I watched "Don Juan de Marco" last night, and it demonstrates many of the problems. For one thing, Brando's body, once a powerful part of his screen expression, was a constant obstacle to full expression. For another thing, he was not trying half as hard as the two brilliant actors--Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway--who seemed all jazzed up by the opportunity to play opposite him. He didn't bother to meet the enthusiasm they brought to the project.
His off-screen statements show that he was not interested in the phenomenon of being Brando. These statements remind me of the sorts of things The Beatles said about breaking up: they got tired of being The Beatles. But when you're a one-person phenomenon, you can't break up--at least not the way a foursome can. You can become so fat that you're not that screen idol anymore. It's to his credit that he put that broken-down man on film in at least three great films: "The Godfather," "Last Tango in Paris," and "Apocalypse, Now."
Here are some apt lines from the NYT obit:
And more often than not, he would express contempt for the craft of acting. "Acting is the least mysterious of all crafts," Mr. Brando once said. "Whenever we want something from somebody or when we want to hide something or pretend, we're acting. Most people do it all day long."
He described himself as a lazy man, and he was notoriously lax about learning his lines. "If a studio offered to pay me as much to sweep the floor as it did to act, I'd sweep the floor," he said. "There isn't anything that pays you as well as acting while you decide what the hell you're going to do with yourself. Who cares about the applause? Do I need applause to feel good about myself?"
Yet no one was better at finding brilliant touches that brought a character to life. Many have pointed to a scene in "On the Waterfront" during which he delicately put on the dainty lace glove of the young woman he was awkwardly trying to court, a seemingly unconscious gesture that fills the moment with heart-breaking vulnerability.
The NYT refers "to a pair of truly odd appearances on "Larry King Live" in the mid-1990's." I'm thinking King will re-run these over the weekend and recommend setting the TiVo.