Tuesday, December 31

Why AI has a long way to go and totalitarianism is never total

Early in his film career Matthew Broderick got the actor's opportunity of a lifetime. He was cast in a movie with Marlon Brando and even had a scene in the film in which he would be exchanging lines with the great Brando. Broderick was so nervous when the time came to shoot the scene that the director felt compelled to give him a pep talk. He told him to gather his wits because Brando had a tendency to improvise his lines; he needed to be ready to improvise replies if the script didn't fit with what Brando said to him.

Came the momentous moment. With the camera rolling, Brando leaned toward Broderick, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "I can't understand a word you're saying. Are you eating a tuna fish sandwich?"

For the life of him Broderick couldn't think how to improvise a reply to what was gibberish to begin with, and which bore no relation to the script, story line, or Brando's character or his.

Only a very seasoned actor such as Dustin Hoffman, who told the Brando story on the Charlie Rose show earlier this year, would have had the wits and nerve to land a swing. Broderick wasn't seasoned or nervy. He was tongue tied. Then the pitcher took pity and threw the curve ball again:  Brando continued looking at him and slowly repeated: "I can't understand a word you're saying. Are you eating a tuna fish sandwich?"

Broderick couldn't even try to take a swing because he'd frozen.

Cut! Cut!

After the camera shut off Brando went to find the technician. It turned out that even though he was looking at Broderick while he spoke, Brando was talking to a technician offstage who was supposed to read Brando his lines, which Brando picked up through a hidden microphone in his ear. (Brando famously hated memorizing lines.) But the technician was chewing while he was reading the line meant for Broderick. Brando, knowing the technician's favorite lunch food, asked if he was eating a tuna fish sandwich.

Now there are many ways of looking at this story. Maybe it was Brando's way of telling the technician, 'Don't mind us, it's only costing the company $10,000 a minute while you chew in my ear.'

But I would file the story under "Saving Grace." I figure we can count on one thing in this uncertain world.  When it comes time to activate the Final Hour there will be some fool at the controls taking an unauthorized lunch break. World without end.


1 comment:

Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

What's most intriguing to me about this post is the creative leap implied between the anecdote at the center of the post itself, and the title you gave it.

Another post to treasure, Pundita!