Name at birth: Marlon Brando, Jr.
Marlon Brando changed modern acting by popularizing "the Method," a technique which emphasized emotional truth and naturalistic style over movie-star poses. Brando was a smash hit on Broadway in 1947 in the rough-edged Tennessee Williams drama A Streetcar Named Desire. The role made him a star, and in the early 1950s he was nominated in four consecutive years for best actor Oscars, winning once for the 1954 film On the Waterfront. (He was also nominated as Marc Antony in 1953's Julius Caesar, for playing Emiliano Zapata in 1952's Viva Zapata!, and for the 1951 film version of Streetcar.) Marlon Brando faded a bit in the 1960s, taking a variety of offbeat (and oddball) films, but he became hot all over again in the 1970s, starring in the sexually daring Last Tango in Paris (1972) and winning a second Oscar for playing Mafia kingpin Don Corleone in The Godfather (also 1972). In later years, Marlon Brando became famous for his reclusiveness and Orson Welles-like girth. His last feature film was the 2001 heist thriller The Score, in which he was paired with two younger-generation Method-trained actors: Robert De Niro and Edward Norton.