Harold Evans recalls the surreal dinners and the moonlight swims he endured to extract a memoir from the legendary actor.
Reading Stefan Kanfer’s excellent biography of Marlon Brando, Somebody (Knopf), reminds me of one adventure that isn’t there: my own trying to secure Brando’s memoir for Random House during my time as president and publisher.
I was one of any number of New York supplicants who trekked to Los Angeles in February 1991 to persuade the reclusive 66-year-old star that their imprint was the only one capable of doing justice to his life story. Before I flew to L.A., I’d been warned by others that Brando had contempt for anyone suggesting he was an acting genius. In his eyes, acting was a commonplace skill, and the whole admiring East Coast establishment was populated by phonies. He proved it to himself, I heard, by inviting publishers to show their enthusiasm by going down on their knees in front of him. I was ready for that: I was going to tell him that declining to kneel was not a mark of disrespect but recognition of physics. A skiing injury, I’d say, meant I’d never be able to get up again and he’d have a problem disposing of the body.
Brando’s go-between, the elegant producer-director George Englund, had said we’d meet for an hour at Brando’s house on Mulholland Drive at 7 pm, but not eat. As Englund put it, “Marlon has a girth problem."