The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola talks about his experience with the famously “hard to work with” Marlon Brando, claiming that the iconic star just “worked a different way” to others. The legendary director is a five-time Academy Award winner and helmed what are considered some of the greatest movies of all time. In addition to The Godfather films, Coppola’s filmography includes the trailblazing Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now and the Gothic romance Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He has worked with some of the greatest actors of the last century, some of which were already big names, while others were wisely cast by the auteur before achieving stardom.
Brando had been trained in the systematic approach to acting outlined by Russian theatre icon Konstantin Stanislavski. Having set Broadway alight with his role in A Streetcar Named Desire, the actor reprised the role for the movie adaptation, earning him his first Oscar nomination. During the 1950s, Brando was one of the most acclaimed actors in Hollywood, but he suffered a dip in form in the ’60s. His comeback came with Coppola’s The Godfather, and the highly-paid star returned to work with the director on Apocalypse Now in 1979. Brando’s high pay and controversial work ethic in his later years earned him a reputation of being difficult to work with, but he remains one of the most influential stars ever to grace the silver screen.
Now, speaking to GQ, Coppola responds to the long-standing discussion about Brando’s work, calling the late star a “genius” and taking about his outlooks on life and existence. When asked about the stories of Brando’s difficult reputation, Coppola argues that he just had a different way of working than most actors, which required a different directorial approach. Coppola has a clear reverence and fondness for the iconic leading man, and his memory of him remains positive. Read the director’s full interview quote below:
I mean, [Brando] was not just a great actor… he was, aside from his acting, a kind of genius. […] He wasn’t difficult to work with, he just worked a different way. You didn’t talk to him about acting or, I think, ‘your motivation blah blah blah,’ you didn’t talk about that. In fact you didn’t even have to talk to him, you’d just put a prop in his hand and he’d then use that prop to accomplish what you really wanted.
Brando, who died almost twenty years ago, still finds himself in the news as former co-stars discuss the divisive figure. One of his most famous critics was the late Christopher Reeve, the Superman star who believed Brando phoned in his part in the comic book epic. Coppola’s talents, on the other hand, have never been doubted, and he continues to be one of the most popular directors in cinema. His career has spanned over five decades, but the filmmaker has no intention of retiring soon; his next film, Megalopolis, is said to be an ambitious passion project, and he has put up $120 million of his own money to fund it.
While it’s easy to see the flaws in a divisive figure like Brando, the people who knew him best can speak to just how talented he really was. The actor has left a lasting legacy on the industry, and his performances as Don Corleone in The Godfather and Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now will forever be top-tier examples of film acting. While audiences will never see a new role from Brando again, there is still more to come from his former director, as the highly anticipated Megalopolis is still in development. And, with a growing cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya, it’s clear that Coppola hasn’t lost his eye for talented actors.