Actress and author Illeana Douglas was kind enough to let us eavesdrop on her story about the time she met her acting idol, Marlon Brando. Here, she tells the story of how she came to own some of his personal belongings, though not the kind you’d expect.
Illeana Douglas: Here’s a little postscript. Marlon Brando reaching out from the beyond and giving me another little funny life lesson.
Christie’s was selling a bunch of his things in 2009 and I was determined to purchase something that he owned. And looking through the catalog, what do I see, but driftwood and shells and ephemera — things that he actually collected and touched, and that I feel are a more spiritual side of him, separate from the movie business. That was the one thing that I wanted to get.
And it was very inexpensive … until I started bidding on it. And then, of course, it went up to, I think about $2,500. I was like, “God damn you, Marlon!” But I felt that in order to close the chapter on Marlon Brando, he wanted me to have this driftwood.
So I got it. And I had to go to New York to pick it up at Christie’s. I went down in the basement, and it’s very exciting in the basement of Christie’s — you see Picassos lying on their sides. It’s very … you can’t believe all these valuable things all around.
Then this guy, very New York guy, comes up. I have my little ticket from the auction. He says, “Oh! You bought something from the Marlon Brando auction! Look at you! What’d you get? Did you get a script or a costume?” I go, “No, I, uh … I bought his driftwood.”
So he sort of looks askance, goes in the back, comes back with this big box — it’s not even a nice box; the box is sort of beat up — and out of it is sticking, haphazardly, all sorts of pieces of wood. He starts laughing. He calls over one of the guys who works there, takes a piece of the driftwood, puts it up in the air, he goes, “Hey, check it out! She just bought the Godfather’s driftwood!”
And I was like, “Yeah. Thank you, sir. If you could just … uh … put the Godfather’s driftwood back in the box so I may reclaim it away from you.”
It is in my house precariously close to my fireplace. My friends always tease me that they’re going to accidentally put Marlon Brando’s driftwood in the fire and burn it. But I like to have fun with people. Like, one of my favorite things is something that clearly he must have carved, which is — out of driftwood — a gigantic wooden penis. It is carved, and it has a man’s face on the end. And I guarantee that Marlon Brando carved that. And every time I make someone hold it, they kind of look at it, they get it. And then I go, “You know who carved that? The Godfather.”
The Godfather’s driftwood. I got it. That’s right folks. It belongs to me.