Rocky Mountain News


Last words from Brando?

Published August 5, 2005 at midnight

With more than 40 films to his credit, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Apocalypse Now, On the Waterfront and, of course, The Godfather, you'd think Marlon Brando could rest in peace.

But who knew the actor had a second act in him - and after his death, no less?

Knopf recently announced that Brando's novel Fan-Tan, co-written with Donald Cammell, is slotted for a September release.

According to Publishers Weekly, the actor began collaborating with film director Cammell on the China Seas pirate story in 1979. Brando improvised scenes and Cammell wrote a 165-page treatment, though the novel was never finished.

After Brando's death, Cammell's widow revived the project and publisher Knopf hired David Thomson (author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood) to complete the book.

The result, according to an early review from PW, "will delight readers who love movies, Marlon Brando, sea stories, Chinese pirates or adventure tales."

Fan-Tan takes place in 1927 and tells the story of Anatole "Annie" Doultry, a man in his early 50s who, according to press material, has "an imposing physical presence and a reputation to match on the high seas from the Philippines to Shanghai."

While serving six months in a "hellish" Hong Kong prison, he saves the life of a Chinese prisoner, who is employed by one of the most notorious gangsters in Asia: Madame Lai Choi San. She offers to let him in on "the biggest act of piracy that part of the world has ever seen." And, yes, his greed eventually turns on him.

"Throw in a typhoon, a double-cross, a scorching sex scene, hand-to-hand combat and a mad break for freedom," says PW, "and enthralled readers will be swinging from the rigging along with the rest of the pirates in this rollicking high-seas saga."

The only thing better, apparently, would be if Brando were around to play the part in the movie.

Alas, that's a revival even Knopf couldn't manage.

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