With three Screen Actors Guild nominations and a pair of Golden Globe mentions, Jay Roach’s “Trumbo” — about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s embattled period on the Hollywood blacklist — is still very much in the thick of the Oscar conversation. And in the wake of movies like “The Artist,” “Argo” and “Birdman,” Hollywood-centric tales that gave the industry a chance to commend itself, it’s obviously a movie that could resonate with voters.
“I think what’s resonating is that all those movies you mentioned — and I was fortunate enough to be in ‘Argo’ — had something important to say, and I think ‘Trumbo’ does as well,” Cranston argues. “The fact that they’re related to Hollywood, I think, is more circumstantial. I would say that this dark period of Hollywood, when our own union, the Screen Actors Guild — and the Directors Guild and the Writers Guild and the Motion Picture Academy — turned against its own members, just illustrates a level of fear that permeated the industry and the country back then. If ‘Trumbo’ is successful in shedding a little light on something that did happen and hopefully will never happen again, I think it’s a good thing.”
Indeed, the film comes at an interesting time for America. It’s a movie about an era when paranoia claimed the very soul of the nation, but all it takes is a quick glance at the daily news cycle to see that we could be in danger of falling into such despair again.
Donald Trump, the current poll leader for the Republican presidential nomination, recently called for a ban on Muslim travel to the U.S. in the wake of an ISIS-inspired mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Roanoke, Va., mayor David Bowers, in a letter encouraging the denial of Syrian refugees in his state after the attacks in Paris, invoked the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Cranston commented in August, when Trump’s campaign was more humorous than terrifying, that the business magnate’s presence in the race was “refreshing.” In clarifying those sentiments, he suggests Trump is a test for the nation’s psyche.
“[I said that] because, in his own brash and honest way, I truly think he is being himself and being honest to himself,” Cranston says. “But it’s an ugly presentation of what America should stand for, and now it’s gone to the place where this reality show huckster is in a position to get attention at every beck and call. His racist comments against Muslims, I mean, it’s repugnant. Hopefully the sense of decorum and righteousness and good will that this country is based on will rise to the top.”
Nevertheless, the actor maintains that it is still “good for the country” that Trump is involved. “He stirs up the pot,” Cranston says. “It is not a status quo. It is not politics as usual. We are in a tremendously different climate right now. And in the true spirit of Trumbo, we all should defend Donald Trump’s right to speak his mind. That’s the great thing about America, is that he has the right. No one should attempt to shut him down or quiet him. You don’t have to agree with him by any means, but he has the right to speak his mind and his opinion without persecution.”
That said, Trump represents a “wake-up call for America,” Cranston reasserts, “to really force us to look deeper than the surface. Because he’s a very surface guy, and we need to look deeper than that and demand more from our public officials, more thoughtful introspection and a collaborative nature. He’s not able to do that because of his extreme narcissism. But the more that he presents himself as his true self, the more we’ll realize how wrongheaded he is.”