'Breaking Bad' star tackles Hollywood blacklist in biopic Trumbo

Sun Sep 13, 2015 10:48am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jeffrey Hodgson

TORONTO (Reuters) - After winning widespread acclaim in "Breaking Bad", Bryan Cranston is tackling one of Hollywood's darkest eras, portraying radical screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a high profile victim of the blacklist era of the 1940s and 50s.

"Trumbo", which had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, follows his journey from a life as one of the world's best paid screenwriters to being decried as a traitor, jailed and forced to write classics like "Roman Holiday" in secret.

While the rabid fear that drove Hollywood studios to blacklist suspected communists may have passed, Cranston said Trumbo's story still holds lessons in the debate about how to balance security with freedom. He said the issue of oversight of the U.S. National Security Agency is just one example.

“The message in "Trumbo" does have a tremendous relevance. It is a cautionary tale. At least that’s the way I saw it. It’s an attack on the first amendment," he said in an interview.

The film started life in 2008 when "Trumbo" screenwriter John McNamara was looking for work at the end of a Hollywood writers' strike. A friend spotted a biography of Trumbo on his bookshelf and suggested the story would make a great movie.

McNamara agreed, but argued no studio would want to make a period piece about a hero who was a communist. His friend helped convince him the story was simply too compelling, spurring him to spend years developing the project.

"It is the rarest of things, a true story with a happy ending," said McNamara. "That was the reason I wanted to write the movie."

After years of being forced to work under fake names, writing everything from low-budget horror movies to the Academy Award-winning script for "The Brave One", Trumbo helped to break the blacklist.   Continued...

Bryan Cranston arrives on the red carpet for the film "Trumbo" during the 40th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, September 12, 2015.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch