Marlon Brando: “I am a chicken. What does a chicken know of bombs?”

The Chicken Bomb is an ACTING exercise devised by Stella Adler, the legendary acting coach who rocked New York City in the 1940s.

In one class, she had a roomful of students.

She told them to pretend to be chickens, and added that a nuclear bomb was about to fall on them.

All students were squawking like crazy. They ran around and clucked.

All except one.

Amid the frenzy, one student crept into a corner – and pretended to lay an egg.

Adler asked him why, and he said:

“I’m a chicken – what do I know about bombs?”

That student was Marlon Brando.

Legend has it, he was the only one who ‘got’ what this was about: The gulf between “Be a chicken” and “Mimic a chicken”.

Adler, hugely influential actress and acting teacher took Brando under her wing.

In „Listen To Me Marlon“, Brando remembers Adler inviting him into her home to live as one of the family after his mother’s alcoholism became too much.

He describes himself at that time as “suffering, disjointed, disoriented,” and speaks of Adler as “always very loving towards me.”

Nobody had ever told him he was any good at anything before but Adler saw his potential: “Don’t worry my boy. I’ve seen you and the world is going to hear from you,” she said.

This mentor support was pivotal in itself for Brando and his respect for Adler endured his whole life.

Adler taught the likes of Judy Garland, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Taylor, Warren Beatty and Elaine Stritch.

She and Marlon became lifelong friends, and they were lovers over the years.

In the foreword of Adler’s book, The Technique of Acting (1988), Brando wrote: “Stella Adler was much more than a teacher of acting. Through her work she imparts the most valuable kind of information — how to discover the nature of our own emotional mechanics and therefore those of others.”

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