Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson
In 2009 Robert Sellers gave us his first "Hollywood Hellraisers" book which covered the lives of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed. Now in 2010 we get his second book along the same lines which covers the lives of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, 4 of the most notorious men to have become as famous for their acting as for their exploits away from the camera.
You may think that covering 4 men’s lives over a book which comes in at just over 300 pages to be a light weight read which barely scratches the surface but you would be wrong. The way Sellers crafts the book is that the lives of these famous men almost interweave so we learn about their friendships, their mutual sexual conquests and so on so that whilst he covers each of their lives from childhood through to their careers as shall we say senior citizens it forms like an ongoing story full of drinks, drugs, sex and of course numerous mentions of their acting careers.
The way Sellers does this, and he does it so well, is that the book follows a time line and within each chapter you get sections referring to what Brando was doing at such a point then what Hopper was doing at that same time and so on. By doing this you get a real sense of how their lives did interweave, how certain people were influences on their lives such as James Dean and how certain people worked with them all at some point. It's fascinating when you realise how many links there are between them not only when it came to people they worked with but also a few women who seemed to date Hopper, Beatty and Nicholson.
But of course the fascination is in the various aspects of each stars lives, what made them tick, their childhood and the various antics they got up to. For me personally I loved reading about Brando, his constant battle with his weight, his love of playing practical jokes, the fact he never learned lines for his movies using cue cards instead and also that he claimed to hate acting. It's quite revealing, especially when Sellers gets onto Brando's life and career when family problems, the famous shooting at his home, lead him to act again because he needed the money.
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But whilst the Brando side of the book was what I looked forward to the most, the other stars are just as fascinating. Reading all about Hopper who's rebellion lead him to almost death and insanity as he lived a life of drink and drugs is quite shocking. You would never realise that this great actor was once shunned by the establishment because frankly he was too out their and risky. It's also fascinating to learn all about the making of the cult classic "Easy Rider" and the huge amount of issues which came with it. But in a touching way it's the close relationship which Hopper formed with James Dean and the impact that the sudden death of the legend had on his life.
As for Nicholson and Beatty you just sort of have to smile as you learn all about their sexual conquests, the various women they dated and bedded. But equally it's fascinating to read about their power when it came to movies. I never realised that Nicholson plied his trade in B movies before he finally got his big break. And I never realised how much influence Beatty had when it came to Hollywood, not just when it came to his movies and women, but the whole thing. He literally had his finger on the pulse of the establishment and knew stuff your average movie star didn't think important.
All in all Robert Sellers "Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson" is a fascinating read which is packed full of information. It's so packed that it feels like you have read full biographies on each of the stars despite that in fact you've read probably just 80 pages on each. But it is the way Sellers weaves their lives together which makes it work so well so that you get a bigger sense of their lives and their conquests.