The Truth About Marlon Brando’s Life From Uncovered Tapes

Marlon Brando made some of the most famous movies in history. He made heads turn, and eyes widen, but his true personal story was never fully revealed. The man was simply hard to read.

Marlon Brando in the 1954 motion picture On the Waterfront
Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

And then filmmaker Stevan Riley came along. He directed the 2015 documentary Listen to Me Marlon, finally portraying the extraordinary tale of a man whose life was majorly kept hidden.

Do You Know Marlon Brando?

Riley became close friends with Marlon Brando, but the thing is, it happened 10 years after Brando passed away. Riley was first introduced to the actor when he got a phone call back in 2012 from John Battsek, the documentary head of Passion Pictures.

American actor Marlon Brando on the set of The Formula
American actor Marlon Brando on the set of The Formula, based on the novel by Steve Shagan and directed by John G. Avildsen. Photo by Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Battsek asked the filmmaker: “What do you know about Brando?” Battsek asked him another question: “Well, how’d you like to direct a feature on him?” Just like that, Riley embarked on a riveting journey down Brando lane, so to speak.

Hollywood’s Greatest Oddity

During Riley’s research, Brando’s estate and his personal possessions were being unpacked – stuff that’s been boxed up and sitting in storage since his death. Among his things was a collection of audiotapes. Riley heard things like, “Marlon, listen to my voice,” as Brandon recorded himself.

Marlon Brando and Christian Brando
Marlon Brando and Christian Brando. Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“This is a voice that you can trust.” The tape was of a recording of a regressive hypnotherapy session. In the session, he accessed painful memories from his childhood. “Remember the times you were upset and frightened. Pull them out of their hiding places.” Through these tapes, Riley understood why Brando tried so hard to keep the curtains closed on his past. In the tapes, he described a dysfunctional family with alcoholic parents. This and much more made it clear why Brando’s skeletons were kept in the closet for so long.

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