So, is Bryan Cranston the best?
Anthony Hopkins' gushing letter of admiration to Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston flagged up an interesting geeky question this week: could the man who stunned as meth cook Walter White be the greatest actor on the planet? With television now the breeding ground for the highest quality drama, the tag shouldn't be limited to the movie world, even though Cranston has impressed in the likes of Argo and Drive in recent years.
Aaron Paul [L] as Jesse Pinkman and Bryan Cranston [R] as Walter White
In case you hadn't heard: Hopkins - a man who was easily the greatest actor in the world at one stage in his career - binged on all five seasons of Breaking Bad in under two weeks before sending a gushing note to Cranston on his performance.
Dear Mister Cranston.
I wanted to write you this email - so I am contacting you through Jeremy Barber - I take it we are both represented by UTA . Great agency.
I've just finished a marathon of watching "BREAKING BAD" - from episode one of the First Season - to the last eight episodes of the Sixth Season. (I downloaded the last season on AMAZON) A total of two weeks (addictive) viewing.
I have never watched anything like it. Brilliant!
Your performance as Walter White was the best acting I have seen - ever.
I know there is so much smoke blowing and sickening bullshit in this business, and I've sort of lost belief in anything really.
But this work of yours is spectacular - absolutely stunning. What is extraordinary, is the sheer power of everyone in the entire production. What was it? Five or six years in the making? How the producers (yourself being one of them), the writers, directors, cinematographers.. every department - casting etc. managed to keep the discipline and control from beginning to the end is (that over used word) awesome.
From what started as a black comedy, descended into a labyrinth of blood, destruction and hell. It was like a great Jacobean, Shakespearian or Greek Tragedy.
If you ever get a chance to - would you pass on my admiration to everyone - Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, R.J. Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Steven Michael Quezada - everyone - everyone gave master classes of performance . The list is endless.
Thank you. That kind of work/artistry is rare, and when, once in a while, it occurs, as in this epic work, it restores confidence.
You and all the cast are the best actors I've ever seen.
That may sound like a good lung full of smoke blowing. But it is not. It's almost midnight out here in Malibu, and I felt compelled to write this email.
Congratulations and my deepest respect. You are truly a great, great actor.
Now that's what we call a ringing endorsement, and one that is long overdue for Cranston. Sure everyone loves Breaking Bad - it's one of the finest series ever made - and everyone loves Heisenberg, though it's worth remembering that Cranston had only modest pedigree before Vince Gilligan plucked him for the role.
The Breaking Bad Cast
Cranston was actually reading for the lead in an Aaron Sorkin play The Farnsworth Invention when casting directors Sherry Thomas and Sharon Bialy thought he'd be perfect for the role of Walter White. When Gilligan heard the name he knew he had his man. He remembered Cranston from his time playing Patrick Crump on The X Files - a character who turned from good to bad.
Of course, the actor was playing the Dad in Malcolm in the Middle - nothing remotely close to the meth king he would be become. Though Breaking Bad is arguably one of the best written shows of all time, it's testament to the skills of Cranston that he could turn his hand to a character as complex and all-encompassing as Mr White. Few could have delivered that level of performance in over 60 hours of television.
In the post-Breaking Bad era, Cranston will undoubtedly be inundated with offers for Hollywood leads though he next stars in thriller Cold Comes the Night and Gareth Edwards' Godzilla - which is apparently shaping up to be pretty good.