How Paul Newman Handled Being Mistaken For Marlon Brando

Paul Newman was not just the charismatic star of movies like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Cool Hand Luke," or the co-founder of a salad dressing company, or a race car driver, or a philanthropist, or the husband of Joanne Woodward (via CNN). He was also an extremely handsome method actor, and in that way, he had a lot in common with fellow movie star Marlon Brando.

Especially earlier on in his career, Newman was apparently confused for Brando (who was born a year before Newman, per Britannica) quite a bit. After all, they both jumped to stardom from Tennessee Williams movie adaptations: Newman in 1958's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Brando in 1951's "A Streetcar Named Desire." So what did Paul Newman do when a Marlon Brando fan approached him, asking for an autograph? Nothing less than you'd expect from a good guy like Paul Newman.

Best wishes from Newman, or Brando

Whenever he was approached by a fan who mistook him for the famous method acting genius Marlon Brando, Paul Newman never let on that anything was amiss, according to Mental Floss. He wouldn't even offer a correction. Instead, he would calmly take out his pen and write an autograph, signed: "Best wishes, Marlon Brando." According to Newman, he probably signed at least 500 autographs as "Marlon Brando" (via Men's Journal). Personality-wise, however, Newman thought he couldn't be more different from the iconoclastic Brando, who had a "rebellious attitude, which I don't believe I had."

But Brando wasn't the only actor — and rebel — he was mistaken for. Commenting on the matter, Newman once told a reporter: "Two years ago they thought I was Jimmy Dean [James Dean, the star of "Rebel Without a Cause"]." These were the struggles of being a handsome, talented and, above all, cool movie star in the '50s and '60s.

What Elia Kazan thought about Newman and Brando

Brando and Newman weren't just confused for each other: they were also up for some of the same iconic roles. The director Elia Kazan, who directed Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire," was initially unsure of using Brando again as the star of his 1954 film "On the Waterfront," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Instead, Kazan was thinking of another performer from the New York Actors Studio: Paul Newman.

"This boy will definitely be a film star," Kazan wrote in a letter to Budd Schulberg. "I have absolutely no doubt. He's just as good looking as Brando, and his masculinity, which is strong, is also more actual. He's not as good an actor as Brando yet, and probably will never be. But he's a darn good actor with plenty of power, plenty of insides, plenty of sex."

Of course, the role eventually went to Brando, who won an Oscar for his role as longshoreman Terry Malloy (via IMDb). Paul Newman would later be a finalist for a lead role in Kazan's "East of Eden," which instead went to a different newcomer: once again, James Dean (see IMDb).