The next Don

“Godfather, we took care of Sollozzo, but now they’re comparing you to John Travolta.”

“Godfather, we took care of Sollozzo, but now they’re comparing you to John Travolta.”

Who is today’s Marlon Brando?

I’m not asking in the context of great acting. Rather, I’m alluding to the spectacle of the bloated, apathetic, four-fifths insane Brando of the post-Godfather years. The Brando who gained more than 100 pounds, had his dialogue fed through an earpiece to avoid learning lines and once wore an ice bucket on his head.

Is there an actor alive who could fill Brando’s muumuu?

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino fit the bill of once-greats who have devolved into self-parody, but neither has made a grisly theater of their contempt like Brando did. There is also great potential for Daniel Day-Lewis, should he ever stop caring.

Nic Cage has developed a Brando-like contempt for the craft of acting, but he was never On the Waterfront-level good. Johnny Depp worked with Brando, and has been on autopilot ever since Pirates of the Caribbean; still, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever look as bad as Brando did in The Island of Dr. Moreau.

However, the strongest candidate is John Travolta, another beautiful, white-hot young actor who wasted his mojo on bad movies. Both had indelible early roles, both made middle-aged comebacks in classic gangster films (The Godfather and Pulp Fiction), and both squandered their career goodwill with a series of egomaniacal vehicles and bizarrely bad performances.

That doesn’t even take into account the weight gain, the shadowy personal lives or the penchant for lazy grandstanding and cheap tricks. Travolta even wore a muumuu and pancake makeup for Hairspray.

If Gus Van Sant ever mounts a shot-for-shot remake of the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, I hope he has the good sense to cast Travolta in Brando’s role.

After the dreadlocks of Battlefield Earth, an ice bucket on his head might not look so bad.