“When you’re watching a horror movie, you know in the back of your mind that it’s not real. But that was real. This was a dark period, not only in Hollywood history but in American history,” says actor Bryan Cranston about the true events depicted in his new film “Trumbo.” He plays Dalton Trumbo, one of the top screenwriters in the 1940s, who refused to testify when called before the House Un-American Activities Committee about communists in the film industry.
In our recent interview (watch below), Cranston adds, “A government body oppressed the First Amendment and took away civil liberties that were hard-fought based on fear. They sent 10 men to prison (including Trumbo), not because they broke the law but because the answers they gave under the pressure of imprisonment didn’t please the committee.”
Studio executives were so afraid of repurcussions that they unofficially put many suspected communists and sympathizers on a “blacklist” so they could no longer work in Hollywood. Trumbo got around this ban by writing scripts under other names. Two of those films won Oscars for screenplays — “Roman Holiday” (1953) and “The Brave One” (1956). Academy officials later recognized him as the true author by presenting his family with Oscar statuettes in 1975 and 1993.
Even though he couldn’t claim them at the time, what did those award wins mean to Trumbo? Cranston says,”It was paradoxical for him to win two Oscars because it was under different names. There was an asterisk next to both of them because he couldn’t do it freely and couldn’t put them on a mantel and say ‘I did this.’ He had to hide and live in the shadows and no one should have to do that.”
Cranston himself might be in a line for an Oscar nomination as Best Actor this year. His career has already included six Emmy wins for the drama series “Breaking Bad” (four for acting, two for producing). He also prevailed at the Tony Awards last year for portraying President Lyndon Johnson in the play “All the Way” for Broadway. An adaptation of that production is now filming for HBO.
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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bleecker Street