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'Total Recall': Bryan Cranston on Breaking the Mustache-Twirling Bad Guy Mold

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Jun 12, 2012 | 6:59am EDT

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ALTIf you were wise, you learned to be a Bryan Cranston fan a decade during his sidesplitting Malcolm in the Middle years. If you were even wiser, you already knew him his diverse TV career in the '90s, which included highlights like From the Earth to the Moon and Seinfeld. But perhaps those credits slipped by. No matter: if pop culture is on your radar in any shape or form, you're aware of Cranston's complete 180 degree career turn courtesy of the dark, dangerous AMC drama Breaking Bad. As the cancer-stricken, teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White, Cranston reinvented his on-screen persona and quickly became one of Hollywood's most in-demand character actors. The actor will appear in six films in 2012, including this summer's Total Recall, which pits him against Colin Farrell as the villainous Cohaagen.

On the set of Total Recall, Hollywood.com sat down with the actor to discuss his latest role, what it takes to play the bad guy in a major Hollywood tentpole, the physical demand of going mano a mano Farrell and how the latest incarnation of the story compares to the classic film from the '90s:

How his Cohaagen differs from the original Cohaagen:

Bryan Cranston: Ronny Cox? You see the hair, I have a naturally scary face. When I was raised in the '70s, when I was a teenager growing up, there was no sunscreen. I was out in the sun, on the beach. And I'm a motorcycle rider so I'm in the wind, this is the result of that. You get crag, a lot of crag. It can lend itself, and my voice is on the lower register for the most part. So it's kind of built in that way, I didn't want to be that guy. That mustache twisting guy. So my message was, I want wavy hair (this is a little sprayed right now). I want light hair and have it kind of wavy. I said 'John Edwards,' I want a John Edwards softness to him, so it's not 'here comes the bad guy!' I wanted to change that up and approach it that way. Because what he's doing is already dastardly. I don't think you want to present that. Ronny Cox wore dark clothing, dark suits, and that sort of thing. I wanted to go more natty and dress in these Tom Ford suits that I'm wearing. All nice and tailored. All of my suits and shirts — everything is by Tom Ford. And it feels so good, it feels crisp when you wear it. It does change you when you wear something like that. It makes me feel stronger in a way. Not in a demonic sort of way, just more powerful. If I remember correctly I think Ronny had his hair kind of slicked back, I just wanted to take this approach. Otherwise you're just doing something that's derivative.

The diabolical motivations of his version of Cohaagen:

Cranston: Oh I don't know, world domination. You know it's funny, because it's kind of what I'm learning as a character on Breaking Bad now, that when a person is poor there is no sensibility of greed that comes to the surface because it's never going to happen for them. But when a person is exposed to power and money and riches and fame and that sort of thing. That's when you see the true character of a person come up. When they have control and they have choices, and they choose to do the right thing, that's what we all call character building. Right? There's a lot of people who get a taste of that and it's like a drug. That's the way that I see Cohaagen; he doesn't want to kill millions of people, but he will if he has to. He honestly feels that, and this is part of the ego of him, that his way is the best way. And these people, 'believe me, trust me I'm doing this for all of you, yes you're the proletariat but I will take care of you as long as you stay in line. And you'll all have jobs. Our employment rate is almost next to nothing, what empire can say that?'

ALT

On action scenes and duking it out with Colin Farrell:

Cranston: The biggest thing, especially for my age, is endurance. Being able to just physically withstand that kind of workout daily, for hours no end. On Breaking Bad coming up there's a fight sequence that Jessie and Walt have. And we fought for two days. It was a big, big fight sequence. Even when you're faking punches [Throws a punch and yells BAM BAM POW] you're still snapping your neck. You're still jerking forward, you're still falling down. Even though you have pads, your body is still slamming. And you do that for twelve hours, for two days, I had a masseuse come over to my place in Albuquerque and I said, 'I am sore everywhere work as long as you can and get as deep as you can.' Two hours, it was one of those [smacks hands on the table]. Just pounding me. I put on serene music, but it was more 'AAAAAAHHHHH!' It was [makes gasping noises].

It's like a dance, to choreograph a fight is like a dance. It's very specific. You have to carefully plan it out. We rehearsed it in slow motion. Then we do half speed. Then half speed for the camera when it's set up. Then we do a full speed rehearsal. Then we do one once everybody gets the dance.

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[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]

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