“As an actor you need to be willing to be embarrassed or humiliated when it’s appropriate, it’s called for — and it was for this film.” – Bryan Cranston
Actor Bryan Cranston, best known for his depiction of Walter White in Breaking Bad, is about to hit the big screen taking the central role in biopic Trumbo. Cranston plays the part of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenplay writer who was brought before the Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. At the time, Trumbo was the most successful screenwriter working in Hollywood, and the committee wanted to investigate whether he and others had been placing Communist propaganda into films.
Trumbo and the nine other people called on all refused to testify, and Trumbo was sentenced to eleven months in prison, as well as being blacklisted from working in Hollywood. Trumbo decided to write under a pseudonym, and when blacklisting ended, it became known that he had written the screenplays for Exodus, Spartacus and Roman Holiday.
While filming the movie, Cranston had to bare everything, both literally and figuratively in order to deliver an authentic performance; including enduring a strip search scene set in the jail.
“He is stripped down to nothing and it’s emblematic in what they did to him in stripping his dignity, so I should be undignified in that matter,” Cranston told the NY Daily News.
“It was an easy decision to make, and yet it’s difficult when you actually come and go today is the day and you’re naked in front of the entire crew and, ‘Here I am!’ And you use that kind of embarrassment for the character. As an actor you need to be willing to be embarrassed or humiliated when it’s appropriate, it’s called for — and it was for this film.
“They decided not to use that just because I’m so well-endowed that it would be embarrassing,” he joked.
As well as researching the working life of Trumbo, including his friendship with studio owner Frank King (played by John Goodman in the film), Cranston took the time to talk with Trumbo’s daughters about their father, and they helped him build his character by looking back over home movies and photographs.
“I told his daughters, I don’t want to do an impersonation of your father, that’s not what I’m after,” recalled Cranston. “What I’m after is to get his sensibility so when you see this, that you go, ‘That feels like my dad.’”
There is a lot of buzz surrounding Trumbo, in particular a lot of praise for Cranston’s performance which inevitably leads to discussion of awards, since the season is right around the corner, but Cranston insists that isn’t what he’s after at all.
Talking about his first on screen credit, Cranston says: “My most proudest achievement is still when I was 25 years old and I knew, ‘I’ve done it.’ (That meant) I’m an actor, this is what I do for a living. And from that point on, whatever else happens is gravy. I was never the guy in the shower giving the acceptance speech.”