In The Infiltrator, Bryan Cranston plays Robert Mazur, an unassuming U.S. Customs agent who went undercover and ended up busting up the money laundering operation of Pablo Escobar, the most powerful and dangerous drug lord in South America. Mazur, who is still with us, did this by taking on the persona of a crooked Mob accountant, “Bob Musella,” ingratiating himself into the upper echelons of Escobar’s operation and becoming friendly with distributors like Roberto Alcaino (played in the film by Benjamin Bratt).
It was potentially fatal work, and director Brad Furman’s film captures the intensity of Mazur’s high-wire act as well as the emotional trauma it wreaks on him and his family. Of course, Cranston is amazing in the movie, adding Mazur to a recent list of real-life people that he’s brought vividly to life onscreen. Screen Rant spoke with the award-winning actor about playing Mazur, how undercover work is and isn’t like acting, and going from this to his role in the upcoming Power Rangers movie as Zordon, mentor to the Rangers.
You’ve played Dalton Trumbo, Lyndon Johnson, but in playing Bob Mazur you got to actually hang out with Bob Mazur. How do you think that influenced your performance and what kind of insight did you gain into the man?
Bryan Cranston: It was a terrific advantage to be able to play a non-fictional character and that person is actually alive and well and functioning and desires to work with you and consult with you and help you in any way possible, and Bob was certainly that. You know, he gave me tremendous insight on the details and the day-to-day and the monotony at times of what it was to follow through on these steps, how to build a family tree of the organization you’re going to bring down. You have to remember the players’ names, who’s the boss of whom and all that – there’s a lot to take in. It’s like putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle.
And I then in turn was able to question him about, what was it like then going home every night and becoming dad and becoming the husband again – how was that? How was it for you, Bob, that you became friends with Roberto Alcaino, and then had to arrest him and send him to jail? What does that do to you emotionally, you know, and find out what those experiences were like, so that when you’re crafting a character, it’s not only plot but emotional, character-driven things that you can blend into one performance.
Did you realize while talking to him that while the stakes are very different, these guys are actors in a lot of ways?
Yeah, yeah. It is. That wasn’t difficult, to play a different character – in the film, The Infiltrator, I play three different characters at one time and it’s not difficult for an actor to assume that responsibility. The difference is the repercussions of playing it. What is the end result? Well, the end result for me is I’m sitting here with you, we’re talking about something that’s done and completed and I am not in danger, you know – only for bad reviews, perhaps, but not physically in any danger. Bob Mazur is never done – in fact, to this day, he won’t appear on camera and his voice is augmented. He needs to protect himself and his family still, because he put a lot of people behind bars who hold a grudge, and they don’t like that.
Benjamin Bratt said that he (Mazur) only got one take ever…
That’s a good, a good analogy, and if you make a mistake, it’s like being a construction worker on a high rise building – you make a mistake there, it’s costly, either you or someone else. It’s very different from what actors do.
You’re going to be playing Zordon in Power Rangers…
I am Zordon.
Are you going to be a giant floating head? Do you know how you’re going to look?
It’s going to hold true to a lot of the previous Power Rangers versions in that sense, but it’s a completely different, reimagined experience. So there is no, can I say, corniness that there was to the old Power Rangers show. No, this is going to be a big film and a completely reimagined approach to telling the story. But there are certain tenets of that story that you want to hold true to, and yeah, that’s one of them, that he is a spirit, in the head, in walls, omnipresent in their lair.
The Infiltrator will be in U.S. theaters July 13, 2016.