Golden Globe-nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg made a name for himself on the hit HBO show Boardwalk Empire before booking major roles in a string of big-name features. Over the next year or so, Stuhlbarg will appear in theaters in Edward Zwick‘s Pawn Sacrifice, Jay Roach‘s Trumbo, Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs, Don Cheadle‘s Miles Ahead, and Denis Villeneuve‘s Story of Your Life. It’s an impressive list of roles that will only further open the door up to Stuhlbarg in the future.
During the press day for Pawn Sacrifice, our own Steve Weintraub got a chance to sit down with Stuhlbarg and pick his brain about some of his upcoming projects. Specifically, he shared his experiences filming both Roach’s Trumbo and Villeneuve’s sci-fi picture Story of Your Life, while also commenting on both directors and Trumbo star Bryan Cranston. Watch the full Q&A in the video below, followed by more on Stuhlbarg’s responses:
Stuhlbarg first talked about his time filming Trumbo for Roach, and how much he learned about his character, Edward G. Robinson:
On Trumbo, such an amazing story, the cast is insane. What was it like being a part of that, and talk a little bit about making it.
Michael Stuhlbarg: Sure. It was a huge honor to be a part of that group, and to get a chance to work with Jay Roach was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. Couldn’t be a nicer man working out there. So smart, and so at ease, and so generous in terms of his time and allowing somebody to just do their work.
I play Edward G. Robinson in that piece, which was a huge chunk to tear off and try to make work, but I learned so much about him and what he was going through at that time, having to deal with the Red Scare and the HUAC committee, and the fact that he was politically active as early on as in the ’30s before the war started and became sort of nicknamed as a “premature anti-fascist” [laughs]. An ultimate liberal Democrat who found that, because he supported people’s right to believe in whatever they wanted to believe in, and joined clubs and institutions that had Communists on their board, he was often lumped into, although he had never been a Communist.
The film is fascinating, the story is fascinating. Bryan is wonderful in the piece. I’m so excited for people to see these projects.
Robinson gained popularity in Hollywood’s Golden Age through his portrayals of gangsters. That’s an interesting role for Stuhlbarg just from the meta standpoint of an actor who famously played a gangster now playing an actor who famously played gangsters. Robinson probably deserves a biopic of his own, but at least Stuhlbarg will get a chance to bring his interactions with the HUAC of the 1950s to life in the telling of Dalton Trumbo’s story.
Moving on to his work with Prisoners and Sicario director Villeneuve, Stuhlbarg had this to say:
Before I run out of time with you, I have to ask you about Story of Your Life because I’m a huge fan of the director.
Stuhlbarg: Me too.
I can’t believe he’s doing Blade Runner next. That’s crazy.
Stuhlbarg: Very cool!
Story of Your Life: It’s a very interesting premise with a great cast. Talk a little bit about making this.
Stuhlbarg: I’m in it right now. I’m going back to finish it up in a couple days. Denis Villenueve is the director; the cast is Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, amongst others. It’s taken from a short story by Ted Chiang about aliens coming to our Earth and observing us. It’s told from a very real premise, and we’re trying to find out what it is they want and why they’re here. They land all over the world in certain places and their ships just kind of sit and hover there. A linguist, played by Amy, is hired to come in and find a way to communicate with these beings from another place. But it’s told in such a realistic manner that it doesn’t seem like science-fiction. I play a man who works for the C.I.A.
I can see that.
Stuhlbarg: Yeah, and we’re all just trying to help each other and figure out what’s going on. That’s sort of the premise. I’ll leave it there.
This particular project sounds like an interesting change of pace for Stuhlbarg, but also an excellent opportunity for Villeneuve to show audiences how he can handle a sci-fi story in a realistic setting. In other words, it will be a spiritual prequel to Villeneuve’s Blade Runner project, which Stuhlbarg commented on next:
I hope, on set, you’re secretly whispering in his ear, “I heard you’re on Blade Runner. There must be a role…”
Stuhlbarg: [laughs] I’ve so enjoyed working with him thus far. He couldn’t be a nicer guy, so funny and light-hearted, but focused and really open to ideas about things but certainly has his own vision. He was very drawn to what the rhythm of the piece is going to be, and his visual vocabulary in telling stories is one that I love, so to get to be a part of one of his pieces is very cool.
It sounds like Stuhlbarg had an enjoyable experience working with Villeneuve so far, so who knows, we might just see him when the Untitled Blade Runner Project gets underway after Story of Your Life wraps. Make sure to go see that one in theaters, as well as all of Stuhlbarg’s projects to show these great filmmakers some love!