Sayonara ended up doing well at the box office and garnered Brando his fifth Oscar nomination. Near the end of production, Logan obtained the galleys of “The Duke in His Domain,” and it was as bad as he had feared. In addition to the revelations about his mother, it included Brando’s negative critique of Logan, his self-centered theories on relationships, and his low estimation of many of his fellow actors. Brando was shaken, and immediately wrote Capote a long letter. In it he conceded that “unutterable foolishness” had led him to believe they were exchanging private confidences, and now his innards were to be “guy-wired and festooned with harlequin streamers for public musing. . . .” He compared Capote to Judas, Benedict Arnold, and Attila the Hun. Capote later called it “the longest, most confused letter I ever received,” but he never responded. Brando’s tone in private was even more enraged. To his future wife, Anna Kashfi, he claimed that Capote had “got me stoned out of my gourd, straight vodka ’til two in the morning,” but conceded that the “little bastard’s got total recall. Every goddam word, he remembered.”
The piece ran in the November 9, 1957, issue of The New Yorker. Capote was on Brando’s permanent blacklist. “It was the only substantive interview ever suffered by Marlon,” Kashfi noted, “and he regretted it.”
Brando did visit his lawyer and publicist to discuss a lawsuit, but they dissuaded him after establishing that the facts in the story were accurate. “I didn’t think of him as the press,” Brando fumed to his publicist, Walter Seltzer. “I thought of him as a friend.” For his part, Capote was unapologetic—then and later. “Marlon knows what I’m doing. Later he claims that he really didn’t,” Capote told Andy Warhol. “Well, of course he knew. He didn’t in a sense—he knew I was doing an interview, but on the other hand, it was done by my own special method, which doesn’t seem as though I’m doing anything at all. You know?” Capote added, “That thing was a total prediction of his entire life and what happened to him to this very moment. And all done in 40 pages.”
Though Capote joked later that the piece wasn’t really a “hatchet job,” his comments in the years after it appeared tend to reinforce Josh Logan’s view that the writer had it in for Brando. In Capote’s interview with Andy Warhol, he observed that “To be an actor, you have to have absolutely no pride. . . . You have to be a thing. An object. And the less intelligence you have, the better actor you can be. . . . To be an actor at all requires a total immaturity, and takes a total lack of self-respect.” And about Brando, in a later interview, he said, “Oh, God knows, Brando thinks he’s intelligent. Marlon looks at you with oh-poor-you eyes, as if he knows something you don’t know. But the truth is, you know something he doesn’t know: He’s not very intelligent.”
Less obvious, perhaps, was how Capote’s encounter with Brando foreshadowed his own unmaking. After the piece appeared—William Shawn called it a “masterpiece,” and it generated more comment than any New Yorker article since John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”—Capote returned briefly to fiction in his popular novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, before undertaking the project he said he had long contemplated when he moved into journalism, the nonfiction novel. Reading about the murder of a family on an isolated Kansas farm, Capote convinced The New Yorker to let him investigate the case. Six years later, his book about the killings, In Cold Blood, was published, to universal acclaim. It remains a touchstone in American letters. But writing the book, dwelling in the imaginations and characters of other people, especially ruthless killers, broke something in Capote.