Content warning: Period typical smoking.
This episode is an adaptation of Truman Capote's famous interview with Marlon Brando in 1956. These were two men who, in very different ways, specialised in social engineering. We watch them perform a strange dance of etiquette and manipulation.
In My Soul is a Private Place
Brando was played by Catriona Scott
And Capote by Rosie Beech
A Geishas Lament by Steve OxenSupport the show
Announcer: Hello and welcome to Theoretically Theatrical. In this series we peek behind the curtain and explore the world of performance.
Today we are reenacting the landmark interview of Marlon Brando by Truman Capote.
My Soul is a Private Place
SFX: Traditional Japanese music. Footsteps. Knock on the door. Door opens
Brando: Oh, hi, It's seven, huh?
Capote: Actually it’s twenty past. Sorry I’m late.
Brando: Well, come on in. I'm just finishing up here.
SFX: Shuffling. Typewriter.
Capote: What are you working on?
Brando: Film script. Sit down somewhere.
Capote: You’ve certainly made yourself at home. The only clear space is the floor.
Brando: Then it’s all yours.
SFX: Moving paper/books.
Capote: How are you finding Kyoto?
Brando: They’re great kids here, but the only reason I'm in this picture is because I don't have the moral courage to turn down the money. Still, movies do have the greatest potential. You can say important things to a lot of people. About discrimination and hatred and prejudice.
Capote: Do you think this film ‘Sayonara,’ does that?
Brando: (Snorts) I give up. I'm going to walk through the part, and that's it. Sometimes I think nobody knows the difference. For the first few days on the set, I tried to act. But then I made an experiment. In this scene, I tried to do everything wrong. What did Logan say? 'It's wonderful!
Capote: You know, he said to me that ‘Marlon's the most exciting person I've met since Garbo. A genius. But I don't know what he's like. I don't know anything about him.’
Brando: Don’t expect me to feel sorry for my comments. I only mean 40% of what I say. Mind if I lie down?
Capote: Go ahead.
Capote: You’ve really made a nest of books here. Buddhist prayer, Zen meditation, Yogi breathing, but no fiction.
Brando: I haven’t opened a novel since the day I was born.
Capote: You don’t care to read fiction
Brando: I like to write it though. Something we have in common, I suppose.
Capote: But you haven’t read any of my stories, you said so yourself.
Brando: No, but I think I can read you well enough.
Brando: You know what else Logan said? He told me to never be alone with you. ‘He’s after you,’ that’s what he said.
Capote: You didn’t need to invite me to dinner.
Brando: You’re a little bastard and that makes your conversation interesting.
Capote: It’s an art form.
Brando: The last eight, nine years of my life have been a mess. Maybe the last two have been a little better. Less rolling in the trough of the wave. Have you ever been analysed? I was afraid of it at first. Afraid it might destroy the impulses that made me creative, an artist. A sensitive person receives fifty impressions where somebody else may only get seven. Sensitive people are so vulnerable; the more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalised, develop scabs. Never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything, because you always feel too much. Analysis helps. It helped me. But still, the last eight, nine years I've been pretty mixed up.
Capote: You do like to monologue don’t you?
Brando: You’re here to interview me so I don’t think that’s a sincere complaint.
Capote: It certainly makes my job easier.
Brando: People around me never say anything. They just seem to want to hear what I have to say. That's why I do all the talking. What I'd like to do, I’d like to talk to someone who knows about these things.
SFX: Book opening.
Brando: Mysticism and spirituality. Because, I’ve seriously considered… l've very seriously thought about… throwing the whole thing up. This business of being a successful actor. What's the point if it doesn't evolve into anything? All right, you're a success, you're welcome everywhere. But it doesn't lead anywhere. Too much success can ruin you as surely as too much failure. Remember that. You know, it took me a long time before I was aware that that's what I was - a big success. Then, when I was in Streetcar, and it had been running for a couple of months, one night - dimly, dimly - I began to hear this roar. It was like I'd been asleep, and I woke up here sitting on a pile of candy.
Capote: That reminds me of the first time we met.
Brando: When was that?
Capote: 1947, when I attended a rehearsal of A Streetcar Named Desire. I was too early and I found this brawny young man alone in the auditorium on top of this table on the stage, solidly asleep, still holding ‘The writings of Sigmund Freud.’ Because he was wearing a white T-shirt and denim trousers, because of the weightlifter's arms, the Charles Atlas chest, I took him for a stagehand. Or did until I looked closely at his face. It was as if a stranger's head had been attached. There was a refinement and gentleness to it. That was you of course.
Brando: Napping can be a happy thing.
Capote: Your nose is the main thing that’s changed. How did you break it?
Brando: I remember one April I was in Sicily. A hot day, and flowers everywhere. I like flowers, the ones that smell. Gardenias. Anyway, I went off by myself. Lay down in this field of flowers. Went to sleep. That made me happy. I was happy then. What? Did you say something?"
Capote: I was wondering how you broke your nose.
Brando: (laughing) In Streetcar, some of the guys backstage and me, we used to go down to the boiler room in the theatre and horse around. One night I was mixing it up with this guy and - crack! So I walked around to the nearest hospital. My nose was really busted. They had to give me an anaesthetic to set it, and put me to bed. Not that I was sorry. Streetcar had been running for about a year and I was sick of it. Irene, the producer-
Brando: That’s her. She kept saying ‘they've ruined your face. You must have your nose reset.’ I didn’t listen.
Capote: It gives you sex appeal. You were a bit too beautiful before.
Brando: It probably made my fortune.
SFX: Knock on the door
Brando: That’s dinner.
SFX: Door opening. Clattering plates -Actors Chew audibly occasionally from this point-
Brando: You know, the other day on set we were working in a temple, and one of the monks asked me for an autographed picture.
Capote: I have a Buddhist friend at Nishi-Honganji Temple. He goes to the pictures quite often. He would have loved to meet you.
Brando: (Amused) Now, what would a monk want with my autograph?
Capote: You’re a movie star. Maybe they appreciate your talent.
Brando: Movie star. That’s worse than ‘successful actor.’ Well, when I get back to Hollywood, I'll fire my secretary and move into a smaller house. But it has to have a fence. On account of the people with pencils. I need a fence to keep them out.
Capote: People like me?
Brando: I don’t see a notebook and pencil on you.
Capote: I don’t need them. I like to think of myself as a tape recorder.
Brando: (to himself) I suppose there's nothing I can do about the telephone.
Brando: It's tapped. Mine is.
Capote: By whom?
Brando: (Non committal reply while chewing)
Capote: You don’t want to say?
Brando: When I talk to my friends, we speak French. Or else a kind of bop lingo we made up.
SFX: Paper rustle
Brando: Or write letters.
Capote: You look like a gentleman reading his correspondence over breakfast.
Brando: Wrong meal. It’s from a friend of mine. He's making a documentary, the life of James Dean. He wants me to do the narration. I think I might.
Brando: Maybe not, though. I get excited about something, but it never lasts more than seven minutes. Seven minutes exactly. That's my limit. You're taking your time with that pie.
Capote: Take it. You’ve been eyeing it lustfully. You know, people said Dean was practically plagiarising your acting style in his early work.
Brando: He had an idée fixe about me. Whatever I did, he did. He used to call up. I’d listen to him talking to the answering service, asking for me. But I never spoke up. I never called him back. No, when I finally met Dean it was at a party. Where he was throwing himself around, acting the madman. I took him aside, gave him the name of an analyst, and he went. And at least his work improved. Toward the end, I think he was beginning to find his own way as an actor.
Capote: Twenty-four really is no age at all. You called me ‘a little bastard’ earlier. Well, that’s what they called that car he was driving. Spyder, "Little Bastard.”
Brando: This glorifying of Dean is all wrong. That's why I believe the documentary could be important. To show he wasn't a hero; show what he really was, just a lost boy trying to find himself. That ought to be done, and I'd like to do it - maybe as a kind of expiation for some of my own sins. But, who knows? Seven minutes is my limit.
Capote: Seven minutes of excitement isn’t much to sustain a whole performance on. How do you manage?
Brando: Acting is such a tenuous thing. A fragile, shy thing that a sensitive director can help lure out of you. Now, in movie acting, the important, the sensitive moment comes around the third take of a scene; by then you just need a whisper from the director to crystallise it for you. Gadge…
Capote: Elia Kazan? (ay-lee-ah kazan)
Brando: That’s right. I call him Gadge. He can usually do it. He's wonderful with actors.
Capote: I think he directed one of your most memorable film scenes.
Brando: I’m curious to hear which one you think that is.
Capote: ‘On the Waterfront.’ The car-ride where Rod Steiger confesses he’s leading you into a death trap.
Brando: I didn't like the way it was written. A lot of dissension going on there. I was fed up with the whole picture. All the location stuff was in New Jersey, dead of winter - the cold, Christ! And I was having problems at the time. Woman trouble. Let me see. There were seven takes because Rod Steiger couldn't stop crying. He's one of those actors that loves to cry. We kept doing it over and over. But I can't remember just how it crystallised itself for me. The first time I saw Waterfront, in a projection room, I thought it was so terrible I walked out without even speaking to Gadge.
Capote: You always seem to turn against whatever you're working on. Does it comfort you to be dissatisfied?
SFX: Clock chimes ten.
Brando: It’s getting misty out there. It makes everything look like it's floating. Have you been to Nara? Pretty interesting.
Capote: I have, yes. It reminds me of a postcard town set in a showplace park.
Brando: Well, I'd like to be married. I want to have children.
Capote: The gentle safety of Nara does lead the mind that way.
Brando: You've got to have love. There's no other reason for living. Men are no different from mice. They're born to perform the same function. Procreate.
Capote: I don’t think that’s just it for you.
Capote: You’re famously wonderful with children. At ease, playful, appreciative, you’re like their emotional contemporary, a co-conspirator. There’s a gentleness to you in those moments. It doesn’t track with that functionalist idea of yours.
Brando: A performance. My main trouble is my inability to love anyone. Cigarette?
SFX: match strike.
Brando: (Indifferent - slower, deliberate, chew over words) I can't… Love anyone. I can't trust anyone enough to give myself to them. But I'm ready. I want it. And I may, I'm almost on the point, I've really got to … Because - well, what else is there? Anyway, I have friends. No. No, I don't.
Capote: You’re arguing with yourself.
Brando: Oh, sure I do. Some I don't hold out on. I let them know what's happening. You have to trust somebody. Well, not all the way ... Do you know how I make a friend? I go about it very gently. I circle around and around. Then, gradually, I come nearer. Then I reach out and touch them, like this-
SFX: Clothing rustle
Brando: Then, I draw back. Wait a while. Make them wonder. At just the right moment, I move in again. Touch them. Circle. Before they realise it, they're all entangled, involved. I have them. And suddenly, sometimes, I'm all they have. A lot of them, you see, are people who don't fit anywhere. But I want to help them, and they can focus on me; I'm the duke. Sort of the duke of my domain.
Capote: Now between the two of us, who do you think is ensnaring who? Who’s spinning their web more effectively?
Brando: (laughing) You haven’t a hope in hell. My soul is a private place. (Yawn) Let's have another cigarette.
Capote: Don't you think you should go to sleep soon?
Brando: That just means getting up. Most mornings, I don't know why I do. I can't face it. Anyway, I may work later on.
Brando: My mother. She broke apart like a piece of porcelain. We had this rambling house in Libertyville, Illinois. Milking the cow was my job. They used to call me Bud. I ran away from home every Sunday, but I adored my mother. We all did. She played leads in local dramatic productions, and always longed for a more brightly foot-lighted world. She was everything to me. I used to come home from school. There wouldn't be anybody home. Nothing in the icebox. Then the telephone would ring. Some bar. 'We've got a lady down here. You better come get her.’ I thought if she loved me enough, trusted me enough, we'll live together and I'll take care of her. Once, later on, that really happened. She left my father and came to live with me in New York, when I was in a play. I tried so hard. But my love wasn't enough. She couldn't care enough. She went back. And one day… I didn't care any more. She was there. In a room. Holding on to me. And I let her fall. Because I couldn't take it any more - watched her break apart, like a piece of porcelain. I stepped right over her. I walked right out. Since then, I've been indifferent.
Capote: You weren’t Bud any more.
SFX: Clock chimes again.
Brando: I think it’s time we said ‘sayonara.’ Tell them at the desk to get you a taxi.
SFX: Door opens.
Brando: Are you going to turn me into a magazine article?
Capote: I don’t know.
Brando: Listen, don't pay too much attention to what I say. I don't always feel the same way.
SFX: Footsteps. Music
Announcer: Thank you so much for listening.
In My Soul is a Private Place
Brando was played by Catriona Scott
And Capote by Rosie Beech
Our Halloween competition is open till the 1st of september. We’re holding a competition to hunt for truly haunting writing. Entries should be prose fiction, non-fiction or poetry and should fit the theme of ‘Halloween’. Think ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, witches, werewolves and warlocks.
The winner and runners up of our Halloween competition will receive a cash prize and be featured on our podcast each week in October leading up to Halloween. Find out more details of the ‘tricks and treats’ on offer on our website.
We’re just dying to read your submissions!
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