'Like good wine, artists take time to mature'
6:00am Saturday 24th May 2014
6:00am Saturday 24th May 2014
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, who is smartly kitted out in a navy suit and brown tie.
"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 with people so that 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 one 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."
Growing up as the son of two actors, Cranston was exposed to the world of performing from an early age, taking family trips to the film studios surrounding Los Angeles, where they lived.
But as a child, he had ambitions to play baseball, and it wasn't until he was already at college that he began to see the appeal of following in his parents' footsteps. "I discovered the girls in the theatre department were much prettier than the girls in the police science department, where I was majoring," he recalls, laughing.
Looking back, Cranston is astounded that we still expect our teenagers to know in which direction they want their careers to go.
"It dawns on me that we ask our 16 and 17-year-olds to be thinking about what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and it's the most ridiculous thing in the world," he says.
Cranston's 21-year-old daughter Taylor is hoping to make her own mark in acting, but her famous father - who dedicated his best actor in a drama award at last year's Screen Actors Guild Awards to Taylor and her mum - is no pushy parent.
"My daughter is still in college," says the star, who also had a role in Ben Affleck and George Clooney's 2012 political thriller Argo. "But it's better not to wear the acting coach hat with her. She needs to find her own way and she has her own acting mentors.
"We talk in a general sense about acting, but I very rarely direct [advice] specifically at her. I'd rather be her dad."
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. "George Clooney. Six years before they could get Argo made!"
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."
EXTRA TIME - GODZILLA
:: 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the original Japanese Godzilla film.
:: Cranston says that Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays his child Ford in the film, became like a son, rolling his eyes at Cranston's jokes.
:: Godzilla is British director Gareth Edwards's first blockbuster, having previously won plaudits for his independent film Monsters, which he wrote, directed and produced all the special effects for on his laptop.
:: As a child, Cranston had a Godzilla poster on his wall. "Anything 'destruction' was good, because I was a typical boy. I wanted to destroy everything and I probably destroyed the poster with darts."
:: Cranston believes the message in Godzilla is a pertinent one. "I love the ambiguity of it. Is he good or bad? Is man bad or good? I think it's a reflection of that. Man is both bad and good, and so is Godzilla."
:: Godzilla is released in cinemas on Thursday, May 15
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