Exclusive: Bryan Cranston on 'Trumbo' and the political climate today
Actor Bryan Cranston has had great opportunities do to his groundbreaking portrayal of Walter White in AMC's "Breaking Bad." And last year he starred on Broadway portraying President Johnson in the play "All the Way," for which he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a play. So, now premiering in theaters over the next few weeks will be Cranston's first drama on the big screen since his "Breaking Bad," success. The film is called "Trumbo," and is a biopic about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted for his political beliefs. In this exclusive interview Cranston speaks about why he chose "Trumbo," as his next film, the film's connection to politics today and how he hopes that "Trumbo," can change the political climate today.
There is no doubt that Bryan Cranston is one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. With his award-winning portrayal of Walter White in "Breaking Bad," Cranston has had his pick of films, so why "Trumbo?" "The story is so rich and so real," Cranston said. "By denying filmmakers their right to work, their dignity, removing their ability to be responsible for themselves and their families, to earn an income. The secrets and the finger pointing and the destruction of lives was immense and just brutal. And it went on for a long time. Not just in the House, but with Mr. McCarthy in the Senate. It started in 1947 and the House of Un-American Activities didn't disband until the mid 1970's.
"Even though in 1960 "Spartacus" and "Exodus" the first films that had Trumbo's real name on them for the first time in 13 years. They were still dogmatic about their beliefs, wanting to go after these people, thinking that there is some kind on insurgency - it was just a witch hunt."
Cranston believes that this mentality is still alive today in politics and that the days of the McCarthy hearings seem similar to the Benghazi hearings, "We have two members of the house of representatives that said so. It is a politically motivated thing. I am not saying that it is all politically motivated but there is that factor. To what degree? I don't know. Spending millions of the public's money? yes. Spending hundreds of hours, that they could be doing something else? yes. For what purpose? To what end? What is the goal here? Yes, there is an agenda, but what is the goal?"
The main thing that Cranston would like moviegoers get from watching "Trumbo," is clear, "The essence of the movie Trumbo is to stop the polemic, which is pervasive in politics today. And that is if you have a difference in opinion then mine, you are the enemy. I stand on the side of righteousness and you stand on the side of wrong. You are trying to damage this country. You are trying to destroy this country. It is insane. As Trumbo says in the movie - 'we both have the right to be wrong'."
Cranston continues, "Don't squash a difference in opinion than your own, embrace it. This is what made America great. This is a principal and foundation of our country. The Continental Congress created a country that was based on checks and balances. And that is what didn't happen in Trumbo's period. This committee was not checked and balanced. It was not put in its place. It had free reign. And that is where the fear mongering develops."
Cranston is eager to talk about how the McCarthy hearings brought fear to a nation, "The country's number one responsibility is the protection of its citizens. So, you take that and we think that communism and the insurgence of communism is a threat to our safety. And if you say that enough, the public will start to believe it. The perception of the truth is more important than the truth. That is how people respond. What they perceive to be the truth. You say it enough and it all of a sudden sinks in.
"But the truth is there were no crimes committed, there was no plot to overthrow the government. There are always individuals that are trying to do something terrible and sometimes groups - like the Manson family. Communism might work on a kibbutz, but I don't think it works as a government. And the truth is Dalton Trumbo was not a communist, he was a socialist. Even tying to associate communist Russia with, like Stalin who was a despicable and horrible person, but he wasn't a communist either, he was a fascist dictator."
Cranston, who found his greatest fame while in his fifties seems very steady and grounded - unlike many of his Hollywood counterparts. He has an appreciative demeanor that is quite appealing and he makes it clear that he knows how the television series changed his life, "The juggernaut that 'Breaking Bad' had a direct effect on my career, and I am grateful for it. My proudest point was when I could say I was an actor at 25 years old and anything beyond that is gravy. I'm enjoying this ride, being able to be exposed to great writers, directors and other cast members. It's been so much fun and I'm having a ball."
Cranston will not even entertain the thought of all the Oscar buzz he is getting for his performance, "I don't discuss it, talking about it doesn't mean anything to me."
What has meaning to Cranston is doing his work well, which as movie fans we all can truly appreciate. Cranston will be bringing "Trumbo," to screen at Cinémas Palme D'Or, a theater he co-owns in Palm Desert, California, for a series of two Q&A session on Sunday, November 15, "We have been doing Q&A's at Cinémas Palme D'Or for a long time. This is what we do. We want to bring the filmgoers closer to the filmmakers. Our patrons are not the normal movie going audience in the sense that they just go and see a movie. They truly look at it as an art form. And we are so grateful to bring filmmakers to them and give them a glimpse behind the curtain of filmmaking and what it took, why decisions were made, etc."
Although the film "Trumbo," is a serious film, Cranston also wants fans to know that it will be an enjoyable time at the movies, "When Jay Roach and I come out there on Sunday, November 15, we'll be able to discuss those with our patrons and I couldn't be happier. It's a valuable time, it's an important film, it has an important message. The seriousness of the subject matter is still wrapped in an entertaining movie. We wanted it to be entertaining, it was our responsibility to do that. We're very exciting to bring Trumbo to the desert."