Breaking out of Breaking Bad, actor Bryan Cranston bagged himself an Oscar nomination for Trumbo***, playing the 1950s, Oscar-winning screenwriter Donald Trumbo.
Only Trumbo, who became the town’s highest-paid script writer, had to take most of his glory under another name. His wins for Roman Holiday and The Brave One were achieved while he was on the infamous Black List, those members of the Hollywood 10 who were named and shamed as being Communists and hauled before the House of Un-American Activities.
This is a fine little film about those times, peopled by characters such as Edward G Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg), John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and vituperative Hollywood gossip queen Hedda Hopper (a rather unlikeable and oddly uncomfortable performance from Helen Mirren).
Cranston himself turns up the tics – sitting in the bath to bash away on his typewriter, cigarette holder in mouth, glass of whisky nearby and huge spectacles steaming up while his moustache gently droops.
However, he also brings a lovely humility to the bluster, standing up for his principles in the face of mounting Hollywood duplicity and cowardice. Surely that famous “I’m Spartacus” sequence in Spartacus, which Trumbo wrote, is a screenwriter’s sweet revenge on the betrayals and battles he himself had to endure.
Obviously, I like films in which flamboyant writers turn out be heroes. Trumbo is just one such film, though when the villain is America’s paranoia, heroism looks remarkably easy.