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Early in his career, Paul Newman was often mistaken for Marlon Brando and signed autographs on Brando’s behalf​

Key Points: 

  • Paul Newman was often mistaken for Marlon Brando early in his career
  • Newman would sign autographs as “Marlon Brando” for fans
  • Both actors were up for iconic roles, showcasing their talent and stardom

In the early days of his illustrious career, Paul Newman, the charismatic star of films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Cool Hand Luke, found himself frequently mistaken for his contemporary, the legendary Marlon Brando.

How Paul Newman Handled Being Mistaken for Marlon Brando?

Paul Newman in The Long, Hot Summer via Fandango Movieclips
Paul Newman in The Long, Hot Summer 

With their striking good looks and talent for method acting, it’s no surprise that Paul Newman and Marlon Brando were often confused for one another, especially in the early stages of their careers. Rather than correcting fans who approached him thinking he was Brando, Newman embraced the mix-up with good humor.

According to Mental Floss, whenever a fan would ask for Marlon Brando’s autograph, Newman would simply take out his pen and oblige, signing “Best wishes, Marlon Brando.” It’s estimated that he may have signed at least 500 autographs this way, showcasing his easygoing nature and ability to take fame in stride.

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The Shared Stardom of Paul Newman and Marlon Brando

Paul Newman in The Sting via Universal Pictures
Paul Newman in The Sting via Universal Pictures

While Newman played along with the case of mistaken identity, he acknowledged the differences between himself and the iconoclastic Brando. In an interview, he commented on Brando’s “rebellious attitude, which I don’t believe I had.”

Yet, their careers were intertwined in more ways than one. Both actors rose to stardom through Tennessee Williams movie adaptations, with Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Additionally, they were in the running for some of the same iconic roles, such as On the Waterfront, which ultimately went to Brando and earned him an Oscar.

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Director Elia Kazan, who worked with Brando, initially considered Newman for the lead role in On the Waterfront, praising his good looks, masculinity, and acting talent, even if he didn’t quite match Brando’s prowess at the time.

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