PARIS – A week before his death, Marlon Brando (search), aged and ill, was at work making script changes for a new movie, "Brando and Brando," that was to start shooting this month.
The director and the associate producer of the film both said Friday that Brando, who would have portrayed himself, was ill but enthusiastic about the project — and mysterious to the end.
Despite the star's death, the movie will go on, said director Ridha Behi (search), who wrote the script and met regularly with Brando in Los Angeles.
"I'm so sad and nearly paralyzed," Behi said in a telephone interview from London. "Shocked."
"But I will nevertheless make the movie to pay homage to him. I'll go on with the film."
Brando died Thursday at a Los Angeles hospital, at the age of 80, attorney David J. Seeley said Friday. Seeley gave no cause of death, citing Brando's concern for his privacy. Behi said that Brando suffered from cardiac problems.
"I was with him three weeks ago in Los Angeles. We worked on the script, on changes in the scenario that he had proposed," said Behi, who is French-Tunisian.
Phil Symes, associate producer for the movie, said he was at Brando's house last Thursday — a week before the star died.
"He was not a well man, but he seemed in very good spirits," Symes said by telephone from London.
Brando was "still expressing his keenness to make the film ... still talking enthusiastically" about it.
The $5.5 million movie, with its message of the weak verses the strong, would have suited the rebel Brando who spent his life supporting underdog causes.
"Brando and Brando" tells the story of a young Tunisian who journeys to the United States in pursuit of the American dream (search) — embodied by Brando. But the dream quickly fades into disillusionment to expose what the script portrays as the unfair balance between the powerful West and the rest of the world.
The movie was to be filmed in July and August in Los Angeles and Tunisia, with Brando filming during a 10-day period in Los Angeles, said Behi.
The 56-year-old director's previous films range from "La Boite Magique" (search) (The Magic Box) featured at the Venice Film Festival in 2002 to the 1986 "Secret Obsessions," starring Julie Christie (news).
Behi said he met with Brando numerous times, and spoke with him by telephone a week before his death. However, he said he did not consider that he ever truly got to know Brando, the man.
"He remains someone very mysterious," Behi said.
"I think that it's very difficult to gain Brando's friendship, and I don't have the pretension to think I had it," he added.
He described his relationship with Brando as "such a strong respect, not a friendship."
Behi, clearly shaken by Brando's death, said the film would move forward as planned and Brando would not be replaced.
"No one will take his place," Behi said. "Brando is Brando."