Always Brando homage to the late Hollywood star

The director Ridha Behi describes how his film Always Brando sprang from a young Tunisian actor's resemblance to Marlon Brando.
The director of Always Brando, Ridha Behi.
The director of Always Brando, Ridha Behi.

The Tunisian director Ridha Behi has been a fan of Marlon Brando ever since he first saw the actor on screen in Giles Pontecorva's Queimada, released in 1969.

"For me, Queimada remains my favourite Brando film," says the director. "It was a movie in which he symbolised his image as a rebel."

Brando played a British mercenary trying to prevent an uprising in the Caribbean in a film that explored the power of the people against colonial rule.

Behi would go on to make films such as 1972's Forbidden Thresholds and 1994's The Swallows Do Not Die in Jerusalem. One day, by chance, he came across a Tunisian actor named Anis Raache, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the star of On the Waterfront and The Godfather. Behi then came up with the idea for a script in which Raache and Brando would play the same character, one old and one young.

In 2004, Behi met Brando in his home in Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, to discuss the project. In the spring of that year, the pair began working on the script for the film.

Behi recalls that Brando was a fascinating man to deal with. "When I met Brando for the first time, I was shaking because I had so much emotion and fear and apprehension but he calmed me down immediately. I discovered he was an affable fellow, very nice, and he gave me a completely different image of him than how the media had been portraying him, as a curmudgeon. Then two days later - as I saw him every two days to discuss the project - he was annoyed and stressed and angry. Normally he would speak to me in French and that day he was angry; he spoke to me in English. He was hot under the collar because the producer had asked him to lower his price."

The reason Brando was given was "because you are not so well known among the youth", Behi explained. "That made him mad. But the next day he was back to being normal and he'd lowered the price and was again very nice."

Brando died before the project could move from the script to production stage. This film is a chronicle of Behi's experience with Brando and also a fictional tale about a young actor (Raache) whose resemblance to Brando brings him a chance to work in Hollywood and be cast as Brando in a biopic.

The mix of fiction and documentary is a dazzling feature of Always Brando, as Behi weaves into the mix elements of the original script that he had worked on with Brando as well as commentary on his experiences with Brando and footage of Raache playing him.

Of the melange of styles, the Tunisian says: "When Brando was alive, the film was just going to be a fictional film; there was not a part that was documentary. But after the death, I felt that we needed to speak of this experience with Brando. The fictional elements are like documentary, the Americans in the village are a fiction but when you see them the mechanics of the scenes are like a documentary. In my head, the fictional and documentary elements have fused together."


Always Brando is showing at the Marina Mall Vox 1 at 6:15pm tonight, and again tomorrow afternoon at 4pm in Vox 3

Published: October 19, 2011 04:00 AM


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