It was near where he filmed “Mutiny on the Bounty,” and fell in love with his Tahitian co-star. Years later, it was Marlon Brando’s retreat, where he would lie on the beach and marvel at the night sky.
As he pondered his own twilight, Brando envisioned sharing his private atoll in French Polynesia.
Celebrities could go there to escape the paparazzi. Each villa could have a Polynesian couple to cook for guests, take them spearfishing, teach the Tahitian names of the plants and birds and play the guitar at night.
Less than a year after his death last July from lung failure at age 80, Brando’s vision could be nearer reality.
An environmentally-sensitive 30-bungalow resort, to be called, “The Brando,” is scheduled to open in 2008 on Tetiaroa, the island the actor bought in 1965. The only current inhabitant is Brando’s son, Teihotu, one of his children with ex-wife Tarita Teriipia.
“Marlon always felt that the Polynesians, more than anyone else in the world, had found an unhurried and humorous way to go through life. He always hoped his life could be so uncomplicated, but unfortunately that was not the case,” said developer Richard Bailey, CEO of Tahiti Beachcomber SA, who worked with Brando in the years before his death.
Major obstacles to the project have been cleared, but there is much work to be done to create the $40-million project on a 150-acre island with no electricity or running water.
“There’s no water, no electricity, no sanitation -- none of the basic things that you need to live, much less provide luxurious comforts expected by today’s well-heeled traveler,” Bailey said.
The problems are being addressed in ways that will keep the island pristine and that are sensitive to the sea turtles that spawn there, Bailey said.
Fresh water will flow from a small desalination plant; electricity is to generate from solar panels that would line a turboprop runway. Air conditioning would be created by blowing air across pipes that circulate icy sea water below the ocean’s surface -- a technology that Brando learned about and promoted for use.
Guests arriving from Tahiti would get a golf cart, a map of the island and instructions on how to respect the environment. Each villa would be on a five-acre beachfront plot invisible from other villas and from the lagoon.
Brando “wanted a place where his friends could escape the paparazzi and find some inner peace,” Bailey said.
Brando spoke fondly of that privacy, once telling CNN interviewer Larry King: “When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe.”
Legal challenges remain, among them a lawsuit by Jo Ann Corrales, who says she was Brando’s business manager but was removed as an executor of his will days before his July, 2004, death.
Corrales says the project overlaps a half-acre chunk of Tetiaroa that Brando deeded to Michael Jackson in 2003 after visiting Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch.
Estate attorneys say the offer to Jackson was merely a token gesture and Bailey said Brando never mentioned the deed even though they spoke until just before he died.