Marlon Brando Only Broke Method Once During His Intense Prep For The Men

Method acting has received a mixed reputation over the years but, despite its controversy, it is still a tried and true technique used by many of Hollywood's biggest stars. This performance style is defined by the City Academy of London as an attempt to draw from personal experience to create an authentic performance, but is famously recognized for more extreme examples where actors remain in character for the entirety of production both on and off camera. 

The method developed a dangerous reputation when Heath Ledger's untimely death was rumored to have been caused by his method approach to his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." More recently actors like "Succession" star Jeremy Strong have been under fire for the effect that this immersive technique has had on their cast-mates while on set, raising emotions ranging from concern to annoyance in their co-stars (via New Yorker). However, perhaps the first actor to popularize method acting was studio-era Hollywood legend, Marlon Brando.

Brando lived through his characters, but his distinct charisma still shone through in interviews and public appearances between projects. He was known for his sharp wit and unmistakable charm, often flirting with interviewers and inspiring laughs. This light-hearted banter bore a stark contrast to his grave approach to his craft. For the most part, Brando managed to keep his own whimsical tendencies compartmentalized while preparing for a new role, but only once was he so tempted by a joke that he broke character.

An irresistible joke

In the 1950 drama "The Men," Brando plays a soldier who loses his legs in battle. To prepare for the role, the actor spent weeks in a veteran's ward bound to a wheelchair. According to Darwin Porter's biography, "Brando Unzipped," Brando did not reveal his true condition to his fellow patients until they were visited by two religious fanatics. As the women attempted to convert the paralyzed men, they suggested that, "If your faith is great enough in the Lord, you can not only walk again but father children again."

This claim was too ridiculous for Brando to let slide. Upon hearing it, he abandoned his wheelchair for the first time and "performed a tap dance to rival Fred Astaire" and shouted, "It's a miracle! I can walk!" He then turned to the women and exclaimed, "I can f**k again!" before booking it out of the hospital, crossing its grounds and "jumping over an eight-foot fence with the agility of a pole-vaulter."

Brando was deeply committed to method but, in this instance, a far greater opportunity for performance presented itself. It's hard to say if these men were amused at the great actor's stunt, or if they felt betrayed to learn that his condition was a falsehood. Despite the reputation Brando developed as a demanding diva on-set later in his career, he is still remembered fondly as a staple of American cinema and a revolutionary proponent of his craft.