thompson
February 20, 2014 12:58 PM
2 Comments
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Marlon Brando
Shia LaBeouf

James Franco is no fool. He has made a study of how to survive in Hollywood as he pursues multiple careers--without worrying about how he will be judged. Whether it will be fulfilling or not is up to him. He gets that the relationship between him and his audience is complicated. And that the only way to combat all the sycophancy and craziness from agents, managers, lawyers, producers, publicists, filmmakers, executives and the media is to try to be himself, for better or worse, and not get hung up on everyone else's expectations and desires. 27-year-old Shia LaBeouf's recent behavior--and the media response-- has prompted Franco to try and explain what he thinks is happening, in the NYT. 

Marlon Brando was one Hollywood movie star who struggled to remain authentic under the most trying circumstances, hating obsequious questions from the press, whether in English or French. He challenged the media and turned down the Oscar in 1973: "These were acts of rebellion against an industry that practically forces an actor to identify with his persona," writes Franco, "while at the same time repeatedly wresting it from him."

Clearly, some actors have more trouble dealing with the divide between their public and private selves; see Joaquin Phoenix, who was inspired to act out in Casey Affleck's perhaps ill-advised mock doc "I'm Still Here."

Many actors choose to chart their own course. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Matthew McConaughey are examples of stars who have played the studio game until they found a new direction. Sandra Bullock told me that for a long time she tried to please others until she saw that being true to herself was what mattered. You can tell the actors who are grounded, who have a sense of who they are and how to present themselves professionally during personal interactions. Bullock weathered a terrible beating from the media when she broke up with her husband and adopted a child. And came out the other side.

Another actress who has embraced her true self is Ellen Page, who came out as a lesbian recently, saying, "I am tired of hiding."

See the clip below for the Maysles brothers' must-see 27-minute documentary "Meet Marlon Brando," now streaming on Fandor. In this assemblage of press interviews with Brando promoting "Morituri," a movie most of his interlocuters had not yet seen, the star doesn't take compliments well--he thinks it's all balderdash, complains he's getting fat, and resorts to flirting with the younger women, observing the length of the men's fingernails, and answering in French and German. The press junket hasn't changed much since then. Unfortunately. Who can blame LaBeouf for walking out of a Berlin press conference for "Nymphomaniac?"

2 Comments

  • Robin | February 21, 2014 12:52 PMReply

    The difference is that Marlon Brando was being himself. Shia LaBeouf's "walk out" was choreographed to the nth degree. His actions are ridiculous.

  • Old Fart | February 20, 2014 2:26 PMReply

    Roy Rogers was a major star for 20-odd years and remained in the public eye long afterwards and never once wasted a second worrying about how to "remain authentic."

    Dick Powell played the studio game for 30 years and was able to reinvent himself more than once to fit his own artistic ambitions and remain relevant to the audience, going from being a male ingenue in musicals of the 1930s to tough-guy noir status in the 1940s to directing and producing movies and TV shows in the 1950s and early 1960s. I don't remember him ever whining about it in a newspaper op-ed.

    Maybe not the best parallels but they're the first ones I thought of.

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