“All The Way,” the brilliant new HBO telepic about President Lyndon B. Johnson, debuts tonight. Based on the hit off Broadway play (Tony Awards for the play and star Bryan Cranston) had its premiere earlier this month on the Paramount Lot in LA. Directed by Jay Roach, written by Robert Schenkkan, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg (who made a surprise appearance at the premiere) all these pros have numerous awards to their name.
They all better make room for more statues on their shelves because this brilliant, engrossing film, which chronicles LBJ’s first year in office, is a lock come awards season. Cranston’s co-stars include Bradley Whitford, Melissa Leo, Frank Langella, and Anthony Mackie. It’s spot on casting in each case.
Bryan told me, “I loved playing him because he was bigger than life, he’s was the ultimate Shakespearean character. “I reminded him that when I last interviewed him he said he would like to play Donald Trump. Does that wish still hold? “Hell yes,” he answered. “He’s Shakespearean in his own twisted way. I want to still play him, but only as a failed presidential candidate. So lets hope.”
I asked Jay Roach what were the parallels happening then that were resonating now?
He answered, “A lot of what is going on in our political system right now is directly rooted in 1964 because Johnson caused the Dixiecrats, who were the conservative Democrats at the time to go Republican and flush out the liberals. So the Republican Party all went Democrat, it was very mixed up back then. It’s as polarized now in this epic time. That all started in 1964. Instead of hunkering down after the assassination of JFK, LBJ chooses to take on civil rights by changing the entire political landscape; you kind of get a sense of the stake of what this movie is.
He continued: “One of the things I also think is relevant about this film is that it shows what happens when people actually believe in government and believe that government can be a part of the solution. People running today believe that government is the problem, not the solution. You can also run on the campaign that you don’t have any experience in government, you don’t like government and when you get there you are going to dismantle it. Trump talks like that. Trump is not faithful in the power of what government can do. Shouldn’t wisdom be a basic minimum requirement for presidential candidacy? Is Trump a really wise man? Hard to tell, maybe there is more to him than meets the eye, maybe not.” “All the Way” premieres May 21 on HBO at 8 p.m.