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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Marlon Brando: The Godfather of Method
Marlon Brando
Brando has been married three times and fathered 11 children
Marlon Brando, who celebrates his 80th birthday on Saturday, has been a Hollywood icon since the early 1950s.

Born in the state of Nebraska in 1924 to an alcoholic mother and a womanising father, Brando shirked convention and defied authority, leading to expulsion from several schools and a military academy.

Determined to escape his disciplinarian father, Brando turned his back on small-town life to study with acting coach Stella Adler at Elia Kazan's Actors Studio in New York.

A devotee of Stanislavsky, Adler pioneered "method acting" in the US, paving the way for actors like Paul Newman, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

Rapid rise

Brando made his screen debut as an embittered paraplegic in The Men in 1950, a role for which the 26-year-old was reported to have prepared by lying in bed for a month in a veterans' hospital.

Marlon Brando
Despite his notorious egotism, Brando despises public appearances

A year on, he reprised his role of Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan's big screen version of A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Vivien Leigh, earning the first of four consecutive best actor Oscar nominations.

It was a part he had played on Broadway in 1947 to huge acclaim.

But it was his role as washed-up boxer Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront that snagged Brando his first Oscar in 1954, though many believe he was cheated of a second nomination for his misunderstood rebel in The Wild One.

Success spurred Brando on to more controversial roles, including a singing role in Guys and Dolls in 1955 and a Nazi officer in 1958's The Young Lions, for which he won a fifth Oscar nomination.

Troublesome reputation

But Brando hit a career low with the 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, a movie which spiralled over budget - in no small part due to Brando's posturing and on-set tantrums.

The film failed to recoup even half its budget and undermined Brando's box office potential, securing the star a troublesome reputation that he never shook off.

The only reason I'm here in Hollywood is because I don't have the moral courage to refuse the money
Marlon Brando

Nonetheless, Brando's remarkable performance as Don Corleone in the 1972 epic The Godfather netted Brando his second Oscar.

It also won the actor further notoriety, when he sent an actress in Indian costume to refuse the Academy Award in protest of Hollywood's treatment of native Americans.

Following his controversial turn in Last Tango in Paris, Brando opted out of leading man status, demanding outsize pay packets for cameo roles instead.

Private troubles

Latterly, it is Brando's private life which has kept the actor in the headlines.

Marlon Brando
Brando gave a cameo in 2001's The Score for which he was paid $3m (1.6m)

In 1991, his eldest son Christian served five years in jail, after he admitted killing his half-sister Cheyenne's fiancee, Dag Drollet. Cheyenne, a former drug addict, committed suicide in 1995.

Brando stood by Christian during the court case, picking up hefty legal fees, costs which he later claimed left him broke.

Most recently, his former housekeeper and ex-lover Cristina Ruiz launched a civil case against the actor demanding $100m (54m) for the upkeep of their three children.

Despite ill-health and fluctuating weight, Brando has never lost the arrogant streak that marked him out as a scene-stealer and has seen him hailed as America's greatest actor.

In his own words: "The only thing an actor owes his public is not to bore them."

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