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“Why don’t I play this like a bagel?”: Marlon Brando Had a Bizarre Idea for His Superman Role That Left Director Richard Donner Puzzled

Christopher Reeve’s Superman was one film that started an entire era of the Kryptonian hero and one factor that stood out outside of him was Marlon Brando. The cape went from one actor to another, but it still managed to stand strong for the original actor and the resolve he held with it. The mark that Superman made in the world was one that was beyond impactful. Unfortunately, Brando and Reeve did not mix so well.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando

When the role of Jor-El was first offered to the actor, he was rather confused and unsure about how he would go about playing the character. His vision of the character even made the director crack up a little. The unique perspective was one they could not let go of and even the actor had a great time pitching the idea.

Marlon Brando Wanted to Play a Bagel

Marlon Brando is a respected and much-loved actor. When the actor was first pitched the idea of playing Jor-El in Superman, he was filled with ideas. He could easily be called a person who thought outside the box because his first idea when it came to playing the character was to enact a bagel.

Marlon Brando as Jor-El in Superman 1978
Marlon Brando as Jor-El in Superman 1978

“He said, ‘Why don’t I play this like a bagel?’ I was ready for him to say ‘a green suitcase’ and he said ‘bagel.’ He said, ‘How do we know what the people on Krypton looked like?’ He had good logic. He said, ‘Maybe they looked like bagels up there in those days?’ I said, ‘Jeez, Marlon, let me tell you something.’ He’d just told us the story about a kid [and how smart he was] and I said, ‘It’s 1939. There isn’t a kid in the world that doesn’t know what Jor-El looks like, and he looks like Marlon Brando.’”

His vision of the same had been as to how would anyone even be aware of how Kryptonians look like and that they could transform into whatever he wished to see them as. It is safe to say that director Richard Donner was amused by his iteration. He had in fact been expecting an absurd reply, just not as bizarre as a bagel. It wasn’t until Donner added how it would be ridiculous to follow that idea and instead understand that his character is far more popular than what Brando believed him to be.

Marlon Brando’s Feud with Christopher Reeve

Marlon Brando later laughed at his own idea and offered to try on costumes for the role, one which he came to accept as well. However, there was quite a friction between Christopher Reeve and Brando, ironic considering that the latter was an idol to the former. Reeve admitted that he could not understand the hype that Brando was surrounded with.

Christopher Reeve as Superman
Christopher Reeve as Superman

He added that the mellow breeze that everyone was swept by with Brando was something he could never get by. The actor even stated that he was disappointed by working with him and sees it as a painful future for those who will look up to Brando because of the songs of praise the media sings for him. What was even more astonishing was the fact that for a minor role, the actor was paid $3.7 Million while Reeve was only paid $250,000.

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