Awards Profile: Trumbo

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Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series. For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards. This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet. Nonetheless, we venture on. If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Alan Tudyk
Writers: John McNamara

Synopsis: The successful career of Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, comes to an end when he’s blacklisted in the 1940s for being a Communist.

Why It Might Succeed:

If the last few years have taught us anything about the academy it is this – they love movies about show business. Three of the last four films to win Best Picture, “The Artist,” “Argo” and “Birdman,” have all had Hollywood or show business as a part of their story. One film that could benefit from that love this year is “Trumbo.”

Telling the story of Dalton Trumbo, the film will focus on one of Hollywood’s most successful screenwriters set against one of its darkest times. Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group filmmakers who refused to testify to the House of Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s on whether they had any communist affiliation. As a result, Trumbo was blacklisted. After years of struggling, Trumbo would work his way back into the industry under a pseudonym, writing two Oscar-winning screenplays, “The Brave One” and “Roman Holiday,” under his fake name.

It certainly is rich material for a film, and for Bryan Cranston, who will play Trumbo. Backing Cranston up is a solid supporting cast that includes John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K. and Alan Tudyk. Behind the camera sits Jay Roach, who has handled rich political dramas “Game Change” and “Recount” for HBO in the past, so we know that he can handle the subject.

I’d expect to see this film appear at one of the fall fests, potentially creating a solid level of buzz.

Why It Might Fail:

The question marks on “Trumbo” rely in its two main figures behind the camera, Roach and screenwriter John McNamara. Roach’s feature films aren’t exactly a vote of confidence. Among Roach’s credits are the “Austin Powers” trilogy, “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers,” “The Campaign;” his most dramatic feature film prior to “Trumbo” was “Mystery, Alaska.” It’s not the most inspiring resume and it would leave many shaking their heads if all he had were those films. However, as mentioned above, he’s shown what he can do with rich dramas, so while it may be a concern, it’s a minor one.

McNamara is a much bigger question mark. With no features to his name prior to “Trumbo,” McNamara’s biggest credit to date is writing nine episodes for “Lois and Clark” in the 90s. It’s a little disappointing that the story of one of Hollywood’s most famous screenwriters couldn’t net a bigger name to pen it,

We also don’t know what kind of campaign the film will get. Bleecker Street Media is the distributor, but how big of a campaign can they mount? Will they bring in a co-distributor? When will they release the film? The answer to these questions will very much determine the awards fate of “Trumbo,” as Bleeck Street has not handled a major awards contender on its own before.

Awards Potential:

If I were a gambling man I’d say the odds of Bryan Cranston earning his first Oscar nomination after his career-defining performance in “Breaking Bad” has as good of odds as any actor this year. In fact, “Trumbo” could be a player for a number of actors to crack into the Oscar race. If nothing else this could be a strong actor’s film.

But, as mentioned above, this is a film about Hollywood and the Academy loves to honor itself, so if the film can live up to expectations it can be a player in the big races as well, even for McNamara. Maybe Dalton Trubmo can earn one more Oscar win.

Possible Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman)
Best Supporting Actress (Helen Mirren, Diane Lane)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Score
Best Editing

  • Nick Fraser

    Cranston or Goodman getting their first noms would be stellar. Goodman has been robbed of either screentime or attention too many times.

  • Jack Moulton

    You say the Academy loves to honor itself, but Trumbo’s biggest drama comes from one of the Academy’s most shameful mistakes. I don’t think they would want to recognise a horrible past – even if this had a more prestigious director and distributor. It might do well at the Globes though, they loved Roach’s Recount and Game Change.