Bertolucci: My love for legend Brando


By Bernardo Bertolucci
Director, Last Tango in Paris
5 July 2004

With tears in my eyes, it occurs to me that in the very act of dying Marlon has become immortal.

Brando starred with Maria Schneider in 1972's Last Tango in Paris

But perhaps he already was immortal back then in Paris, on the Pont de Passy - that's certainly what the whole crew of Last Tango in Paris thought, hypnotised as they were by his very presence.

None of us had ever encountered such a living legend, and for lovers of cinema he was perhaps the only true legend who'd ever lived.

I remember the first shot of the film: I shouted "OK, that's good" but Umetelli, the camera operator, blushing with embarrassment, whispered to me, "Sorry - as soon as I saw Brando through the viewfinder I became paralysed just watching him." We had to shoot the shot again.

At the Actors' Studio he learned better than anyone how to turn into someone else, to become a Mexican revolutionary, or a Hell's Angel, or a New York docker, or a river, or a tree.

"He made me suffer terribly, giving me serious doubts about myself and my work."
Bernardo Bertolucci (right) on Marlon Brando

In cinema an actor is often required to really get inside someone else's skin. But I asked him to do the opposite, to bring to his performance the whole experience of his life, both as a man and as an actor.

After we'd finished filming he told me: "I'll never do a film like this again. I don't much like acting anyway, but this was much worse.

"From the beginning to the end I felt I'd been violated - intimate details about myself, about my life, even about my children had been dragged out of me and exposed to the world."

After that he wouldn't speak to me for 12 years or so, and he made me suffer terribly, giving me serious doubts about myself and my work.

Then one day I called him, and he kept me on the phone for two hours. We'd begun to talk again like we used to, and there was a lot to catch up with - Marlon was diabolically curious about everything.

The last time I saw him was several years ago at his house on Mulholland Drive, at two o'clock in the afternoon. We talked and talked, and soon it was eight in the evening, and night had fallen.

In the darkness I asked him if he'd ever realised how much I was in love with him.


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