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Brando - NicholsonMarlon Brando – Jack Nicholson

The Hollywood Huckster loved to tell stories — to call him a raconteur would be like saying Tiger Woods was a golfer or Babe Ruth played baseball. They were in a league of their own. And so was Kevin.

Here’s one of his favorites:

A young Jack Nicholson looked forward to working with the great Marlon Brando back in 1976. The movie was a western, THE MISSOURI BREAKS.

Nervous about meeting AND working with the iconic actor, Jack showed up on set the first day of shooting fully prepared. He had practiced his lines and knew them like a pontiff knows scripture.

The director, Arthur Penn, ran a rehearsal of the first scene. Nicholson was a bit surprised to find Brando hadn’t learned a single line. Everything was written for him and placed strategically on the set, hidden behind set dressing, glued on the bottom of props, even taped onto the side of his horse’s saddle. Just about anywhere you looked you’d find Brando’s dialogue. This way he could walk around the set and find his lines. He was a natural at it.

This was a bit off-putting to Nicholson, who was distracted by the his co-stars eyes darting all over the set looking for his lines while they were performing scenes together.

Things came to a head when Jack was about to finish a long speech and Brando, seemingly unprovoked, walked over to a nearby desk, and opened the drawer where he had hidden his next lines. This unmotivated action caused Nicholson to totally blow the great take he was performing.

Frustrated, he pulled the director aside. Penn, who also was exasperated by this, came up with a solution. The director knew he wasn’t going to get Brando to learn his dialogue but he could get him to stop from reading his lines.

Penn convinced Brando to wear a small earpiece and ordered an assistant to read Brando his lines. Marlon agreed to give it a try and it worked.

…at least until the second day. Brando was about to deliver a pivotal response to Nicholson’s dialogue when the ear device inadvertently picked up a police broadcast. The confused actor, without coming out of character, delivered, “Oh my God! There’s been a robbery at Woolworths.”

Everyone on the set  cracked up — except Brando. When Nicholson saw his costar wasn’t laughing, he approached him and how he could say what he did, which made no sense to the scene?

Brando responded, “I don’t know, I just thought the damned writer had done a rewrite!”

So for more fantastical yet true Hollywood stories, check out the HOLLYWOOD HUCKSTER.

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