Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston explains to Keeley Bolger why he signed up the the new adaptation of the classic monster movie Godzilla.
It’s easy to see why Bryan Cranston, star of landmark TV drama Breaking Bad, would describe his career as being something of a dream come true.
Though work has always been steady for the 58-year-old, with roles on stage, in TV adverts (including one for haemorrhoid cream), and in the popular comedy series Malcolm In The Middle, it was as terminally ill chemistry teacher-turned-kingpin Walter White in Breaking Bad that Cranston really made a name for himself.
Last year, after five series and five years playing him, he bid adieu to the character, but it’s clear that he’s still reaping the benefits from being so closely associated with the era-defining show.
He’s not ‘money-motivated’, he says, but Breaking Bad means he no longer has to worry about his bank balance, confiding that he ‘doesn’t even know how much [I] make on projects any more’.
Money may not be on his mind, but roles are at the forefront. Following such a huge part was always going to be difficult, with fans and Hollywood anxious to see what he’d take on next. Cranston’s answer has been to defy expectations, by signing up to the new adaptation of Godzilla.
Though initially ‘snobbish’ about working on a blockbuster, he accepted the part of Joe, a tortured scientist – and father to central character Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson – who makes it his life’s work to prove the existence of Godzilla.
“I knew whatever I did next would be compared to Breaking Bad, so I had to be very careful about what I chose,” explains the actor.
“Godzilla is a completely different genre [for me]. This can’t be compared to Breaking Bad and it’s also going to be a surprise to a lot of people, and I like that.
“People might predict, ‘Oh, he’s going to do this next’, and then I go in another direction. It also surprises me and challenges me to do things that are riskier, and maybe not as commercially-minded.
“Certainly, the worst thing I could have done is taken on another character who was like Walter White, or a killer of some sort, because then you are allowing the pigeon-holing to be reinforced,” he adds.
Recently, Cranston has been on stage in New York playing former US president Lyndon B Johnson in a production of All The Way (set to continue until next month). The demands of a three-hour performance – he is on stage for most of the acts – means that he regularly has ‘silent Mondays’, using notes to communicate so he can preserve his voice and energy.
For some, the stage felt an unusual move when every director under the sun wanted him for their films.
“People ask me, ‘Why are you doing a Broadway play?’” says the star, who is married to fellow actor Robin Dearden, with whom he has a daughter.
“Six months of my time... I could have done two movies and made a lot more money. It’s not about the money. It’s about being fulfilled.”
Next up, Cranston hopes that he can take a pew on the director’s chair and bring his own screenplay to audiences. So far, the ‘very personal’ project has been met with positive responses from the studios b ut, as he says, ‘it takes a long, long time to get it to the point where you’re actually making the movie’.
“The case in point is Argo. George Clooney was already a superstar and his production company who produced Argo tried for six years before they could get it done,” he says.
Patience might be needed, but it seems Cranston won’t be lacking in enthusiasm for his work while he waits.
“I am living my dream, and if I just wrote and directed this movie, that would be absolutely perfect,” he says.
After all, he is living proof that work can get better and better.
“The decision to become an actor is not a short-term decision,” Cranston reflects. “ I would encourage all actors, any artist, to say, ‘This is your lifetime’. A good wine takes a good time to mature, and so does an artist.”