"I used to say that by the time I reached 35, I would have landed a major movie deal and met Marlon Brando," Lennix says. "Well, I was in the movie Titus, but I haven't met Marlon Brando yet." Lennix was, however, cast with another titan among thespians, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Directed by Julie Taymor after Shakespeare's notoriously difficult Titus Andronicus, the film also starred Jessica Lange. Lennix, who received the 1999 Golden Satellite Award and the Tree of Life Award for his role as Aaron (the queen's lover) in the film, reveals that he reveled in Taymor's auteur-like yet collaborative vision. "Julie poeticizes the violence [in the film]," he says. "She's extremely visual and symbolic. By treating violence in a more stylized fashion, she intensifies it."
Lennix, who divides his time between Chicago and Los Angeles, is firmly rooted in the theater and drawn to doing theater-oriented films. In the case of Titus, he made a seamless transition from appearing in Taymor's stage version of Titus Andronicus, staged for Theatre for a New Audience in New York, to her cinematic version of the same tragic tale. Lennix also moves easily from directorial style to directorial style, whether creating a character with a more conceptual director like Taymor or working with the Goodman Theatre's Chuck Smith, whose direction of A Raisin in the Sun centers on the purity of the text. Still, he acting chops remain rooted in Method--which is to say, of course, rooted in replicating the mystique of that ol' Marlon magic.
"When I saw Marlon Brando in The Godfather," Lennix says, "he became my role model. He lays his soul bare. When Marlon Brando performs, he plays a character but he also tells the truth about Marlon Brando. He may have been a wreck of a human being, but he was a genius of an actor." Musing on that thought, Lennix says, "I'm not saying that I'm a wreck of a human being or a genius of an actor. In fact, given the opportunity to be anybody but me, I'll jump at the chance."