Belfast Telegraph

Working with pizza-guzzling Marlon Brando awful, says Northern Ireland writer

By Alison Fleming

A Lisburn-born screenwriter has revealed how his one-time idol Marlon Brando behaved like a monster and seemed "hell-bent on sabotaging" one of his final films.

Emmy Award-winning writer Ron Hutchinson, who worked on the 1996 production of The Island Of Dr Moreau filmed in Australia, details the trauma of working with the star in his forthcoming memoirs - Clinging To The Iceberg: Writing For A Living On The Stage And In Hollywood.

The book documents Hutchinson's 40-year career as a writer for stage and screen, and his struggle to stay sane on location on one of the great movie flops of all-time.

Now living in Los Angeles, Hutchinson has never watched the film, despite being so closely involved in its production.

In an Observer interview, the Olivier-nominated playwright said that after being recruited by acclaimed director John Frankenheimer to rewrite the original script, he witnessed "one of the legendary movie disasters of all-time", describing it as a "$40m train wreck".

The book outlines how Brando, who Hutchinson says weighed around 300 pounds, refused to come out of his trailer and wanted to improvise the script. "Brando was only answering the door when the pizza man came," he said.

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Lisburn-born screenwriter Ron Hutchinson

"This was the best news that the pizza-makers of Cairns, this small town, had ever had because Brando was consuming industrial quantities of pizza while ruminating on what the hell he was going to do when he had to face the cameras. I think there might have been an existential terror there."

The entire production was beset with delays and on-set rows between the stars, with Hutchinson warned before his arrival about Brando.

Before he signed up for the film, Frankenheimer showed him some recordings of Brando.

"They showed Brando sitting in a hammock with literally the smallest person who's ever been measured by scientists, the actor Nelson De la Rosa, who was just under 28 inches tall," said Hutchinson.

"Brando absolutely fell in love with this guy.

"He put him on his chest in the hammock and sang Frog Went A-Courting to him.

"There was 90 minutes of that.

"John said: 'This is all I can persuade Brando to do'."

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