Leonardo DiCaprio, the Malaysians and Marlon Brando's Missing Oscar
It would be great to get it back," says the late actor's archivist of the lost statuette for 'On the Waterfront' — given as a gift to Leo by his scandal-plagued friends at Red Granite Pictures — as the Academy refuses to discuss its reigning best actor's misbegotten award.
Brando's Oscar was reportedly acquired in the fall of 2012 for approximately $600,000 through a New Jersey memorabilia dealer. THR has learned this person is Ralph DeLuca, whom DiCaprio previously had developed a relationship with due to their mutual interest in DeLuca's specialty: vintage movie posters. The still-active Red Granite — whose next project is a remake of the 1973 prison-break film Papillon starring Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam — declined to comment, as did the Department of Justice and DeLuca.
But regardless of whether DiCaprio's birthday gift — which he has proudly displayed on the mantel at his Hollywood Hills home — violates Academy policy, the On the Waterfront statuette has other baggage. THR has learned that Brando never sold his award; rather, it simply went missing.
Avra Douglas, the Brando estate's executor and archivist (and the star's assistant for 14 years until his death of respiratory failure in 2004 at 80), says the award disappeared while he was alive. "He was trying to track it down and kept hitting dead ends," she says. "There was some rumor that [late actor turned agent] Marty Ingels of all people had it, but that turned out to be untrue. It would be great to get it back."
For years the lore in elite memorabilia circles has been that, in a fit of anger, Brando tossed the statuette out his window, after which his then-young son Christian took it up to his treehouse and, toying with it like a hammer, broke its base. Douglas calls this "undoubtedly hogwash," observing that the late Christian — who later served time in prison for manslaughter — "never had a treehouse."
Regardless, the statuette ended up circulating among private enthusiasts, drawing a public rebuke from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1988 when an auctioneer based out of a storefront just off Hollywood Boulevard sold it for $13,500 on behalf of a Maine collector. Oscars "shouldn't be items of commerce; it's less than dignified," Bruce Davis, the Academy's then-executive administrator, told the Los Angeles Times.
In a statement to THR, the Academy now notes: "We have a long history of enforcing our bylaws against the sale of post-1951 Oscars, and, where possible, even those awarded pre-1951. We have on many occasions prevented the sale of Oscars and enforced the Academy's rights to recover the statuettes."