He was the original Hollywood rebel. On the Waterfront, Last Tango In Paris, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, the legendary career of Marlon Brando cannot overstated. Not just a phenomenal actor, Brando was also an activist for many causes, including the civil rights movement and various Native American movements.
Late in his life, Brando was plagued by health issues that included congestive heart failure, obesity, diabetes and an enlarged liver. After passing away in 2004, people were quick to want information on what would happen with his remains. Not so surprising considering his fame and natural instincts to rebel against the status quo.
Well, Brando’s peculiarity continued with his remains and left an unusual legacy all of their own. So join us as we take a look at just what happened to the remains of the true and original Hollywood rebel, Marlon Brando.
The death of a true Hollywood great
Marlon Brando’s sixty plus year career, earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor twice. First for playing an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman in On the Waterfront. And secondly for his performance as the Mafia don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. The Godfather is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made. Brando starred alongside Al Pacino, who is now a Hollywood legend in his own right. But at the time, was a nobody when first taking the role of Michael Corleone, the son of Brando’s character.
The cast also included James Caan as Sonny Corleone, Dianne Keaton as Kay Adams, the late John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, and Talia Shire as Connie Corleone. The film directed by Francis Ford Coppola who would work with Brando again for the 1979 Vietnam war epic, Apocalypse Now. Brando’s short but significant performance in the film highly regarded by critics and viewers alike.
In the sequel to The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, Robert De Niro made a career defining performance as the young Vito Corleone. He worked the mannerisms, made famous by Brando, perfectly into his natural take on the role. While Brando scheduled to make a small appearance in the final scene of the sequel. he never arrived on set for the shoot. This led to some creative re-working and the final scene ending on Al Pacino’s character sitting alone, while the rest of the family celebrated Vito’s birthday.
Brando changed Hollywood with his macho acting style and is regarded by many as the best actor in 20th-century film. Sadly, the last of Brando’s days spent bedridden in his Beverly Hills home. Gasping for breath and weakened by congestive heart and liver failure, he’s hooked up to an oxygen tank. On July 1st, 2004, Marlon Brando passed away at the age of 80. He died of pulmonary fibrosis. A couple of Brando’s family members were by his side in his final moments. While he certainly a controversial figure in several people’s eyes, Brando loved and adored by many.
Tributes were aplenty for the Hollywood legend, including those from fellow actors. This included Robert Duvall, a co-star of Brando’s in The Godfather. Duvall played Brando’s on-screen adopted son and Consigliore, Tom Hagen, and described Brando as like a godfather to many young actors worldwide, but particularly in America.
Brando’s On the Waterfront co-star, Eva Marie Saint, spoke about the reason Brando played washed-up boxer Terry Malloy so authentically. She explained that he was that fighter. “He was so sensitive,” she said. “You just felt that when he looked in your eyes, he knew everything about you.” Even President Bush came forward with his condolences and stated that America has lost a great actor of the stage and screen.
While it is well-known that Brando hated the spotlight, those close to him have been open about the fact that Brando would have been embarrassed by the tributes on his passing. With such intense fame, Brando had come to loathe the success he had. He no longer had any privacy in his life.
While the death of Marlon Brando may have been shocking news to many around the world, Brando himself knew his days numbered and had begun planning his own funeral. He apparently wanted his neighbor and fellow actor Jack Nicholson to lead the mourning.
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Marlon Brando’s ashes divided and scattered
In what is quite fittingly eccentric and original for an actor such as Marlon Brando, he has more than one final resting place. Two of which couldn’t be more opposite. One location is a hot and dusty desert, while the other is a tropical paradise. It is believed that Brando’s loved ones scattered some of his ashes in California’s Death Valley. This was due to the location’s apparent importance to the late actor.
But these cremated remains were apparently not only Brando, but also the remains of his close friend, Wally Cox. This apparently done without the knowledge or consent of the National Park Service employees. The other quantity of Brando’s ashes scattered in a slightly more hospitable place. What wasn’t laid to rest at Death Valley scattered in the tropical paradise of the South Pacific island, Tahiti. This is where his beloved daughter Cheyenne buried beside her lover, Dag Drollet. Cheyenne tragically committed suicide at the age of 25 back in 1995.
Some of Marlon Brando’s ashes wound up in legal limbo
While his ashes scattered in two different places, some of his ashes not actually scattered at all. Some went to his eldest son, Christian Brando. What’s bizarre about the whole act is that the remains apparently unceremoniously shipped to Christian via FedEx.
When Christian died in 2008 of pneumonia at the age of 49, Marlon Brando’s ashes effectively left to his son’s girlfriend, Donna Lopez Geon. Christian’s mother, Anna Kashfi, who had divorced from Brando back in 1959, wasn’t shy about her desire to have the ashes of her ex-husband back. This was made more legitimate since a judge had named Kashfi executor of her late son’s estate.
Geon wasn’t keen to let the ashes go, however. She claimed that there was no reason for her to have to give up the belongings of her now deceased partner. She used the reasoning of Christian not being close with his family and that he wouldn’t have wanted his mother or anyone else to have claim over his property after he died. It remains unclear if any more of Marlon Brando’s ashes scattered. They now may simply be kept in some forgotten cellar or storage locker somewhere. But hopefully, they have treated with more respect.
Death was familiar to Marlon Brando
It was May 17th, 1990. An Overweight and distraught Marlon Brando, stood in front of the world’s press on the steps of his home in Beverly Hills. His face grief stricken. No, this was not acting. Brando was not playing a tragic scene on film. He was living through tragedy in real life. At that moment, he stated that the messenger of misery had visited his home.
The evening before, a man had been shot in the head while watching television in Brando’s home. Brando was at home at the time and heard the gunshot. He raced to the scene and tried to desperately save the man’s life by giving mouth to mouth. But it was too late. The man he was unable to save was 26 year old Dag Drollet. Drollet was the scion of a prominent Tahitian family, not only that, he was the boyfriend of Cheyenne Brando, Brando’s daughter.
At the time, Cheyenne was eight months pregnant. She was the daughter of Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipaia. Brando met Teriipaia, fell in love and married her while filming Mutiny On The Bounty in 1962. She was his third wife. What was most heartbreaking for Brando, was that he also knew the man that killed Drollet. It was his beloved son Christian.
In a drunken rage, Brando’s 32-year-old son shot his sister’s partner after she had claimed hours earlier at dinner that Drollet was physically abusing her. It later revealed that Cheyenne’s claims were actually a lie. Five years later, she committed suicide. This was, understandably, incredibly tough on Brando.
Brando had spent his life trying to protect his family, especially his many children, from what he viewed as the toxicity of fame. But despite his greatest efforts, his family had begun destroying itself from within. Christian’s arrest and the subsequent legal proceedings fueled Brando’s tearful plea for leniency on his son’s behalf in a California courtroom. Christian pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and spent nearly five years in prison.
Since then, Brando’s reclusiveness and eccentric behavior fueled rumors that he was struggling financially and living less like a Hollywood star and more like a bum. There were even reports that he hawked his Oscars to pay millions in back taxes. Ellen Adler, whom Brando had been in a relationship with, claimed that the rumors were absolute rubbish. She said, “He could have been a billionaire if he hadn’t been so generous to people or invested more wisely. But he was by no means destitute.”
Is the story behind Marlon Brando’s remains a fitting tribute to the Hollywood rebel, or does it simply highlight the unusual antics that take place amongst the world’s biggest stars?
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