Marlon Brando’s Secret A-List Acting School Featured Drag, Nudity, and an Actual Homeless Man


As one of the most iconic actors in Hollywood history, Marlon Brando died in 2004 at the age of 80, but not before leaving behind a legacy that we now know included more than cinematic masterpieces.

In November of 2002, the star of films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, Julius Caesar and of course, The Godfather shared some of his old school acting tips with the industry’s new blood in an unorthodox 10-day acting class.

In the June 19 edition of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, the industry publication shares that Brando conducted an under-the-radar “extraordinary 10-day acting workshop” that his pupils would never forget.

The 78-year-old organized and taught “Lying for a Living” to about 20 young acting students and a dozen already established stars who were eager to sharpen their skills at Brando’s acting school, which was held inside an anonymous Hollywood warehouse.

Some of his famed students included stars like Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Whoopi Goldberg, James Olmos, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robin Williams. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Jackson also stopped by, and Brando even dredged a homeless man out of a dumpster for the star-studded colloquium.

On the first day of class, the actor flung open the warehouse doors wearing “a blond wig, blue mascara, a black gown with an orange scarf and a bodice stuffed with gigantic falsies.” Carrying a rose in one hand, he strutted around before taking a seat in a “thronelike chair” and began applying lipstick.

“I am furious! Furious!” Brando reportedly told the group in a 10-minute improvised monologue in an English accent, before turning around, lifting his gown and showing the crowd his backside, revealing the absence of an undergarment.

When a 78-year-old teacher exposes his behind on the first day of class, you are likely in for an unconventional course.

With no class syllabus, Brando insisted his pupils learn to improvise, and his own brief partial nudity was just the beginning of the eccentric learning process.

He asked students to “moon” other students, set a group of little people against a team of Samoan wrestlers for a series of exercises, and according to the Hollywood Reporter, asked students to “strip naked in front of the entire class.”

“The girls were shaking, like, ‘What the f— am I doing here?’ ” Olmos recounted. “But Brando had a reason for it. He always had a reason.”

A jazz musician was brought in to play Brando’s favorite songs on a rented piano while French tightrope walker Philippe Petit stunted on a high wire for a lesson, and at one point, actor Jon Voight took offense to an act that featured an Osama bin Laden costume, and wished to leave the seminar.

Brando, who was facing financial trouble, came up with the idea for the course while brainstorming get-rich-quick schemes, according to his former secretary Alice Marchak. He recorded the sessions in their entirety, hoping to eventually sell them as a “how-to DVD” on QVC.

If you are hoping to watch them now, good luck, as Brando’s estate has no plans to release the footage.

But if you’d like to read more about “Lying for a Living,” including how a real-life car salesman stumped improv expert Robin Williams, or why DiCaprio was asked to leave, click here.


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