When Steven Spielberg Met Marlon Brando

EW's Anthony Breznican is treated to a one-of-a-kind Universal Studios Hollywood tour.

With Entertainment Weekly senior writer Anthony Breznican in the golf-cart passenger seat, Steven Spielberg wonderfully revisits the summer he continued sneaking on to the Universal Studios Hollywood lot as a teenager after a three-day visitor’s pass had expired. Spielberg was 16; it was the summer of 1963; and today, whizzing around that same expanse, the filmmaker at one point takes the reporter down a long road named Steven Spielberg Dr.

Spielberg describes his first summer on the lot as a “master class in editing.” Unlike the film and TV shoots that he happened upon initially here and there, the editing bays were places where the 16-year-old could hang around and watch.

Now 69 and set to shepherd The BFG into movie theaters next week, Spielberg says he was embraced by a group of film and TV editors, none of whom blew the whistle on the young interloper after Spielberg very honestly explained how he had come to be there “unofficially, to learn how to be a director.” In fact, he settled in so well with the edit-bay gang that they wound up pulling a couple practical jokes on the 16-year-old:

”Like the day they asked me to go down to an editing room and take out a 16 millimeter film bin and bring it to the main lobby…”

“There was some guy half-naked, behind the moviola… He was totally, stark-naked from the waist up and he was cutting on this thing. I say, ‘Excuse me,’ and I took the bin out of the room. The guy stands up and starts shouting at me, using a lot of inappropriate language. I immediately recognized him. It was Marlon Brando.”

“I ran out of the room without the bin and the editors were suppressing their laughter, because they didn’t want to be heard by Brando. But they were on the floor, they were rolling on desks. They were laughing so hard.”

Brando was working on a documentary about Tahiti. The encounter turned out to be the one and only time Spielberg “saw Brando in the flesh.”

Breznican has interviewed Spielberg numerous times, but we’re guessing this golf-cart jaunt ranks near the top. We also have to applaud his lede for the accompanying article:

Steven Spielberg is gonna need a boat.

Not a bigger boat. Same-sized boat, preferably.

You’ll have to read or watch to understand what Breznican is referring to here. Previously, when Breznican wrote for USA Today, he used the same golf-cart approach with Clint Eastwood on the nearby Warner Bros. lot.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.