Though the times are changing thanks to video on demand and a growing interest in both displaying and watching taped theatrical performances, the theater is, at its core and through no real fault of its own, a noninclusive medium.
Many of us will never get to see the finest actors on the grand stages of Broadway’s most historically rich venues and the revered West End; and even if we see one or two such performances, we can never see, appreciate and be inspired by them all. Say what you will about TV and film, but in that they deliver their best work to the masses (as well as all the other dreck that surrounds that work), we are all well served by them, particularly in this era of cable TV excellence where 18 million people can watch Peter Dinklage’s masterful work on Game of Thrones and 10 million people can watch Bryan Cranston take his last bow as Walter White on Breaking Bad.
When all the tickets are tallied up, there will be far less than 10 million people who got the chance to see Cranston fully embody his latest thoroughly complex character in All the Way, the Tony Award winning play from Robert Schenkkan about President Lyndon B. Johnson; but those numbers could swell if Steven Spielberg has his way.
According to Deadline, director and producer Steven Spielberg is interested in adapting All the Way into a mini-series – and he wants Cranston to reprise his role as LBJ, the 36th President of the United States in the period following the assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and the eventful year that followed as Johnson worked to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The assumption is that HBO could be a logical landing spot for this project due to its previous work with Spielberg (Band of Brothers, The Pacific) and, perhaps also their sterling track record with theatrical adaptations like Angels in America and The Normal Heart. However, HBO already told a Lyndon B. Johnson story in 2002 with Path to War; that film, from John Frankenheimer, dealt more with the Vietnam War, its toll on Johnson and the whole of his presidency, though.
Besides HBO, one imagines that any of the pay cabler’s rivals might be interested, considering the high profile nature of the project (thanks to its success at the Tony Awards) and the names that are attached. It’s also worth pondering whether this is a role that Cranston could play for quite awhile, albeit in quick bursts.
As Deadline further reports, Schenkkan also has another LBJ play in the works with The Great Society, which will continue to tell the story of President Johnson’s presidency through its culmination, the Great Society initiative and the Vietnam war. Could Spielberg and Cranston adopt a more UK-friendly format to tell both stories in 2 or 3 episode chunks per “season” as an event series? Would Schenkkan go further to tell the story behind Johnson’s last days, out of the spotlight and in poor health on his Texas ranch, while the world kept spinning?
Regardless, this project sounds like an ambitious, well intentioned look into the life of the controversial man who suddenly found himself presiding over a supremely tumultuous and transformative period in American history in the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy whose scars can still be seen. it also sounds like a great way for Cranston to dedicate himself to a role (while maintaining flexibility) that is unlike any others that he has played on-screen, embracing his stated desire to not be “derivative” of himself – while allowing the masses to witness the transformation for ourselves.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for more news about All the Way.