Bryan Cranston is undoubtedly among the greatest acting forces of our time, known for his incredible versatility and his astonishing ability to deliver powerful performances in vastly differing projects. Over the course of a truly celebrated career, Cranston has reached unprecedented heights and earned numerous prestigious awards for his work.
Although Cranston starred in various beloved productions such as Malcom in the Middle, the performance that defined his career was his frightening tenure as Walter White in the highly acclaimed show Breaking Bad. Through that role, Cranston explored the power of acting itself and continuously improved his craft with each episode.
While the Walter White is often idealised and fetishised by young kids who missed the entire point of the show and just want to get rich quick by cooking meth, Cranston’s character represented an interesting evolutionary step in the constantly morphing meaning of the illusory “American Dream”. Vince Gilligan’s commentary on the modern America and the layered subtext of the show has solidified its status as one of the best of its kind.
It is safe to say that Cranston will be remembered for years to come for what he achieved with Breaking Bad, playing the role of a man who was completely bullied by the system but only found agency by becoming his own worst enemy and destroying everything he dreamed of. Many television shows have often been compared to the concept of the Great American Novel but Breaking Bad definitely merits such comparisons.
Cranston’s acting was influenced by many legendary predecessors and one of them was definitely Marlon Brando. In fact, Cranston’s favourite film of all time starred Brando in one of the finest performances of a career that almost all actors dream of having one day. That film was On the Waterfront, a classic directed by the great American pioneer Elia Kazan.
Exploring the socioeconomic effects of crime and corruption, Kazan embarked on an ambitious attempt to translate the wide spectrum of human morality to the cinematic medium. By analysing the specific condition of union workers and their world in New Jersey, Kazan managed to touch upon universal subjects that plague people around the world.
“On the Waterfront deals with the rights of workers/working-class people, they’re not special people in any regard really. They’re just honest guys trying to support their families. There was so much honour within the tapestry of the message,” Cranston said while describing why the premise of the film is so effective even after all these years.
One scene that really affected Cranston involved Brando’s iconic speech where he says: “I could have been somebody” which makes sense because it is one of the most poignant moments of the film which was referenced in other classics like Raging Bull. For his moving performance, Brando ended up nabbing the coveted Best Actor Award at the Oscars.