BRYAN CRANSTON - The Infiltrator



The True Story of One Man Against The Biggest Drug Cartel in History

The incredibly talented Bryan Cranston has held our hearts and our fantasies of being truly badass in the palm of his hand, through his legendary role as Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher whose diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer motivates him to manufacture and sell meth in order to secure his family’s financial future.  

But few fans know how truly badass this actor really is—not only in his outstanding roles that he portrays on camera, but in real life.
Cranston has run four marathons, taken a stand against child abduction and exploitation, and produced a Kidsmartz video along with his fellow Malcolm in the Middle crew members in 2000, in order to help teach elementary age children learn how to stay safe. Not badass enough? In his younger years, Cranston could be found out on the open road on his motorcycle with his brother, traveling across the U.S. As a part-time job, when in college, he became an ordained minister, and at one point, he considered becoming a police officer (I wouldn’t want to get caught speeding by him!)

Named one of the “Eight Actors Who Turned Television into Art” in New York Times magazine’s cover story in 2011, Cranston has certainly garnered much respect in both Hollywood and with his fans as an actor, writer and director. He took home four Emmys for his performance on AMC Network’s seven-year mega-hit series, Breaking Bad. Cranston’s talent has been appreciated in the form of voice character work in the Batman animated franchise; live on stage, winning the Tony for “Best Actor in a Play” for his 2014 performance in All the Way; and in the strikingly suspenseful film, Argo, which took home the Oscar for “Best Picture” in 2012.

Now the deep, powerful voice of Cranston has taken command in his newest film, The Infiltrator, where he is on the opposite side of the drug trafficking fence, playing the role of FBI agent, Bob Mazur, who goes undercover to take down the drug trafficking regime of Pablo Escobar. Cranston’s character infiltrates the drug cartel by taking on two different personas—one of them being a businessman who works for the mob, which he plays with an intense bravado throughout the film’s heated and suspenseful ride, directed by Brad Fuhrman.

Taking out a moment to sit down and discuss the new film, The Infiltrator, based on the electrifying book written by real-life Federal Agent, Mazur: “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel”, Cranston shares stories through his wonderfully dry sense of humor, while discussing the great respect he has for his fellow actors and the fun he had while filming the drug-soaked thriller.

STRIPLV: The era of this film is one that’s really fun for moviegoers to see. There’s something about the ‘80s and Florida, in particular. Can you talk about the setting and the costumes, and where this film takes place? And was that fun to play in, for you?
CRANSTON: Lovely. Florida ‘80s, early-‘80s, leftover from the ‘70s, you know, with the polyester clothes and the Pooka shells, and things like that. In the ‘80s it became the big hair, the shoulder pads in all the clothes, mens and womens. It was the Miami Vice kind of look, with the pastel T-shirts, and the sleeves halfway up. It was also, you know, they had the symbol of virility. Men wore the Italian pepper. It was a phallus, and they wore it around their neck. You’d recognize it. It was a little pepper, and it looked like a gold pepper on there and it would be unbuttoned-down to here (pointing to halfway down his chest), and you know it was like (disco-dancing with his hands) still the disco age was going on, and Flock of Seagulls, and all that stuff.  
STRIPLV: You’re like lighting up talking about it.
CRANSTON: Yeah, it was good times! Good times. You know Michael Jackson was still rocking it and it was great. It was also the “Me Generation.” It was cocaine lines… I went to an audition once, on a Saturday, and there was cocaine on the table and I was asked if I wanted to do a line… at an audition! In 1980-’81.
STRIPLV: Do you remember what the role was for?
CRANSTON: Oh, no. (suddenly serious) Can’t tell you about that.
STRIPLV: Oh, okay. Got it.
CRANSTON: But after I did the line… 
STRIPLV: (laughter)
CRANSTON: But that’s the wild, wacky “Me Generation”. What’s in it for me, me, me? And there were pagers and phone recording machines the size of suitcases. And those who did have a cell phone, where it looked like a huge brick, and they carried a suitcase with them… They’d say, “Hey, it’s cool. Look at that” (miming an enormous brick next to his ear, looking super suave)  
STRIPLV: (laughter)
CRANSTON: It was a different time, you know. The hostages were just released in Iran, and it was all that period, and it was cocaine, and it was heroin, and it was a lot of you know, trafficking of that, and guns, and Pablo Escobar, and some nasty business.
STRIPLV: Scary and extravagant.
CRANSTON: Yeah, excess.
STRIPLV: Tell us about the many different personas that your character portrayed as a U.S. Customs official who uncovers a money-laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar.
CRANSTON: There’s basically three distinctive characters in one: His normal self, Bob Mazur, who is really very calm, and a committed family man to his two children and his wife, and lives a very ordinary middle-class existence; and then there’s the characters that he needs to take on, the personas that he needs to wear the robes of and be able to convince bad guys that he is that guy. And one character, early on, is a character named Bob Mangione. He always stayed with “Bob.” He wanted to be Bob Mazur, Bob Mangione, Bob Musella—because, in the heat of the moment, when someone calls the name, Bob… he might turn around. And that’s for that very reason you want to keep the same name, if at all possible, for the first name. And Mangione was more of a sad, old, street-level kind of crook persona. Musella, who is the majority of the story, is a more flamboyant businessman, whose cover is that he works for the mob, works for the family. And they had some intel, knowing that the Godfather movies had already come out, and everybody was enthralled with that. You know, “Fugget About It, ” and all that kind of New York mob kind of thing. And it went international. And the Colombians were affected by that. They thought that was cool. So by taking on a guy who was a little more flamboyant, and worked for the mob, kinda worked for them. They kinda liked that.  
STRIPLV: Tell us about how you personally perceived your role to be?
CRANSTON: What I really responded to with this character is that he’s a family guy. And how does he have this dangerous and yet exciting life in his work world? You know, where he’s taking on this character, he has a pocketful of money, he’s spending the government’s money to have private jets, and go to strip clubs, to go to great restaurants, and the best wines…and playing the big shot in order to play that character. And then he puts that aside and goes home to his middle-class life. And yet, while he loves his wife, and he loves his children, and he absolutely wants to maintain that, there is something about the excitement in his work world, that he can’t bring excitement home to him. He has to buffer it somewhat. And his wife says: “How’s it goin?” And he says: “Oh, fine.” He can’t really be honest about it.
STRIPLV: What’s it like working with John Leguizamo on set?
CRANSTON: John is great. It was the first time I worked with John. He is a joy. He brings such a positive energy to the set—a lightness. And yet he’s not light in his work. He’s very grounded in his work. But he presents himself like an affable and is flexible. Johnny is wide open. He is a guy who you could see his emotion on his face. He doesn’t cover, which is great. As an actor, he comes into it wide open. There was a scene where Amy Ryan threw an adlib out at him. And he said to her, looking at passports: “There’s no stamps on these passports.” (falsified passports) “It looks like… It says, ‘Hey, I’m a cop!’” And she says, “Actually, yours says, ‘I’m an ass-clown.’” And I looked at him, and for a moment, he was really taken aback. He was like, “Huh?” His feelings were hurt, for just a beat. And then she walks off. And I talked to him afterwards, and I said: “I think that hurt your feelings.” And he goes: “It kinda did,” (laughing) “ know, like, that’s how she sees me.” But he can improv with the best of them, and we did a lot of that. 
STRIPLV: Anything specific?
CRANSTON: Yeah, well we stole the scene in the cemetery. It was on a Sunday. We didn’t “officially” have it (motioning air quotes). It was our DP Josh, and Brad, and we took our sound guy. I did my own hair and I did some makeup—because we could not bring people. And we hopped out of a van, and we go: “Go, go, go, go, go. Let’s set up. C’mon, come on! Hurry, hurry, hurry.” We were about gonna get kicked out, because we didn’t have permits. That scene was on the chopping block of getting lost. It was like, we were gonna have to cut it out of the script because we just don’t have time to shoot it. And I said to Brad: “We’ve gotta have that scene.” And Johnny is going: “We gotta have it!” And Brad said: “I know! I know! I know!” So we just did guerilla style. We went out there, we knew basically what we were gonna say, the specific things we needed to get, the two names that had to come out—and how we got them off the gravestones. But all the other stuff was adlib. You know: “Do the math,” and when he says: “Yeah, that’s a good name—it’s sexy.” “Who cares about sexy?” “Yeah, I care about sexy.” (chuckling) That’s all us just goofing around. And it’s fun.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with Benjamin Bratt and Diane Kruger?
CRANSTON: Two very seductive, sexy, charming different people, in different ways. Well, actually, the same way, just male and female. That scene where we’re on the airplane, I watch the two of them basically making love to each other, and I’m watching this going: “Wow! I feel like a voyeur.” She’s seducing him; he’s accepting it—and brilliant! And it was important to the story, so that Bob Mazur sees the value of Diane Kruger’s character, and what she brings to the table. And Diane did it so effortlessly.  

“I think [Diane] maybe has seduced a man or two before. (Cranston pulls a “breaking the fourth wall”, speaking directly to the camera) (very seriously) What?  What did I say?"

STRIPLV: (roars of laughter)
CRANSTON: And she’s very seductive, and beautiful, and a talented actor. So it wasn’t hard for Brian to be attracted, and to see that sensibility, and for us to do our dance. And hopefully it comes across that at that pivotal time of after the murder of a character, that our embrace was out of necessity and a need to comfort, as opposed to a sexual transition.  

“And Benjamin Bratt… you know what? I’d do him (smiling). He’s a sexy guy."

STRIPLV: (roars of laughter)
CRANSTON: ...and talented, and very aware of his presence and the energy that he presents, but very flexible and open to how other people work. It was a great cast, and I was very fortunate to have these people to work with.
STRIPLV: What is it that really drew you to this film and your character?
CRANSTON: I just liked the idea that there was a man who was committed to trying to do the right thing—trying to improve his country, his society. And in order to do that—he had to become very good friends with some very bad people.  
STRIPLV: How would you describe this film to interested audiences?
CRANSTON: The Infiltrator is a story that will take them on a journey. It took me on a journey just reading it. The Infiltrator is many things: it’s a bit of a thrill, it’s a personal journey, and a family drama, in that sense, about a man’s character and his drive to achieve something of great benefit. It’s intrigue, it’s dangerous. There are some crazy, unreliable characters that you would imagine to be in the drug trade. So you have it from all sides, which was nice, in a nice, balanced experience.
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