It's a good time to be Bryan Cranston. The two-time Golden Globe nominee will be back on the small screen in the upcoming fourth season of AMC's Breaking Bad, and appearing in several promising upcoming titles, including Andrew Stanton's John Carter, Ben Affleck's Argo - and now, it seems, Ruben Flesicher's Gangster Squad.
Cranston would join the likes of Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Oscar-nominees Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, and multiple Oscar-winner Sean Penn as cast members of the true-story period crime drama.
Variety says Cranston is currently in negotiations to join Gangster Squad, which is being scripted by former L.A. cop-turned-screenwriter Will Beall (Castle) - based on the L.A. Times' seven-part series "Tales From the Gangster Squad", as written by Paul Lieberman.
Gangster Squad dramatizes the real-life story of an "off the record" LAPD force that was assigned the task of controlling East Coast mobster types who'd made their way into the City of Angels during the 1940s and 50s - specifically, the brutal "Jewish Mafia" head, Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen (Penn). Brolin and Gosling are set to portray the two L.A. cops that lead the covert operation, with Cranston portraying their fellow officer, a Texan native who (as Variety puts it) "enforces the law ambitiously."
There's a whole lot that reads as promising about that premise and the talent involved in bringing it to life. Penn may not be everyone's favorite celebrity in real life, but there's no denying that he has a powerful screen presence. The idea of him portraying a vicious mobster sounds great, even before you factor in the involvement of his fellow consistently-excellent actors (Gosling, Mackie, Brolin - and now, it seems, Cranston). With Bealle undoubtedly drawing off his own personal experiences to tell a more realistic cops vs. criminals tale, and Fleischer (Zombieland) lending his artistic sensibilities as a director, this could be a stellar crime drama.
On a related note: Barry Levinson's Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father is also vying to become the next great based-on-a-true-story crime saga, ranking alongside now classic titles like The Untouchables or Goodfellas. Even with Al Pacino set to appear in that picture, though, it seems like Gangster Squad has the advantage right now, if only because of all the great actors set to appear in the latter film.
We'll let you know when Gangster Squad secures an official release date.