In a world where being PC seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, a film like Trumbo has never been needed more than at a time like this. Trumbo directed by Jay Roach, is a true story about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) who was blacklisted from getting work in Hollywood for his political views. In the 1940’s during the Red Scare, Trumbo was pulled into the Communist Party while he refused to answer questions he was asked by the Un-American Activities Committee about his political stance. He testified for the committee after a list of supposed famous Communists was leaked. Instead of cooperating with the committee, Trumbo wouldn’t hand over additional names, and was jailed for 11 months because of it.
The film documents Trumbo’s journey and puts a focus on how the screenwriter’s creative freedom and integrity as a working man in the industry was stripped from him. The film also showcases Trumbo’s bold nature and how, despite the climate circulating around Hollywood, he wouldn’t be silenced, even if it meant writing under faux names.
Actress Diane Lane plays Trumbo’s wife Cleo Trumbo, while Michael Stuhlbarg plays real life actor Edward G. Robinson.
Both Lane and Stuhlbarg sat down at AOL HQ’s to talk about the themes throughout Trumbo.
On the importance of making the film now:
Michael Stuhlbarg: Edward G Robinson’s story in this film is complicated. His life is complicated and we don’t get to see a lot of it. Beyond what it means to have this story coming out right now, it’s just a fantastic story. You have icons that you can watch that everyone knows about, like John Wayne, Kurt Douglass, but it’s a very human story as well. It’s about what people do with very horrific circumstances that they have no control over. Someone was brave enough to say, “No, you can’t push people to talk about things that don’t concern.”
On the relevancy of Trumbo’s bravery:
Diane Lane: That’s what Trumbo did. It’s an amazing story and if it was fiction people would hardly believe it, but no that’s a piece of our history in the name of defining what it is to be American, and the tenuous first American Rights that we hold dear in a way that they’re flexible, and the way it gets applied to different times, and the way it is hijacked is I think is what’s relevant in both eras.
On creating a relationship with actor Bryan Cranston:
Lane: I had the honor of seeing him perform on stage in All The Way. I liked to say that having witnessed him live in that role on stage, an actor goes through such steroidal heights of extraversion. My hair was blowing back from watching him on stage and it wasn’t even opening night yet. I think he had a two-week break before he rolled into pre-production for us on this film. I think that that served him, going into that larger than life character. Trumbo was another fabulous extroverted character.
We met with Jay [Roach], and we were together in New Orleans recreating Old Hollywood on a tax light budget. We were informed by both of Trumbo’s daughters, to making sure the screenplay was accurately portraying their father and their mother. I just see it as a wonderful time in our life that we could serve a screenplay that was noble. Everyone felt it was a great responsibility to present these real people and bring them to life in their historical reference points.
On the new blacklist in Hollywood:
Lane: We have online [Laughs] Everybody gets kicked in the pants for saying something they regret eventually because we’re all human. In the comments section you will be witch hunted, or it seems that way. You’re bleeding in a shark tank to even speak your mind. We’ve come 180 degrees in history in terms of everyone having an opportunity to exercise your freedom of speech, especially if you’re anonymous, I might add, because that helps a lot. You can throw things at people who are quote unquote famous. I do see a parallel there.
On the polarization of 9/11:
Stuhlbarg: I remember right after 9/11 there was this feeling in this country that you were either with us or against us. It was a very horrible time, but there was a great division in this country, particularly if you were in New York. I remember that excruciating feeling of “now what do we do? What’s right and what’s wrong?” Any kind of dialogue during a time of crises or fear can be dangerous to people’s lives, and that’s exactly what went on during this time, and there was fear mongering that went on to make people feel they had no choice but to follow what was happening.
On fear affecting the work:
Lane: I had the opportunity to play Hillary Clinton in a screenplay that never came to fruition. It was a rush project to get it out before it was going to have any impact on Hillary’s run for presidency. The fear element was so high that I think it shut it down in a way. It was fascinating to sit there. I felt like my hair was caught in the machine. Things can get shut down out of fear.
Trumbo is currently out in theaters.