Bryan Cranston, fresh off the massive success of Breaking Bad, blasts out of the movie gate with an incredible performance in one of the most anticipated films this season – Trumbo.
It’s a fast-paced if light-hearted look at a dark chapter in American history, the growing fear of Communism and how it impacted ten Hollywood writers accused of being sympathetic to the Communist ideal.
The blacklist they were put under was the result of the rise of the Cold War as America tried to root out Communist idealists under every typewriter key, especially those who wrote the films that influenced Mr. and Mrs. America.
It was a time of paranoia between two nuclear superpowers that made criminals of movie screenwriters, some of whom landed in jail for their political beliefs.
Cranston plays two-time Oscar-winning writer Dalton Trumbo, one of the so-called Hollywood Ten. We spoke with Cranston about the film, which is directed by Jay Roach and co-stars Diane Lane and Helen Mirren.
Monsters and Critics: Trumbo is great with words, he’s opinionated, and he’s funny. He’s also an un-ironic rich Commie. Was that a serious flaw in him, or just a little thing that didn’t really matter?
Bryan Cranston: He was that swimming pool communist, but he wasn’t really a communist. He was a socialist because he loved being wealthy and he didn’t want to stop being wealthy.
He just wanted to help the working class in developing having a legitimate minimum wage and having more jobs available because that’s where he came from.
I personally don’t feel true communism works outside anything but maybe on a kibbutz, or three couples going on a vacation. “You cook tonight, tomorrow I cook and we’ll split the duties evenly and we’ll have a good time!”
That’s where communism works. I don’t think it can work in an actual political structure.
M&C: Well it didn’t work in Russia did it?
BC: No. And Stalin wasn’t a communist. He was a fascist, a horrible, horrible fascist. A communist leader in the true sense of the word would assemble the monies and split.
The communism label was associated with that. So in the US it was connected to Stalin.
M&C: The Hollywood Ten communist witch-hunt represents a dark chapter in American history. How important was it to have the film be authentic?
BC: The goal of every historical film is to have that verisimilitude to the story. But it means nothing if it’s not entertaining.
It’s a big responsibility to make a movie and tell the truth and, if there is theatrical license, to know what is allowable and what is questionable.
We went through painstaking detail in order to make sure the creative license taken on Trumbo was acceptable.
For instance the conversation between Trumbo and John Wayne didn’t happen. It happened between Trumbo and Carl Foreman, the writer on High Noon.
M&C: But it pretty much sums up what a fervent right wing anti-red John Wayne was.
BC: John Wayne’s point of view is accurately depicted.
Watch the Trumbo trailer
Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane and Helen Mirren, is out on November 25.