Edward G. Robinson testified four times in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the fourth time, on April 30, 1952, named Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Frank Tuttle, Edward Dmytryk, and Sidney Buchman. He also expressed regret at his association with the Communist Party, proclaiming himself a "dupe". However, one character mentioned in the movie, Arlen Hird, played by Louis C.K., never actually existed. He is, in fact, an amalgam of several historical blacklisted writers.
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Director Jay Roach claimed that many of the scenes featuring Trumbo writing alone at his desk or in the bathtub were improvised by Bryan Cranston while the cameras rolled, and that Cranston was genuinely composing complete sentences on the page.
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Steve Martin wrote that early in his career that his girlfriend and her "different" family introduced him to new ideas and intellectual opportunities. Her father was Dalton Trumbo. Martin had never heard of Trumbo.
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Dean O'Gorman wrote to Kirk Douglas for his advice about playing him in this movie. Douglas wrote back, telling the 38-year-old actor to be professional and trust his instinct: "Playing Kirk Douglas, forget him. Just play the part and you will be fine."
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Bryan Cranston revealed in a radio interview that Kirk Douglas approved of this movie, but his major complaint was that he wasn't asked to play himself.
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Dalton Trumbo won two "Best Writing, Motion Picture Story" Academy Awards during the 1950s, but was unable to accept either of them, since both movies' credits had used "fronts" (real people who agreed to take credit for the scripts while Trumbo was blacklisted). The first movie for which Trumbo won an Oscar was the Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953). For this movie, Trumbo's front was Ian McLellan Hunter (who was also a screenwriter in his own right); Hunter was also later blacklisted. In 1993, after Trumbo and Hunter were both dead, the Academy attempted to retrieve the Oscar that had been presented to Hunter and present it instead to Trumbo's widow, but Hunter's son, Tim, also a director (River's Edge (1986), Tex (1982), et cetera) refused to relinquish it, so the Academy instead presented Mrs. Trumbo with a new statuette. On Roman Holiday's 2003 DVD release, Trumbo was credited in place of Hunter. The second movie for which Trumbo won an Oscar was the family drama The Brave One (1956). For this movie, Trumbo's front was named Robert Rich; unlike Ian McLellan Hunter, Rich was not actually a screenwriter, but just a nephew of the movie's producers. The Academy re-presented that Oscar statuette to Trumbo in May 1975, roughly a year and a half before his death.
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In the middle of the movie, Hedda Hopper (Dame Helen Mirren) is asked how her son is doing. She replies that he is doing well and is in the Navy. Hedda Hopper's son was William Hopper, of Perry Mason (1957) fame, who served in the Pacific in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
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Alan Tudyk entertained his on-screen son, Elijah Miskowski, and the other kids on set by performing the voices of King Candy (Wreck-It Ralph (2012)), Duke (Frozen (2013) and Frozen II (2019)), and Alister Krei (Big Hero 6 (2014)). The boys were impressed to discover he was also the Marine voice from Halo 3 (2007) and it made Alan the "kid magnet" during the early shooting of this movie.
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In real life, Edward G. Robinson was twelve years older than Dalton Trumbo, and fourteen years older than John Wayne, despite appearing significantly younger than both men in this movie. In fact, Michael Stuhlbarg (Edward G. Robinson) is twelve years younger than Bryan Cranston (Dalton Trumbo) and eight years younger than David James Elliott (John Wayne).
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John Goodman appeared in Always (1989), which while written by Jerry Belson, it was updated and adapted the original screenplay for A Guy Named Joe (1943), which was written by Trumbo.
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This is the third feature film in four years in which John Goodman played the owner or an important employee of a movie company, following The Artist (2011) and Argo (2012). Interestingly, both prior movies won Oscars for Best Picture. Goodman also played a 1960s-era producer of cheap horror movies in Matinee (1993).
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In the Trumbo living room, an initiation certificate is hanging from Delta Tau Delta fraternity. The real Dalton Trumbo was a member of this fraternity at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
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Ian McClellan Hunter's son is director Tim Hunter, who directed Bryan Cranston in the first season finale of Breaking Bad. Seven years later Cranston would go on to portray Dalton Trumbo, the original writer for Roman Holiday, of which Tim Hunter's father would win an Academy Award for by serving as a front for Trumbo.
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The real Dalton Trumbo's membership card number in the Communist Party was 47187.
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Dalton Trumbo and Kirk Douglas share December 9 as their birthdays, but this fact wasn't addressed in the movie.
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Otto Preminger was a voice actor in The Hobbit (1977). Dean O'Gorman (Kirk) appeared in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy.
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Based on a true story.
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Bryan Cranston and Michael Stuhlbarg later worked together on the TV mini-series, "Your Honor."
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Dame Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston appeared in Love Ranch (2010).
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At one point in the movie, Cleo (Diane Lane) talks about her first husband, called Hal. In Malcolm in the Middle (2000), Bryan Cranston played a husband (Malcolm's father), who was also called "Hal".
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Two actors and two actresses appeared in Ben Affleck movies, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman in Argo (2012); Diane Lane in Hollywoodland (2006), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (2017); and Elle Fanning in Live by Night (2016).
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