When I began talking on the phone with Marlon Brando, he learned that Marian was an important part of my life. Marlon remembered Marian well: She was someone who always showed up to see him work, and she was someone who was always willing to listen to him, expecting nothing but his company in return. “She’s up to nothing but good,” Marlon said, and he asked me for her Marian’s phone number. Marlon and Marian spoke a few times, but Marian did not stay up late, and Marlon’s calls were most productive to him deep in the night. Nonetheless, Marian took the time to speak to him when he called, and when Marlon died in 2004, I asked her what the calls were about.
What did I say to Marlon [Brando]? Those calls came so suddenly, and they were so sad, a man–a boy, really–in the night, needing a friend. I never consoled him by telling him that he was a brilliant and beautiful actor, because I knew he would reject that. That would have been too easy, something a stranger would say. I loved him so: He was such an important part of my young life, and I watched him in everything, even if it was one of the late shows in the theatres we went to after our performances. All of us actors would do our plays and then head to a theatre to see films. It was like a dream. Walking home at two in the morning–we felt safe always then–thinking and talking about what he had done. Yes, we can all love him for that work, but I felt he was calling us–calling me–to see if he, as a man, was loved and mattered. The theatre is my life and my religion and my drug, yes, but it is people I love the most, and I embrace them and love them as I move about them. I want them to live well and be happy, and that is how I would talk to Marlon. I would remind him that he was loved and needed, and we always come back to that term Tennessee [Williams] gave you: to matter. I let him know that he mattered, and I let him know that I was here for him, we were here for him, listening and writing and remembering. They say he’s gone now, but he isn’t. We will continue to love him, and so he will continue to live.