Marlon Brando on Lee Grant: Seriousness of Purpose

I’m glad that Tennessee admired Lee [Grant]. That speaks well of him. Some of the women he admired leave me cold and make me wonder if his admiration might have been based on something other than the acting. That’s okay; we’re all guilty of endowing people with greater qualities because of some emotional link. Don’t you think? Lee brings none of her emotion to the task. You know what I mean? I mean she’s clearly an emotional person, and it is emotion that is warranted and acknowledged and placed securely in the right place, but none of Lee’s personal—what was the word Tennessee used? [Inventory.] Right. None of Lee’s personal inventory is allowed to interfere with her performance. She is very—Jesus, what am I trying to say? Lee is very appropriate in the placement of what she feels and knows and remembers, and it’s all in the execution of a character, not in the execution of a grudge. Barbara [Baxley], as you may have discovered, was a grudge collector, and it affected her life and her health and her work. Lee is very clear. Tennessee got that right. What was that term he used? The one that was used badly against him in college? Yes. Seriousness of purpose. Clarity of intent. Tennessee claimed he did not have either when he was in college. I think Lee always had them. I think that’s why Tennessee was drawn to her.
She leads with her chin, which I find very endearing. She smiles with her chin: it comes toward you in the smile, reaches out to find you and shower you with mirth or delight or derision. She acknowledges you with her chin. I tried once with Stella to figure out why we do with our bodies what we do, but I don’t remember what this means. I think it means that she is constantly moving forward, discovering, plowing through lost time. Watch her when she does this. It’s not so much in performance—she has her body in control and in service to the character. Watch her in conversation. It’s very endearing. When she won the Oscar, she hit the stage and smiled at the presenter, and there was that lovely chin, that radiant smile, and twenty years melted away. Twenty years for me, that is. That’s Lee’ personal character, but it’s in all of her work as well. There are few actresses I would rather watch think in a part. Tennessee was right that few actresses are brave enough to allow their characters to be wide open, thinking, exposed, but Lee does it beautifully. She listens profoundly.

© 2014 James Grissom


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