Bryan Cranston had quite the week in DC! Not only did he get to have lunch at the White House, he also had a movie premiere at the Newseum and attended a BREAKING BAD donation event at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History! Oh, and he talked to me, which I am sure was the highlight of his trip.
I wasn’t at The White House, but I did attend the movie premiere on Monday night, interviewed Mr. Cranston and Jay Roach for Trumbo on Tuesday at the Jefferson Hotel, and went to the BREAKING BAD donation event on Tuesday afternoon. And no, I promise I wasn’t stalking him.
Starting on Monday night, director Jay Roach (AUSTIN POWERS, GAME CHANGE) and Bryan Cranston attended a red carpet premiere of their historically important (and interesting!) new film TRUMBO, the true story of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo, who wrote such legendary movies as ROMAN HOLIDAY and SPARTACUS, was blacklisted and imprisoned based on his political beliefs. This was the period of time where the House Un-American Activities Commission went on an anti-Communist witch hunt, ruining the careers and lives of many Americans. Such was the story of Trumbo, who was eventually forced to write under a pseudonym. Only after the intervention of such legends as Kirk Douglas did Trumbo’s work get recognized in the public sphere again.
At the Newseum’s red carpet, Bryan Cranston was delightful, making sure every journalist was able to ask a question and having hilarious exchanges with everyone. My friend, Fox 5’s Kevin McCarthy, is the biggest fan of BREAKING BAD and gave Cranston a Heisenberg tie bar a few months back at a press junket. Kevin still had one for himself. But when Cranston ran across Kevin on the red carpet for TRUMBO, he pointed out Kevin’s tie bar and said he didn’t have his with him. He asked if he could use Kevin’s for the BREAKING BAD event the next day. Kevin gladly handed it over and, true to word, Cranston wore that AT THE SMITHSONIAN INDUCTION CEREMONY THE NEXT DAY. But more on that below…
Onto Tuesday at the Jefferson Hotel – Cranston and Roach met myself and a few other reporters for a roundtable interview. It is obvious that both men care a lot about the movie and what it represents for the right of free speech. Roach confirmed that the film’s financiers had bigger names in mind for the role of Trumbo. However, he would not have done the film unless Cranston played Trumbo. Once you see the film, I think you will agree with this casting choice. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. I asked both men how involved Dalton Trumbo’s family and friends were in the process. Here’s a snippet:
Roach: Very much so. We got to know the daughters, Mitzi and Nikki Trumbo, who grew up in a household where their father was writing scripts in secret. They told us what it was like to hear him muttering characters’ lines while he was in the bathtub drinking scotch and smoking cigarette after cigarette – lighting one with the previous cigarette. That is what the film reached for – an authenticity. You can never cover a thirteen year story in two hours, but you try to get the essence. I always try to find, “what was the sense of pressure on this family that people can relate to.” They were incredibly helpful. We combined the two daughters a little bit into the character Elle Fanning played. Each daughter is so different the way they come at the story. Their stories sometimes differed about how things went down.
We became arbitrators, in a way about what really happened. One of the great things I love about our movie is that the daughters hadn’t been close until recently and now they’ve gotten to spend a lot more time together. They’re Trumbos; they like the battle of ideas. We also got to talk to Kirk Douglas. He had a really great take on who Trumbo was and what it was like to work with him. Bryan got to talk to him after…
Cranston: Yeah, I talked to him after he saw the movie. He was very complimentary but had one serious criticism. He said, “I don’t know understand why I wasn’t called to play Kirk Douglas.” [everyone laughs] He will be ninety-nine next month.
Roach: We loved the guy who played him. Can you imagine the fear of not having [Kirk] like the actor playing him? He loved that guy. He was so happy to see this story told. What Kirk Douglas risked to get Trumbo’s name out there, and what Otto Preminger risked… in an environment when to do so was almost instant doom for your project. To put one of these guys on your project was an incredibly negative thing.
Cranston: Let alone, the shadow it cast on your career possibly… the rest of your career.
Roach: People like Lee Grant… she was blacklisted for just giving a eulogy at the funeral of a blacklisted writer. The most minor bit of association could devastate your project. Kirk Douglas put some of his own money into SPARTACUS, had fired the director, hires Kubrick, is fighting with Kubrick, and then takes this very bold choice of putting Trumbo’s name on the movie. He breaks the spell in doing so. Along with Otto Preminger, who announced he was going to credit Trumbo even earlier. It was an incredible situation and we benefited greatly in doing the research to get to authenticity with the family and friends of Trumbo.
As we said our goodbyes, Lauren Veneziani and I told Bryan we would see him later at the BREAKING BAD event and she reminded him about the tie bar (which he said he was still planning on wearing). But I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical that this would all work out.
Cut to Tuesday evening. The Smithsonian Museum of American History has really outdone itself with its BREAKING BAD collection (donated by Sony Pictures Television). They have two yellow Tyvek suits (and gas masks) from the show, the Heisenberg hat, and of course, the (fake!) blue crystal meth. There are more items too, which join the museum’s large collection of TV artifacts that potentially will be showcased in the American culture exhibit opening in 2018. AND did I mention basically the entire cast of the show (including Cranston, Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Dean Norris, RJ Mitte, etc.), as well as show creator Vince Gilligan, were all on-hand for the ceremony!?!?!
Myself, Lauren V., and Kevin were sitting on the end of the row of seats, geeking out about the fact that we were in the presence of iconic items and the cast of one of our favorite shows – one of the best shows of all time (see below for more pics). All of a sudden, the cast and family members start coming in and Bryan Cranston’s wife taps Kevin on the shoulder and lets him know Bryan will be wearing the tie bar. So not only did she recognize Kevin, the biggest BREAKING BAD fan on the planet, but she also wanted him to know that Bryan loved the tie bar and was wearing it at this special event. How cool is that?
But want to know something even cooler? When Cranston got up to speak at the event, he walked over to the exhibit table and PUT THE HEISENBERG HAT ON IN FRONT OF US. To say I had a fangirl freakout was an understatement. And no surprise, he was wearing the tie bar… see:
So that is my story about definitely not stalking Bryan Cranston… and how he is a funny, awesome man! Go see TRUMBO and plan your visit to the Smithsonian ASAP.