Rita Moreno bravely opens up about Marlon Brando abuse; "I tried to end my life"

'He was a bad guy,' she tells Jessica Chastain in conversation.
February 3, 2022 1:29 p.m. EST
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West Side Story superstar Rita Moreno has been breaking hearts in Hollywood with her powerhouse talent and rare beauty for over 60 years. But in a new conversation with Zero Dark Thirty actress Jessica Chastain for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Rita reveals that her nearly 8-year relationship with famed method actor and The Godfather star, the late Marlon Brando, was filled with tumult, abuse, and mistreatment.

According to her, the pair, who met on the set of Désirée, a 1954 biopic about Napoleon, had a lustful and exciting relationship, but it ended up going up in flames. 

“Ultimately, it was exciting to be with Marlon. Oh, my God, it was exciting," she said via video-chat to Jessica. "He was extraordinary in many, many ways, but he was a bad guy. He was a bad guy when it came to women.”

“I was such a different person then. I had all the makings of a doormat,” she continued. “So whenever he lied, I would look at him and I'd say, 'Marlon, look at me.' And he'd start to grin this kind of — I don't want to use the bad word — that poop-eating grin. I could read him like a book and that's why he loved me, and that's why he mistreated me in so many ways.”

In her 2011 memoir Rita Moreno: A Memoir, she writes according to Slate that she became pregnant with Marlon’s child, and he ultimately forced her to get an abortion - which she described as “botched.” She also writes that Marlon frequently cheated on her, and apparently threw a chair across the room when he learned that Rita had once dated Elvis Presley.

Rita then revealed to Jessica a very dark consequence of Marlon’s mistreatment – it pushed Rita to make an attempt on her own life.  “I tried to end my life with pills in his house. That's how I tried to do it."

“I didn’t understand that if I was going to kill this pathetic, sad, trod-upon Rita, the rest of Rita was also going to go with me,” she explained. “I really didn’t seem to understand that. But that’s what the attempt was. It was an attempt.”

Rita then recalls, years later, after Rita had remarried and had a child with her new husband Leonard Gordon, her and the A Streetcar Named Desire star were reunited on the set of the 1969 film The Night of the Following Day. It was on that set that Rita says Marlon tried to rekindle the spark.

“What's interesting is that he wanted to renew. I was now married. I had a beautiful child, Fernanda. He was ready to have a go again," she said. "I didn't want that. But he did”

“He lost a big part of himself, I think. The good part of him, the good Marlon that Rita loved. It was very complicated. Really, really complicated."

Rita’s rollercoaster career and personal life, including her love affair with Marlon, were detailed in the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, now streaming on Netflix. In it, she says she originally wanted to marry the Last Tango In Paris star. "He was the daddy that I couldn't please. I didn't know that, I wasn't aware of that at all," she says, as per PEOPLE. "But he was the one I wanted to please, he was the one I wanted to be married to."

Marlon died at the age of 80 in 2004, and in the above video, Rita says it was only then that she found out just how important she was to him. “Ultimately I found out after he died that I was the love of his life. Not just the lust of his life but the love of his life. I was told there was only one picture of him and woman in his bedroom, and it was him and me in that film [The Night of the Following Day].”

BEFORE YOU GO: Tiffany Haddish on dealing with grief and personal lows during her career high

[video_embed id='2363409']BEFORE YOU GO: Tiffany Haddish on dealing with grief and personal lows during her career high [/video_embed]


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