Tahiti Feature

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The Brando Island

You could say that art imitated life when Hollywood actor Marlon Brando arrived in Tahiti in 1960 to star in the remake of the 1935 epic Mutiny on the Bounty. He played mutineer Fletcher Christian, who met and fell in love with a Tahitian woman in 1788. Brandon met his own Tahitian beauty, Tarita Teripaia, when she was cast as his love interest, Maimiti, in the film. The couple had two children.

Brando bought the island of Tetiaroa in 1966 from the Williams family, Americans who had been given the land by the royal Pomare family of Tahiti, in 1904. The island, which is 48 km (30 mi) north of Tahiti, is actually 13 motus (islets) enclosed by a coral reef. One motu, Tahuna Iti, is a natural bird sanctuary.

Brando visited the island frequently until his daughter's death in 1995, after which he was rarely seen in French Polynesia. There was a small hotel on the island but that closed before the actor's death in July 2004. The only inhabitant today is the actor's son, Teihotu. The Brando family apparently sold the island to property developer Richard Bailey for $2 million and there are plans to build an eco-friendly five-star resort to be called The Brando (www.brandohotel.com). This property, to be managed by the InterContinental group, is expected to open in 2010 with 30 villas, though construction work had not begun as recently as mid-2008.

It's not possible to visit the island now, nor will it be while construction takes place. Interestingly, in 2003 Brando allegedly gave his good friend, pop singer Michael Jackson, lifelong use of a quarter of an acre of the land on motu Onetahi, the islet on which the new resort will be built.

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