I caught up with Bryan Cranston at a recent reception for Jay Roach’s “Trumbo” at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. Director Roach, and good pals Jason Alexander and Vince Gilligan (creator of “Breaking Bad”) were also there to fete talented Bryan.
Cranston is getting all kinds of accolades for playing the blacklisted Oscar winning screenwriter. Last year he won a Tony Award for playing LBJ in “All the Way” on Broadway. He’ll appear in a filmed version on “HBO” next year. The one time Dr. Tim Watley from “Seinfeld” and the loony dad from “Malcolm in the Middle” has a huge range since his most memorable character to date remains Walter White, reluctant drug lord from “Breaking Bad.”
I asked him what attracted him to “Trumbo.”
Cranston answered, “It’s a story that you kind of have shake your head and wonder did this really happen, could this really happen in America? That people went to prison not because they committed a crime but because of their political ideology. Wow-this actually happened. Fear mongering works well. It was a dark period in Hollywood history and American history. And the character itself, he’s a Crusader for civil liberties standing up for the first amendment rights. That’s very heroic.. The character himself was just flamboyant, dramatic, prolific, ambitious and irascible. He’s just a wonderful character to take a look at, so it became an easy decision for me. “
I asked him how he felt about the current political climate. Cranston feels much is similar to Trumbo’s time.
He replied, “Fear mongering works extremely well. The latest debate, was deeply based in fear and promulgating that sensibility. If you’re afraid, I’m the president for you because I will keep you safe, is doing just that. It’s appealing to a level that is unfortunate, but it works. Fear mongering only works if there is some basis of truth. In Dalton Trumbo’s day, the dictatorship and communism in Russia were real. And they were sending spies, they were. But to what degree? Do you round everybody up that disagrees with you? Same tactics that the Gestapo used. Are you a Communist, Are you helping the Communists? Who is helping the Communists if it’s not you? Name the names, what neighbor? It’s a very dangerous position to be in. The over-reaching branch of our government in the 40’s and 50’s, who saw to it upon themselves, to endow themselves with the power to compel testimony under the penalty of imprisonment. They should not have had that power; they should not have that right.”
Would he ever want to play any of the contemporaries?
Cranston answered, “Yeah, I’d consider playing Donald Trump. He’s a fascinating character, a supreme narcissist. But I love how refreshing how he’s made this experience here. He’s not in any one’s back pocket. He speaks his truth, whether I agree with it or not. That’s very refreshing. As opposed to the other politicians who are measured in their speech, very specific what they will or will not say. They get a question they don’t want to answer, they will sidestep it. He’s very smooth.”
So I asked again, would he really play him? Cranston replied, “Could happen.”