He might be the three-in-a-row Emmy®-winning star of a show called “Breaking Bad,” but being Bryan Cranston seems like anything but that right now.
The 56-year-old native Californian’s career is red hot, fresh off a fourth Emmy nomination for playing chemistry teacher and cancer patient-turned-meth maker/dealer Walter White on the AMC drama, which is nearing the end of its short fifth season.
If that hard-edged role wasn’t enough, he has his sights set on world domination as Chancellor Cohaagen in Columbia Pictures’ Total Recall remake starring Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale, currently in theaters.
Not only is Cranston an incredibly talented actor, obviously good with meaty, dramatic roles, but he also shines with comedy (he has another three Emmy® nominations playing the tighty-whitie-wearing dad Hal on “Malcolm in the Middle,” plus small roles on ”Seinfeld,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “The King of Queens”). And to top it off, he has a reputation for being one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.
Recently in Los Angeles to promote Total Recall, his charm, wit and welcoming ways were quickly evident as he humored this reporter/fan’s gushing praise. And that’s part of what makes Cranston so easy to watch, be it on TV or on the big screen where his career has really blossomed since “Breaking Bad” premiered in 2008. From playing a detective in the surprise hit crime thriller The Lincoln Lawyer to Julia Roberts’ porn-addicted husband in Larry Crowne, Ryan Gosling’s mechanic boss involved in some shady deals in Drive, and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ sleazy husband/Los Angeles Mayor in Rock of Ages, he is in demand for his versatility, for the way he – if even just for a few small scenes - so vibrantly brings characters to life, for the way he makes audiences want to see more.
“Bryan has an intensity and an eloquence and an edge to his personality that comes across on screen,” Total Recall producer Toby Jaffe explains. “It’s why he’s in such demand as an actor.”
“Cranston is a leader of unconditional audience emotions,” says movie critic Jake Hamilton of Houston’s Fox 26 and Jake’s Takes, citing the actors devious actions – from commiting murder to poisoning a child – on his hit show and in various movie roles. ”Somehow, we cheer him on. We want him to win, even if it means we, the audience, lose. That’s talent.”
Movie audiences will get another taste of Cranston’s talent this fall as he stars opposite Ben Affleck, who also directed, in Argo, the political thriller about the rescue of six US diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. There is already early Oscar® buzz for is portrayal of Jack O’Donnell, the CIA agent and Affleck’s boss who used to be President Eisenhower’s bodyguard.
In a recent interview, director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom and the upcoming Looper) summed things up when talking to Indiewire’s Jay Hernandez about directing “Breaking Bad”‘s most latest episode, “Fifty-One,” one of the show’s finest to date. “Directing Walter White is surreal on a level that directing a movie will never be.”
In creating one of television’s greatest characters, a man who epitomizes the love-to-hate/hate-to-love notion, Cranston is pushing the art of acting to a new level and taking audiences and his colleagues on a ride they won’t soon forget.
He does the same in Total Recall, bringing new life to a role originated by Ronny Cox in Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 version. We talked about his own his “bad guy” influences and his take on the villain in our recent interview, including his humorous take on Cohaagen’s look.