I really wanted to make a commercial, when I discovered that I was that sick, and my time was so limited. I wanted to make a commercial that says simply, "Now that I am gone, I tell you: Don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke." If I could take back that smoking, we wouldn't be talking about any cancer. I'm convinced of that.Yul Brynner
Excerpts from Brynner's appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on January 7, 1985, his final interview.
(July 11, 1920 — October 10, 1985) was a Russian-born American actor. He was born Yuliy (Julius) Borisovich Brynner in Vladivostok, though after his father left the family, his mother took him to Manchuria and Paris before they moved to the USA in 1940. During World War II
, Brynner used his French-language skills to broadcast American propaganda to occupied France. He became an American citizen in the 1940s and began working as an actor and model.
Brynner's Star-Making Role
was as King Mongkut of Siam
in The King and I
, which he first played in 1951 and would play 4633 times, not only on stage but also in the Live-Action Adaptation
and a TV version. Brynner would end up winning both a Tony and an Oscar for this role, the only actor to win those two awards for the same role. It was for this role that he shaved his head, and the bald head would become Yul Brynner's iconic look.
His first major film role was Pharaoh Ramses in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments
. As Charlton Heston was much taller than him, Brynner decided to bulk up for the role, and delivered an imposing performance as the Pharaoh. He would continue to star in epics through the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.
Brynner's last major role was as the Gunslinger robot in the 1973 film Westworld
. Sadly, his smoking habit caught up to him, and he died of lung cancer in 1985. While wrapping up his career, Brynner's final wish, as mentioned above, was to make a Public Service Announcement
to be run after his death to tell others not to make that mistake; at the proper time, the American Cancer Society honored his wish
Yul Brynner remains one of the most distinctive-looking (and sounding
) Hollywood actors, and to this day his image is shorthand for Badass
. Among his influences is that he inspired the look of Professor Charlies Xavier of the X-Men
- The King and I (1956 film, various stage productions) as King Mongkut of Siam
- The Ten Commandments (1956) as Pharaoh Ramses II
- Anastasia (1956 film) as General Sergei Pavlovich Bunin
- The Brothers Karamazov (1958 film with William Shatner) as Dmitri Karamazov
- The Magnificent Seven (1960) as Chris Larabee Adams
- Taras Bulba (1962) as Taras Bulba
- Kings of the Sun (1963) as Chief Black Eagle
- The Long Duel (1967) as Sultan
- Villa Rides (1968) as Pancho Villa
- The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969) as 'The President'.
- The Bounty Hunters (1970) as Sabata/Indio Black
- Westworld (1973) as the Gunslinger
"The Tropes and I":
- Badass Baritone: Was this to an extent.
- Bald of Awesome/Bald of Evil: Depending on the role.
- The Cast Show Off: Actor, director, author, photographer, musician.
- Dead Man Writing: Brynner's final message, delivered via an American Cancer Society commercial.
- Dyeing for Your Art/Important Haircut: He shaved his head for The King And I, and the look became iconic.
- Large Ham
- Long Title: His books, Bring Forth the Children: A Journey to the Forgotten People of Europe and the Middle East and The Yul Brynner Cookbook: Food Fit for the King and You.
- Multiple-Choice Past: Brynner famously gave multiple origin stories to various media outlets in order to increase his mystique and star power.
- Plays Great Ethnics: As he was Ambiguously Brown, Brynner played Thai, Egyptian, Russian, Cossack, Native American, Cajun, Mexican, and other "ethnic" roles.
- Really Gets Around: As a teenage performer in a circus, Yul reportedly seduced scores of women who were enamored with him. According to his son Rock's autobiography, The Man Who Would Be King, he had flings with many women while married to his first wife, Virginia, including a one-night stand with Marilyn Monroe.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: To his son, Rock.