What’s next for the man behind Walter White? With Breaking Bad steadily approaching its conclusion – portending the wholesale downfall of Heisenberg with every passing episode – Bryan Cranston’s schedule looks wide open for the immediate future. Coupling the show’s towering success with his shrewd participation in award hits like Argo, he has all the clout he needs to cherry pick roles at his leisure going forward from here, which ought to put some heft behind his decision to peg Jay Roach’s biopic about Dalton Trumbo as his first post-Bad project.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s probably by design. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten, blacklisted in 1947 by the House Un-American Activities Committee for refusing to answer questions about their alleged ties to the Communist party. He’s also widely recognized for his personal crusade – today, anyways – to subvert the blacklist by penning film scripts under an array of pseudonyms after being released from prison after serving eleven months for contempt of Congress in 1950. If you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus or Otto Preminger’s Exodus (or Roman Holiday!), you know Trumbo’s work; he’s not just a great writer, he’s a hero.
The announcement came out of Deadline‘s camp yesterday evening. Apart from Cranston, Roach – who currently also has the Lance Armstrong biopic on his docket, as well as a potential fourth Austin Powers film – and screenwriter John McNamara, no other names appear to be involved at present. That said, Groundswell Productions (Sideways, The Illusionist, Win Win, The Informant!) plans to start piecing the movie together sometime in 2014, so it’s possible that the rest of the cast and crew will come together before we know it.
Roach may be something of a surprise as helmsman for a serious biographical drama about a major figure in one of the grimmest events of Hollywood’s lifetime, but Game Change showed that he has chops outside of crass genre parodies political satires (The Campaign). Cranston, on the other hand, makes enormous sense to star as a man who essentially had to lead a double life in his bid to defy the blacklist; if anyone knows how to portray the strain that kind of duplicity can place on a man’s personal relationships, it’s him. (Time to start wondering what kind of preparation he’ll undergo to make his portrayal of Trumbo shine.)
In short, this seems like a great choice for Cranston, artistically if not commercially. Even decades after the blacklist dissolved, having lost its credibility thanks to the efforts of people like Trumbo, the topic remains interesting and ripe for examination, as evidenced by the release of books like Hollywood’s Blacklists, Shedding Light on the Hollywood Blacklist, and Blacklisted during the ’00s.
Whether or not Trumbo should be preemptively qualified as awards bait is a separate conversation entirely, though it’s unlikely that a film about Tinsel Town politics during the second Red Scare would make it very far past the Academy.
But that’s not to say it won’t be a winner in other areas. What’s your take on this, Screen Ranters? Is Cranston making the right move by stepping into Trumbo’s shoes following Bad‘s end? Or do you think he’d just be better off either developing shows for AMC or playing Lex Luthor?
We’ll keep you up to date on Trumbo developments as they become available.