Marlon Brando did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
Now this could seem like an indulgent Brando performance, and Coppola notoriously had an incredibly difficult time with Brando while making this film. The thing is though, even if perhaps Brando was being very indulgent here, it works completely for the role of Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz after all is a man who could very easily be described as rather indulgent himself. When Willard (Martin Sheen) finally arrives to Kurtz's compound to assassinate him he has already seen many forms of madness, having some of that madness even in himself, but what Brando does is bring a whole different type of madness with his first scene. Enveloped in almost absolute darkness Brando brings us a man who is of his own world in more than one respected, it's his world that he is created that Willard is entering a world filled people who worship him, and his mind is also of another world.
Brando's unique manner of speaking creates this sense of Kurtz as an otherworldly figure. Brando does not simple speak as himself though as he speaks as though he is delivering a sermon in the specific conviction of his words yet there is an aloofness as if this sermon is only truly for himself. Brando's reactions equally portray Kurtz as viewing himself as something other than any normal man. He does not react naturally, rather as a man who knows all, and as if those who are near him are only there since he wished it. Brando carefully does not truly make Kurtz the god he portrays he makes the delusion, but along with that he brings the reality. Brando in a few moments, such as his angry outburst towards Hooper's photojournalist, that are short and to the point, but in these moments Brando effectively shows that are frustrations of a normal man. Brando treads carefully making the delusion something to be believed, but never shows it to be an absolute truth.
Brando makes the larger than life figure Kurtz should be, but above all his performance does meet the challenge of having this tremendous build up to his character. Brando's performance is most importantly compelling portrayal of Kurtz's unique brand of madness that in turn creates many others' madness. Brando delivers in making Kurtz an allusive, yet still fascinating mystery to behold. There is philosopher found in his constant ramblings, but there is the soldier as well as Brando is able to carry a palatable menace particularly in the scene where Kurtz offers Willard a most peculiar "gift" while Willard is his prisoner. The final fate of Colonel Kurtz may have seemed slightly absurd, but Brando makes it completely believable through his realization of Kurtz's complex insanity. Brando matches the challenge of the character and perhaps gives the last performance where he actually made use of his considerable talent.