Mexico City.- Jerry Selbee, Bryan Cranston’s new character, could be a kind of luminous version of the twisted Walter White, the American’s most famous role.
Like the protagonist of the acclaimed series Breaking Bad, Selbee was a humiliated man who nobody noticed. He is also a genius who, fed up with the circumstances, decided to use his intellect and reinvent himself.
Unlike the gifted chemist White, the man whose story is the focus of Jerry & Marge Go Large, out tomorrow on Paramount+, he never became a drug savant. With his math skills he took advantage of a hole in the Massachusetts lottery and won, many times, between 2003 and 2011.
With his formula, together with Marge (Annette Bening), he made about 26 million dollars… which was not for his own benefit. Generous, he invited neighbors and friends to invest, share in the profits, and revitalize his dying town of Evart, Michigan.
“I suppose that if we made a diagram with Walter and Jerry, there would be several convergences between them”, Cranston is surprised, in an interview, by the similarities.
“I hadn’t thought about that, really. Because I try to divorce myself from previous characters, so as not to bring old mannerisms with me,” he adds.
A big divergence between White and Selbee: the latter is a real man who still lives together with Marge, his fling partner. Another: he never broke the law or ripped anyone off, he just repeatedly put his mind to work and took the opportunity.
Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Fashion) and written by Brad Copeland (Arrested Development), Jerry & Marge is a film like those that modern Hollywood no longer usually makes. Of those about common people, and in this case older adults, who only seek to do good, says Bening (American Beauty).
“I read the script during the height of the pandemic and it lifted my spirits. I think this is the kind of entertainment we all need. At least me.”
“When I want to see something that makes me feel good, I usually go to old movies. I love being able to be in a movie like that. There aren’t many like it,” says the actress.
Jerry’s lottery hole works on one premise: the higher the bets, the better the odds. So gambling for $8,000 or $200,000 is exciting for Jerry and Marge.
Recently retired, they had spent decades without speaking to each other except for the essentials. As they drive between Michigan and Massachusetts to buy serial tickets, risk becomes an aphrodisiac to mend their rusty relationship.
Although they have known each other for a long time, Cranston and Bening had never worked together before. In a film that is based on what its characters convey together, building chemistry between them was the most crucial thing.
“This was also the opportunity to develop our friendship and trust for each other. That’s the important thing to build chemistry. A year ago, too, we were able to go to Michigan to meet the real Jerry and Marge.”
“In the process of getting to know them, we got to know each other more. We learned about ideal situations to act better, or what confused or distracted us. It was like a dance of understanding,” says Cranston.
During filming, both actors blended in with these retired social benefactors. In fiction, Jerry and Marge had to review, one by one, thousands of tickets purchased with their bets in an exhausting effort. Cranston and Bening would not have minded doing so.
“In a story like this, it was our responsibility to convey this sense of adventure, like two old men playing. It’s, I think, an attitude that we have to keep alive as actors always,” says Bening.
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Bryan Cranston: From Drug Genius to Mathematical Genius