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Marlon Brando Wanted to Scam Warner Bros. Out of $2 Million

Marlon Brando Wanted to Scam Warner Bros. Out of $2 Million


  • Marlon Brando’s unique tactics to get paid for acting roles involved creative solutions like playing ‘the invisible man’ for two days.
  • Brando’s disdain for traditional acting methods led him to push boundaries, even asking for entire films to be rewritten after being cast, such as
    City Hall
  • Schrader shared fascinating stories of working with Brando, and thinks “his tragedy was that acting became so easy for him, he came to disrespect his own craft.”

The renowned Paul Schrader began his career in Hollywood just as the legendary actors of the past (John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis) were fading and making way for the New Hollywood actors of the 1970s (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, James Caan, Gene Hackman). One of the very few actors who bridged both periods was Marlon Brando, often considered the greatest actor of all time, or at least someone who changed the meaning of acting. It turns out that Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and director of First Reformed and Auto Focus, had his own run-ins with Brando and attempted to work with him.

Schrader joined the irreverent alt-left Adam Friedland Show, a kind of postmodern Dick Cavett Show with an emphasis on ‘Dick,’ and discussed his career with the eponymous host. Along the way, he shared some incredible personal stories of Marlon Brando, including the actor’s wacky scheme to get $2 million from Warner Bros. for two day’s work:

“Warner’s owed him some money, and he wanted to do a remake of
Invisible Man
. And Marlon called me up, and he was in Tahiti and wound up telling me the whole story about how he wanted to do it, The Invisible Man. And I listened to him and I talked to him, and we had another conversation, and I realized that Warner’s owed him $2 million.
He figured one day, he’ll come in, put the [body] tape on in the morning, in the afternoon he’ll take the tape off, the next day he’ll do the voiceovers
, and that’s $2 million.”

“And I said to him, ‘Marlon, I know those guys were at Warner Brothers. I don’t think they’re gonna give you $2 million for two days of work,'” continued Schrader. “He said, ‘Ah yeah, you’re probably right. You’re probably right.'” Instead, the Last Tango in Paris and Wild One actor made sure he got paid for late films such as The Freshman, Don Juan DeMarco, and The Island of Dr. Moreau.


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Marlon Brando, Paul Schader, and a Parrot

Schrader continued recounting stories about Brando to Friedland. He was apparently cast in the film City Hall but slowly tried to change the entire film until he was recast. “Some years later, Nic Pileggi [Goodfellas] and I were doing a script for him, City Hall. It eventually got made with Pacino. But it was supposed to be Alec Baldwin and Marlon Brando […] And so we would go over to his place. He was so big at the time that he needed somebody to help him up. I mean, part of his tragedy was that acting became so easy for him, he came to disrespect his own craft,” explained Schrader. He went on:

And so he’s playing this guy, this city councilman, and Marlon says, ‘I think he owns a bongo club’ […] Now we’re talking about the bongo club, and he says, ‘You know what, now I think he has a parrot. He has a parrot on his shoulder, and he talks to the parrot when he plays the bongos.’


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Brando eventually gave his reasoning, choosing to cut just about everything from the City Hall script and essentially ideate a new movie. “I don’t know what this sh*t is about New York politics. Nobody gives a damn about New York politics,” explained Brando, according to Schrader. “We’ve got a guy with a bongo club and a parrot. That’s great. Let’s get rid of the politics.”

“The producer called up Marlon after that and tried to patch it back together,” continued the director. “And [Brando] said, ‘You know what, it would never have worked anyway. I’ve met people like Schrader.’ And the producer says, ‘Why?’ And he goes, ‘They’re always trying to tell you what to do.'”

Rest in power, Brando, and we can’t wait for Schrader’s next film, Oh, Canada. You can watch Schrader’s interview on The Adam Friedland Showhere, and check out the movie that eventually did become City Hall through the link below.

Watch City Hall

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