Marlon Brando was one of the most famous men of his generation. One of history’s greatest actors had a creative way of screening his calls. Here’s what Samuel L. Jackson says he used to do.
A Chance Meeting
We know from contemporaries that Brando never stopped going to the movies. Up until his death in 2004, Brando held opinions on loads of actors. He was friends with Johnny Depp, and enjoyed Pulp Fiction. He liked the film so much, in fact, that he memorized the iconic Ezekial 25:17 speech delivered by Jackson.
In 2001, Jackson was backstage at the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration. Tickets for the show cost up to $10,000, but its memory was largely expunged because the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred the day after the second of two concerts at Madison Square Garden. Jackson was there to introduce Usher and Whitney Houston when he was approached from behind by Brando.
“Somebody comes up behind me and starts doing the Ezekiel speech,” Jackson told the Hollywood Reporter, “People do that to me all the time.” He turned around and was stunned to see Marlon Brando: “I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’ We end up having this conversation.” The two exchanged phone numbers and Brando told the Django Unchained star “Call me, we need to talk.”
Not long afterward Jackson did call up Brando, only to hear something very unexpected on the phone. “It’s a Chinese restaurant,” Jackson said. He asked to speak to Mr. Brando and, quick as a whip, the person on the other line got him. Jackson said the two spoke for an hour.
The Chinese restaurant was a cover for Brando to maintain some anonymity, and it’s quite a way to screen phone calls. Why Brando wouldn’t just have an assistant or a proper office is anyone’s guess. Jackson also said, “the next time I called, it was a Chinese laundry.”
They Never Collaborated
Brando’s late-career isn’t exactly inspiring, but it could have gone differently. Ill health precluded him from starring in The Big Lebowski despite the role of Jeffery (the Big) Lebowski being written specifically for him (the role ultimately was played brilliantly by David Huddleston). Paul Thomas Anderson wanted him to star in Magnolia, but it wasn’t meant to be. Big-name directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Burton, and Oliver Stone all wanted to work with the legend, but projects just kept falling through.
Instead, Brando’s career concluded almost in infamy. He was nominated for three Razzie Awards in the 1990s and won Worst Supporting Actor for The Island of Dr. Moreau. Perhaps all those auteurs couldn’t understand why a Chinese laundry was picking up the phone.