The Corner

Film & TV

I Have Questions about Breaking Bad

Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (AMC)

News that a coda to Breaking Bad is about to appear on Netflix (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie debuts October 11 and will later appear on AMC) inspires some thoughts.

  1. Is Walter White the greatest character in TV history? The answer seems to me obviously yes. I’m not sure who would finish second. Omar from The Wire? John-Boy? More? (Note that I have never been impressed with The Sopranos or Game of Thrones. I watched a lot of hours of each, but neither show made me care.)
  2. Is Breaking Bad the greatest show in TV history? Yep. Though I don’t know how to weigh it against the greatest TV comedies. Which delights us more, Breaking Bad or The Simpsons? You have to put them in separate categories, I think. Like music and food.
  3. How many hours a day does John Cusack spend kicking himself for not getting the role of Walter White? I’m going to set the over/under at 23. (Cusack once denied turning down the part in a tweet, though The Hollywood Reporter reported that he, as well as Matthew Broderick, “both passed” on the part. Some writers have speculated that there was a communication breakdown here. E! Online squared the circle this way: “A source who was involved with the show from the very start confirms that both Cusack and Matthew Broderick were on the initial lists . . . However, Cusack was never officially offered the role, according to insiders. Both he and Broderick were given the script, though, with the idea that if they liked the part it would be theirs.” You gotta fight for a great part. Christian Bale, who had never done anything particularly impressive as an adult actor, spent years pumping iron and trying to secure the lead in American Psycho (the movie that led directly to Batman Begins) even though Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to do it (with Oliver Stone directing).
  4. Would the show have even worked with Cusack or Broderick playing Walter in terrifying Heisenberg mode? Clearly the idea was to cast someone who would present a nice-guy image to the audience — which is why Bryan Cranston got the part! He played a nice soft daddy in Malcom in the Middle. In 30 years of watching John Cusack (whom I like, though he seems to have blocked me on Twitter), I have to conclude that he’s not really an actor. He can be smiley and charming, but that’s not the same as acting. He was godawful in the Iraq War drama about grief Grace Is Gone. There’s a reason you’ve never heard of this movie.

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