Legendary movie star Marlon Brando was almost as well known for his tumultuous life as he was for his acting abilities. The actor was initially celebrated in Hollywood because of his good looks and incredible talent, but his troubled children, lifelong battle with his weight and peculiar displays of activism soon made him the object of negative media attention. Brando's illustrious career and eccentric lifestyle made him one of the most fascinating and noteworthy movie stars Hollywood has ever seen.
Brando was a student of renowned acting teacher Stella Adler. Adler helped introduce Russian acting theorist Stanislavski's technique of method acting to America. Method acting required the use of "emotional memory," where actors would draw upon personal experiences to fuel their performances. Brando began his career on Broadway, but he became a movie star after playing Stanley in the movie version of Tennessee Williams' play, "A Streetcar Named Desire." He received the first of his eight Academy Award nominations for this role. In 1972, he won the Best Actor Oscar for portraying Vito Corleone in "The Godfather." He turned down the award, instead sending activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared in full Apache dress and explained that Brando objected to the way Hollywood depicted American Indians in film and television. In his later career, Brando accepted few roles and was notorious for being difficult to work with on set.
As a child, Brando's dad was often on the road, and his mom spent many of her days intoxicated, often spending the night in the town jail. He had a lonely childhood and followed his older sister, Jocelyn, to New York to chase his acting dreams. Brando himself was married three times. He had 12 children, including three from liaisons with his housekeeper. His oldest son Christian was arrested for murdering his half-sister's boyfriend in 1990. He was released from prison six years later. Brando's son Miko was a bodyguard for Michael Jackson, and they remained close friends until Jackson's death in 2009. His daughter Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 25.
Though Brando was a Hollywood sex symbol during his early career, it wasn't long before his legendary eating habits caused him to balloon to over 300 pounds. Co-star Richard Erdman said Brando's diet comprised mainly of take-out Chinese food and peanut butter. He became known as "The Godfather of Bellies" and could put away two chickens and bags of cookies in a single sitting. He suffered from diabetes (likely as a result of his obesity), which led to deteriorating vision and heart failure.
The increasingly reclusive actor died in a Los Angeles hospital in 2004 at the age of 80. Brando's lawyers initially said the cause of death was being withheld out of privacy concerns. It was later revealed that he died of pulmonary fibrosis: the scarring of the lungs. His estate was valued at $21.6 million.