This week sees the release of Hollywood blacklist drama Trumbo, for which Breaking Bad icon Bryan Cranston recently picked up a Best Actor nomination at this year’s Oscars.
As befits a film about one of Hollywood’s most talented screenwriters, Cranston had a lot to say at the London Film Festival’s press conference for the movie. Here are eight things we learned from the mouth of the man himself.
1. The message of Trumbo is still relevant today
“I think the message resonates internationally; any time a government overreaches its powers to oppress the civil rights of its citizenry, that’s cause for alarm.
“It happened in the United States. This was a breach of our First Amendment to the Constitution, which states the right to free speech, and a man went to prison for a year for committing no crime. I think that’s certainly worth a story, and as a cautionary tale, hopefully it will resonate internationally.”
2. His favourite Trumbo moment involved a confrontation with John Wayne
“I think that the phrase that keeps ringing in my ears really is emblematic of the message in Trumbo. And that is the moment when Trumbo addresses John Wayne, and says: ‘We just have a different opinion, and that’s the point. We both have a right to be wrong’.
3. Parakeets love pecking false moustaches
On working with the bird playing Trumbo’s pet parakeet:
“I placed the bird on my shoulder. I loved that little bird, his name was ‘Sloppy Joe’, and he loved to preen. I had the fake moustache, and he would constantly peck at my moustache, so we just incorporated that as if they were kisses.
“He would also dig into my ear, I don’t know what he found in there… and would pick at my hair. He was very affectionate. He would rub against me, and I just fell in love with that little bird.”
4. He was drawn to Trumbo’s way with words
“These were very prolific writers and wordsmiths, and Dalton certainly was one of the top. I enjoyed the flamboyancy and the flair and that dramatic nature that he had. He always enjoyed the idea of using a word where his audience didn’t know what it meant, just to stump ’em a little bit!”
5. An opposing political viewpoint is fun to play…but there’s a line
On being asked if he would work with a script that was pushing a political agenda he didn’t agree with:
“I would for the money! [laughter] In some ways – well, a political agenda, that’s more personal and important – but in some ways when you do that you’re taking on the role of a heavy, the antagonist, and that point of view, and it’s actually fun to get behind a character like that.
“But if it strikes something very personal, then no, you don’t want to promulgate that.”
6. Hollywood has always been political
“I think Hollywood is fascinated with politics and vice versa. But I think it’s circumstantial that in any given year there’s something that makes films more political. I don’t think there’s an agenda, which speaks to the whole story of Trumbo.
“The House Un-American Activities Committee thought there was this collusion to promulgate Communism through film, which was a ridiculous notion. It’s all based on story, and who’s in power at any given time.”
7. (Self-imposed) Blacklisting still exists in Hollywood
“I think there is some self-imposed blacklisting in Hollywood. You could say Mel Gibson has done something. And any misbehaviour is certainly that. If you have skeletons coming out of your closet that expose you to abnormal behaviour, or any kind of criminal behaviour, you could put yourself on that blacklist, because people don’t want to work with you.”
Speaking of which…
8. He was once asked to work with OJ Simpson (‘after’)
“There was a time many many years ago when I was told that I was up for a film, and I was very excited about it, because it was a job, and they said ‘I think they’re gonna get OJ Simpson to be in the movie too!’ And I went… ‘Oh no. No, no, no!’ And as actors started hearing about that, they started dropping out… This was ‘after’. And as they started dropping out, the movie just fell apart. It was impossible to sustain that kind of thing.
“So I hope that there aren’t any political blacklists, and I hope that there isn’t any sexual orientation blacklist. I think we’re moving out of that as a society, and I think that’s a great thing. There are probably some lists of people who don’t want to hire certain people.”
9. A cameo in Better Call Saul is just a phone call away
“I don’t know if a cameo is in the works for Better Call Saul for my character. It could be! And I certainly would do it if Vince Gilligan wanted me to, I would absolutely do that.”
Trumbo is in UK cinemas from Friday.