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Brian Dennehy, 'The Island of Dr. Moreau,' and 'The Making of Monsters' at the Bedford Playhouse

Live Reading Reflects on the Catastrophe of Marlon Brando and 1996 Bomb

Photo by The Huntington   

On Thursday February 21, The Bedford Playhouse hosted a live theatrical event with Golden Globe Winner Brian Dennehy, Emmy Award Winning Screenwriter Ron Hutchinson and screen actor Kevin O’Brien. The trio read Hutchinson’s musings on The Island of Dr. Moreau and a 1996 disaster that starred Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.  But despite almost looking like a self-inflicted catastrophe, Hutchinson’s place as a credited writer did at least reassure with one recurring message.

“No one sets out to make a bad movie,” he began his reading of The Making of Monsters.

Of course, an obvious question followed. “So why are there so many of them.” 

Hollywood Sausage Factory

Well, there was nothing definitive. So the best Hutchinson could do was liken the industry to the old adage on making sausage, and this Island clearly stacked up. “This was a Hollywood sausage factory—one that amount to $60 million worth in today’s dollars,” said Hutchinson.

The disarray often occurs right out of the gate. “Next time, we should actually get someone to read the script,” O'Brien voiced a lament all too common to producers.

Either way, Hutchinson delineated. “A good movie has an internal drive that moves a project along, while bad ones have no central organization and are one bad idea after another,” said the TV and film writer. 

Brando Crazy and Hollywood Crazy

Although this particular doctor had a pretty damning self-diagnosis. “Never confuse the size of your paycheck with talent,” Dennehy voiced Brando’s words.

Of course, talent was in no short supply for Brando, but the end result came off that way. “He became an actor who hated acting and was hell bent on destroying the production,” Hutchinson read.

Dennehy seconded the disdain. “Acting affords me the ability to pay for my psychoanalysis,” said Dennehy in character.

The story of Brando perching a 28 inch man on his stomach and teaching him to sing made a strong case for intervention. The lead actor's mocking, dismissive tone also left the hostile locale at the mercy Brando's devilish behavior. “Brando was the god of the production,” read Hutchinson.

The tentacles reaching back to the dysfunction of Hollywood didn't help in the Australian rain forest either. Hutchinson described a choreographed scene of attacking “mice men,” which really had no part in the plot. But the suits in Hollywood wouldn’t let go. “Don’t forget the fighting mice men,” word kept coming back, according to Hutchinson.

This had the crew continually repeating the line as they understood the futility of the disaster. But the lunacy eventually gave way to real life, and the trio opened the floor for questions.

Dennehy Reflects on Brando

In keeping, Dennehy revealed that he once lived in the same complex as Brando but rarely ran across the giant at home.

However, the Silverado actor saw Brando on more than a few occasions at Ralph’s at 3AM. “Out after a night on the town, I was there a lot with my housemate. Brando would pull up with this expensive car, keep the car running and just park right out front,” said Dennehy. “He’d be picking up really unhealthy food and walking around with his loosely tied bathrobe.”

Dennehy did have a more meaningful encounter at a Hollywood party several years later, though. Brando came up from behind, and despite never seeing the younger actor in a movie, Brando had him pegged. “I can tell you’re an actor,” Brando told him. “You’re bored, and actors are always bored unless they are acting.”

Dennehy realized the Oscar winner was right, and the joy is not in the reviews or the money but the work. “When I get a part, I’m trying to solve a problem and figure out how to make it work,” said Dennehy. “I’m 80 years old, and I never get tired of it.”

Brando’s later life obviously shows a disconnect in Dennehy’s estimation. “For Brando, it was lost, thrown away or maybe became too difficult,” he said.

Of course, Dennehy didn’t discount Brando’s genius, and the sea change that was On the Waterfront, stands out. “He blew up the business,” said Dennehy.

Conversely, the collateral damage that laid waste to Hutchinson in 1996 is certainly a different type. That said, the The Making of Monsters doesn’t have any definite plans. Instead, the digression was more an unburdening of a writer’s soul. “It’s an exorcism,” Hutchinson joked, and given the reactions throughout, the audience was more than happy to oblige.

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