Last night at Peggy Siegal’s “Argo” soiree in Manhattan, celebs and news luminaries were out in full force to celebrate director Ben Affleck‘s latest, a politically intriguing thriller and Hollywood satire based on true life events in the late ’70s that were only declassified by the CIA 15 years ago.
Set in the fall of 1979 when the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, Affleck stars as a CIA “exfiltration” specialist who concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador. And while “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston has a small role in the picture as Affleck’s direct CIA connection, it’s a crucial part as the character’s sole lifeline to the U.S. while embedded in Iran on this mission. And the screenplay was so good, and the players involved so enticing, Cranston didn’t care about size.
Affleck and producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney had asked Cranston to read for the role, but those names alone deeply excited him sight unseen. “You hear [these people are interested in you for the role] and then you pray the story is going to be even close to the way you feel about them,” he told The Playlist about his hopes and expectations when we spoke to him briefly last night. “But it was above and beyond.”
Cranston said he reads a script every other day and said it’s very rare that he reads one without stopping, or putting it down for a few hours. “Once I started, I couldn’t put it down,” he said of Chris Terrio‘s page-turning work, which likely will have a shot at Best Adapted Screenplay later this year. “So I was eager to see how the cutting back and forth — and the Hollywood sections that allowed us to let out a little escape of comic relief and then you get back to the tension,” he explained. “It was a brilliantly crafted script, and whenever you find something like that, it’s gold. So I wanted to get in their right away and convince them that I was the guy for the role.”
Having done his share of double duty in “Breaking Bad,” “Malcolm In The Middle” and his sole feature-length film (1999’s “Last Chance” which he wrote, directed and starred in), Cranston is acutely aware of the difficulties of acting and directing in the same project.
Having worked nonstop for a decade, Cranston says Affleck is one of the greatest directors he has worked with bar none. “I don’t even want to preface it,” he said of the actor/director mantle. “He’s a director to be reckoned with. He’s extremely passionate, patient, precise and sets a tone on the set that’s calm and collected so everyone can do their best work.”
Asked about the final season of “Breaking Bad” which won’t air until the summer of 2013 and hasn’t even shot yet, Cranston says he doesn’t know how it all ends. In fact, the actor said he stopped reading episodes ahead after early in season one, so he only goes episode by episode.
“I have no idea. I do know that it’s called ‘Breaking Bad’ and thing are going to go bad,” he laughed. “From season one I stopped asking about [what’s ahead]. I didn’t want to know.” Cranston asserted that he read outlines of episodes early on but it was misinforming what he was shooting at that time because the character hadn’t made that minute emotional transformation yet. “I was getting confused. ‘Oh wait, [Walter] doesn’t feel this way yet,’ ” he explained about the downside to reading future episodes that hadn’t been shot yet. “If this was a regular series where your character stays the same it could be done, but the twists and turns are so quick, it didn’t help me.”
Cranston was unequivocal about his love for the character and how difficult it will be to say goodbye to Walter White. “It’s the role of my life,” he said wistfully. “I will never have a better character than Walter White and I know that and I embrace that and I’m in the moment of that so I’m loving it.”
“Argo” opens in theaters this weekend on Friday, October 12th. The final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad” will air next summer. – Interview by Rodrigo Perez