Marlon Brando Once Said He ‘Would Rather Have Been Dragged Over Broken Pottery’ Than Have Sex With 1 of His Co-Stars

Before Academy Award-winning actor and director Marlon Brando became a bonafide star in movies like A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, he started out in summer stock theatre before graduating to Broadway.

In his 1994 autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando wrote about being cast in a tour of Jean Cocteau’s The Eagle Has Two Heads opposite veteran stage and screen actress Tallulah Bankhead (of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Lifeboat) in 1945. But Bankhead’s alcohol use reminded Brando too much of his mother, and he was eventually fired from the production after insulting his co-star.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando in 1949 | Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Brando believed Bankhead was ‘more interested in him for sex’ than for a role

Brando was cast opposite Bankhead when he was just 22 years old, and she was 43. He didn’t think he was right for the part. For one thing, he hadn’t mastered his accent work, and he was far too young for the role.

In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando admitted he always had a sneaking suspicion that Bankhead had more in mind than co-starring in a play after he auditioned.

“I think she was more interested in me for sex than for the part of Stanislas,” he mused, adding that he “dreaded” meeting her at her hotel to go over the script on a regular basis. According to Brando, it was there that his female co-star would begin the “arabesque of seduction.”

Tallulah Bankhead
Tallulah Bankhead | John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

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He took great lengths to avoid kissing his co-star

In his memoir, Brando admitted that Bankhead was intelligent and witty and could be “very entertaining.” He also sympathized with the pain she’d been through in life, even arguing that she could have been a bonafide star if she had not fallen prey to substance abuse.

As it was, however, Brando was turned off by what he described as his co-star’s “alcohol-fouled mouth” and her alleged tendency to start drinking early in the day.

The problem was only exacerbated by the awkwardness of Brando and Bankhead’s on-stage kisses, which Brando said he simply “couldn’t bear” because of the amount of tongue they often involved.  

“At first I was as casual as I could be under the circumstances,” he wrote of their on-stage lip-locks, “and tried to avoid her tongue without offending her, thinking, ‘How am I going to keep the part?’”

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando in 1953 | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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The actor was fired from the production

Eventually, after trying neck kisses, cheek kisses, and shy kisses to no avail, Brando began gargling with mouthwash backstage after kissing his co-star. But Brando’s ploy was found out after a backstage informant told Bankhead about the mouthwash – and he was summarily fired from the production.

“She told the producers I wasn’t right for the part,” Brando wrote, adding that Bankhead was “offended” not only by the mouthwash but by is “refusal to visit her room anymore.”

The aspiring actor didn’t mind too much about the setback, however.

“I would rather have been dragged over broken poetry than make love to Tallulah,” he wrote harshly in his memoir.

Despite this debacle, Brando’s career soon looked up. He was shortly thereafter cast in A Streetcar Named Desire, the work that ultimately catapulted his career into stardom.