Kirk Douglas Thought Marlon Brando's Legacy Led To A Lot Of Bad Acting

It would be hard to find two more legendary American actors than Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando. They're some of the most prominent figures in 20th century media, playing iconic roles in some of the greatest films of all time. Surely nobody but Brando could have starred in "The Godfather" or "Apocalypse Now." Surely only Douglas could have made "Champion" and "Detective Story" quite as good as they were.

But the two men, however similar their acting prestige was, projected very different public personas. Kirk Douglas was known for his philanthropy and political activism. He was head of a production company that spawned many successful films he didn't even star in.

Marlon Brando, on the other hand, was considered a bit of a menace to work with. Brando would make wild demands on set, and require exorbitant amounts of money to even appear in a movie.

Despite their very different personalities, the two men would cross paths at many points in their career, sometimes competing for the same part. According to Douglas, in an interview on the Dick Cavett Show, he once lost out to Brando for a part in a play called "Truckline Cafe." He discussed how he was shocked by Brando's acting style, and how he believed it had a poor influence on future generations of actors.

'People try to imitate that style'

It's no secret that Brando is an influential performer, with actors from Ryan Gosling to Yaphet Kotto claiming him as an inspiration. Brando would often begin his performances extremely reserved, almost mumbling his lines, before working up to a grand emotional climax where he'd explode with pent-up emotion. It was an effective technique that would frequently impact the audience in a significant way, but it was something not many but Brando could pull off well.

According to Douglas' Dick Cavett interview, he believed Brando's influence led to a lot of bad acting. "He has ruined more actors because people try to imitate that style. They can't," Douglas said.

The actor also implied that not only did Brando's performance style itself have a bad influence, but his attitude did, too.

"He opened the door to a lot of bad acting. Because you get those actors who go 'why should I go from here to there... I don't feel like it! It doesn't motivate me!' And I say 'you go from here to there because you're paid to go from here to there!'"

Despite their differences in philosophy, Douglas always admired Brando's acting talent. Both were absolute titans of the film industry, and both men's unique style and persona had an important place in Hollywood.