EXCLUSIVE: Documentary filmmaker Stevan Riley (Blue Blood, Fire In Babylon) got the chance of a lifetime when he was granted access to more than 200 hours of audio tapes Marlon Brando made during the course of his life, a personal archive of never-before-heard musings, acting studies, self-hypnosis and insights the enigmatic Oscar winner had hoped to turn into an autobiographical film before his death in 2004.
With the blessing of Brando’s estate and help from Searching For Sugar Man’s John Battsek (who produced alongside George Chignell and R.J. Cutler), Riley put Brando’s own intimate thoughts on Brando to film in Listen To Me Marlon, which premieres Saturday in competition at Sundance in the World Cinema Documentary program.
Listen to Me Marlon is one of two Showtime documentaries set to air on the cabler after debuting first in Park City, where both will court theatrical deals. The other is Amy Berg’s Prophet’s Prey, a feature documentary about polygamous FLDS cult leader and convicted child sex abuser Warren Jeffs whose exec producers include Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Dustin Lance Black.
Marlon takes its title from a self-hypnosis session Brando recorded in 1996: “Listen to me Marlon. … This is one part of yourself speaking to another part of yourself. Listen to the sound of my voice and trust me. You know I have your interests at heart. … Just relax, relax, relax. I’m going to help you change in a way that will make you feel happier, more useful. … I want you to accept what I say as true. What I tell you here and now is true.”
Riley’s layered portrait of Brando, guided by the film legend’s own complex thoughts on his career, life and celebrity, includes a digitally animated 3D rendering based on facial scans Brando made with VFX pro Scott Billups in the 1980s. Riley considers the stylized representation a final performance of sorts by Brando.
In Deadline’s exclusive clip above, the Godfather and On The Waterfront Oscar winner reflects on the time he spent in Tahiti, a paradise that became Brando’s escape from Hollywood where welcoming locals cared little about his celebrity. He became an owner of the island Teti’aroa after falling in love with its beauty while filming 1962’s Mutiny On The Bounty: “If I’d come close to a sense of peace, it would be there.”
Listen To Me Marlon is executive produced by Brando Enterprises’ Avra Douglas, who will be in attendance at Sundance with Riley, the producers and Brando’s daughter Rebecca Brando. The Passion Pictures film was produced and developed by Showtime for their SHO: CLOSE UP banner. Co-producer Nicole Stott is handling sales for Passion Pictures out of Park City.