Dag Drollet had been trying to extricate himself from his love affair with a "spoiled, unstable" Cheyenne Brando, trying to distance himself from the "unhappy" Brando family, when he was shot and killed in the den of Marlon Brando's Los Angeles compound in May, his father and stepfather say.
Just before the 26-year-old Drollet accompanied the pregnant Cheyenne Brando to Los Angeles from Tahiti, Jacques Drollet said, he told his son, "Dag, stop this life with Cheyenne because she's not balanced . . . you will have great difficulties--perhaps suicide, perhaps she can kill you, or you can die, both of you, because of her."
The couple were living apart, but not soon enough, his father said. "That's why I'm in a mess, because I didn't do what I had to do, insist he not come," said the elder Drollet. "I said you're going to meet a tragedy with that girl, your life together smells of tragedy, it smells of death."
Dag Drollet's father, and his mother and stepfather, Lisette and Albert Lecaill, planned to return to Tahiti late Friday. They had been attending the preliminary hearing that on Tuesday ordered Christian Brando, 32, to stand trial for Dag Drollet's killing. Both Drollet and Lecaill spoke to The Times before leaving Los Angeles.
Christian, one of Brando's nine children, was arrested May 17 after the actor telephoned police and told them of the killing in his hilltop house, where police found Drollet shot in the head. Christian later told police that Cheyenne had complained to him at dinner that she was being slapped around by her boyfriend, and that he had accidentally shot Drollet when the gun went off during a struggle.
The dead man scarcely knew Christian Brando, having met him a few times in Los Angeles and Tahiti, the family says.
The high-profile killing has commanded international headlines and has struck deep in placid Tahiti, where the two families are prominent. Brando bought the atoll of Tetiaroa there years ago, and Drollet, who said he served in World War II in a Free French naval liaison unit with the United States, is a retired high-ranking Tahitian official.
Marlon Brando, as an "adopted Polynesian," knows that "in Polynesia, the rules of hospitality are very strong, very important, very serious. When you invite someone into your house you have duties and obligations," said Jacques Drollet. "You must protect (a guest) materially, morally, physically and intellectually."
Yet Brando "knew that his daughter was not very well balanced," the victim's father continued. "He knew that Christian Brando was bad-tempered, that there were arms around in the house belonging to Christian, that he knew there could be some friction between people in his own house, (but) he didn't protect my son. On the contrary, my son was just killed like a dog in his house," a house Drollet characterized as "a bunker with many weapons."
Albert Lecaill said the Los Angeles trip, on tickets paid for by the actor, was to be Dag Drollet's final gesture in the intense, nearly four-year relationship. "Two or three weeks before leaving, Dag discussed it with us. He said perhaps it's better they separate. What he did coming to Los Angeles was the last thing to help (Cheyenne), the last act."
The young woman, who had reportedly been under medical and psychiatric treatment since a serious 1989 auto accident, came to Los Angeles because "Marlon Brando has no confidence in French doctors, no confidence in the clinics in Tahiti," said Lecaill. "He wanted her here for psychiatric care and to have her baby," and "Dag always wanted Cheyenne to go to Los Angeles to have her baby."
Cheyenne Brando returned to Tahiti after Drollet was killed, after only a brief interview with police. She gave birth to a son there last month.
"They were living separately in Marlon's compound," where the younger Drollet had visited before, said Drollet. "He was sleeping on a mattress in the den where he was killed, and she was living in her own room."
Cheyenne had become "impossible" to live with, Drollet said his son told him. "I've heard her saying that she was the most beautiful girl, the most intelligent girl and the richest girl by her father's fortune."
She had had "four or five boyfriends" before, "but for the first time it was not her who was throwing someone away," it was Dag's decision, said Drollet. "At that moment all her ego, all her pride was wounded."
The elder Drollet says Cheyenne was much changed after her auto accident, at times "very violent in her words and her manner. She has said very serious things, she has hit people . . . she hit Dag, when she was in a rage."
"We make a distinction between a slap and a blow. A blow is different. Dag never beat Cheyenne. Perhaps on one or two occasions when Cheyenne was in a rage, she was scratching him, hitting him, throwing things at Dag, perhaps he gave her one or two slaps, but he never beat her and nothing at all since she was pregnant, never," said Drollet. "Dag is too well-behaved."
Neither family now wishes to speak to Marlon Brando.
Lecaill said Brando telephoned them six hours after the shooting and "said it was an accident. We more or less accepted that it was." Once here, though, "we asked him to see us and he refused. It's normal if it's an accident, to visit, to see where Dag lived, gather his things, hear of his last hours." Later, he said Brando's lawyer called but by then "we knew better how it happened and did not want to see him."
The attorney for Christian Brando could not be reached for comment Friday.
Both Drollet and the Lecaills said they would like tests to determine whether Dag Drollet was indeed the father of Cheyenne Brando's baby. He had a 5-year-old daughter by another woman, a child who lives with the Lecaills.
Dag Drollet's sister died in a 1973 Pan American World Airways crash in Tahiti. "It is strange," says Drollet, that both his children by his previous wife "died in the Americans' hands."