# Marlon Brando

The man who came back down from the mountain of fame to tell us that there is nothing there*

Marlon Brando could be the most real human to reach the heights of society. Which is ironic since he was an actor, spending much of his career pretending to be someone else. Take his response to Connie Chung's interview question in 1989, "Don't you realise that you're thought of as one of the greatest actors ever?":

"That's part of the sickness in America. You have to think in terms of who wins, who loses, who's good, who's bad, who's best, who's worst. We always think in those terms, in the extreme terms. I don't like to think that way."

Imagine someone telling you that you are the greatest actor who ever lived, and you genuinely don't care. It must be liberating.

Putting such an emphasis on being the best devalues everything we previously achieved. If Brando wins another Gold Globe, then what? How many Golden Globes can he win? What if his next movie is a flop? Brando avoids this "sickness" simply by choosing not to play a losing game.

There's another small insight from the clip above:

Everybody has their own value in a different way, and I don't like to think who was the best. What's the point of it?

Any form of comparison creates a heirarchy: "me better, you worse". It's a zero-sum mental model. Even as uniquely talented actor, Brando recognizes the value of every human. It's an incredibly wholesome belief system.

It's rare for someone as famous as Brando to embody such an egoless mindset. Take this exchange:

Connie Chung:

"You must realise that any producer or director is dying to work with Maron Brando?"

Marlon Brando:

"Don't speak to me as 'Marlon Brendo' as though I were some person hiding under a firetruck down the road. I hate it."

The interviewer gives him the "role" of an idol and he immediately rejects it, demanding to be treated like a regular human.

It's difficult to turn down a role that society values. There's probably a good reason for that: for the last 200,000 years our social status has been synonymous with survival. Its very effective to use our existing status to gain more, because status is a virtuous cycle (using the term "virtuous" unironically). The more powerful we are perceived to be, the more status we're given by others.

Brando could use his fame to gain more status within the entertainment industry, but he appears to value authenticity as the highest form of status. Take this clip, where he points to the absurdity of the interview process he's participating in:

"There's something idiotic about us sitting here and pretending to talk to one another when there's a camera right there. And we're pretending to have an intimate conversation. That's an act."

Marlon Brando

Imagine how hard this would be for an actor, when all of society is rewarding you for position.

Somehow Brando managed to separate himself from the role his profession imposed on him. He doesn't want to be a court jester, attempting to fulfil other peoples expectations of him. Even when the interviewer occasionally grasps his mental framework, it's difficult for her to reconcile:

[Connie Chung at 30s]

Do you think you owe anything to ..... aggghhh nah, you don't.



And Brando reinforces how little he values the entertainment industry: "In the kingdom of the blind, the man with one eye is the king."

Quite simply, he believes that society values the wrong thing.

Brando is a contemplative man. This interview happened following a 9-year gap in between movies. He spent that time thinking about what matters in life. He alludes to some things in the clip above, like a Rembrandt painting or Mozart's music. In other clips he holds an absurdist viewpoint: he wants to live an authentic life, engaging more fully with the present moment.

See the pleasure he gets at the end of this clip when he elicits some authenticity from the interviewer, "the real Connie Chung":

"It doesn't make much difference whether you're fat or thin in life. It's just if you're a good person"... he says facetiously, afterwards chuckling at his own joke and smelling a pink flower that he's twirling in his fingers. That's one of the most vivid examples of absurdism I think I've ever seen.

I was too young to watch this interview when it came out in 1989, but a Reddit comment gave some insight into how it was received:

I'm old enough to remember this and you're right, these were wise words. But people back then thought Brando had gone off the deep end.**

I don't know much about Marlon Brando outside of this interview. He certainly seems eccentric. But he is clearly a man of integrity, and I can't think of a more important trait for someone in such a position of influence.


* Mark Kavanagh on YouTube (opens new window)

** @NauvooMetro on Reddit (opens new window)