John Goodman teams up with Bryan Cranston and director Jay Roach for “Trumbo,” starring as Frank King, the inelegant b-movie mogul who kept Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) working after he was blacklisted from Hollywood in the 1950s. And Goodman doesn’t think we’ve come that far since then.
How familiar were you with Dalton Trumbo’s story?
When I became interested in acting, I was drawn to the people from the Group Theater in New York, and a lot of them went on to become very famous acting teachers but then a lot of them also joined the Communist party. So I knew about blacklisting from what had happened to them, and I knew about the Hollywood 10 — not in a lot of great detail. I’d admired Dalton Trumbo, but my God, I had no idea he was as prolific as he was.
RELATED: Jay Roach: Hysteria repeats itself
How about your character, Frank King. Were you at all familiar him and his brother?
No, I didn’t know a thing about them. I found out what I could find out on the Internet. You know, these guys were the same kind of people that founded the motion picture studios in the first place. They were involved in the pinball business, saw a way to make a quick buck. They were just there to make money and nothing else.
It almost seems strange now how much people freaked out over Communism.
It doesn’t seem strange to me at all, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve learned our lessons very well. People are very good at manipulating fear for their own ends and for power. We have a lot of lobbyists doing it, we have a lot of politicians who are buying into it. And these days of social media, it’s becoming tribal almost — the group-shaming of people, beating up on people. It’s very good at turning individuals into mobs — “this is what’s right to think, this is what’s correct.” And people aren’t afraid to use death threats now and really, really hateful speech. Doesn’t seem like we’ve learned a lot.
It’s scary how with social media you can create your own echo chamber.
Yeah, you listen to the groups that you want to listen to, and you don’t listen to anybody else. That’s as far as I want to get down that, start to get into privacy and all that stuff, which has no bearing here. Well … it does because it’s the privacy of a person to have their own beliefs and wishes and not have to share them with anyone else or really have to explain them if they’re perfectly legal to have.
You’ve had such a long a fruitful working relationship with the Coen Brothers, starting in 1987.
It started off with the audition for “Raising Arizona,” and I just felt so comfortable. The script was dynamite, it was the funniest thing I’d ever read. And it was just loose. I didn’t go in there desperate for a job or anything like that, but I wound up having such a good time with them that the audition itself was worth the price of admission. We just hung out for a while. Then they wrote a couple of roles with me in mind. Yeah, it’s been cool.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick