The LBJ Library Hosts the Austin Premiere of HBO Film’s All the Way
Last week, I attended the Texas premiere of the new HBO film, All the Way, a look at the early years of LBJ’s presidency, hosted by Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. Stars Bryan Cranston and Anthony Mackie, director Jay Roach, original playwright Robert Schenkkan, and LBJ biographer and consultant on the film Doris Kearns Goodwin were all in attendance and gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the film by participating in a live discussion led by library director Mark K. Updegrove after the screening.
Focusing on the first year of Lyndon B. Johnsonâ€™s presidency,Â All the WayÂ is an engrossing two-plus hours in the trenches of the complexities of the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and also at times an acute character study of the 36th President of the United States. Written by Schenkkan (and based on his awarding-winning play, also titled All the Way) and directed byÂ RecountÂ andÂ Game ChangeÂ director Roach, HBOâ€™s most recent foray into political dramasÂ shines in its magnificent performances, boasting a cast with serious acting chops.
Cranston is nearly unrecognizable as President Johnson, prosthetic nose, Texas twang, and all. After starring as LBJ in Schenkkanâ€™s play beginning in 2012, Cranston’s experience shows. Heâ€™s the driving force ofÂ All the Way, bringing to screen just how overwhelming, intense, and demanding President Johnson was while constantly injecting humanity into every scene. In the discussion after the premiere ofÂ All the WayÂ at the LBJ Presidential Library, Cranston said he spent a great deal of time at the library researching for the role. It was a letter from Jackie Kennedy to President Johnson five days after her husbandâ€™s assassination thanking him for personally writing letters to each of her children that most greatly influences his performance. â€œIt was really the key to unlock the emotional core of who Lyndon Johnson [was for] me,â€ Cranston said.
â€œThe depth of the compassion that his man had to do what was rightâ€¦that really then gave me the foundation to then build from there to create LBJ.â€
Another actor familiar to Broadway, Mackie does a lovely, nuanced job at portraying one of the most iconic figures in American history, Martin Luther King Jr., a leader stuck between the incremental change promised by the government and the immediate revolution desired by his people. Mackie said, â€œI feel like [Martin Luther King Jr.] is one of the only people in the history of the world where his actions define him much more than the way he looked. I I tried to stay away from the idea of impersonation and capture his essenceâ€¦because thereâ€™s no way of getting it right.â€
The tense partnership portrayed by Cranston and Mackie as President Johnson and MLK is a major tenant ofÂ All the WayÂ and feels especially poignant in todayâ€™s political and racial climate. In many ways,Â All the WayÂ is as much a history of 2016 as it is a peek at the 1960s. When asked about why he had written the play,Â All the WayÂ playwright Schenkkan said, â€œI often think of 1964 and this movie as an origin story for 2016.â€ Today, factioning is bubbling up in both the Democratic and Republican parties and the battle between pragmatism and revolution is still as present as it was in 1964.
Considering the rich, timely story, sharp filming, and excellent performances,Â All the Way’s only short-coming is how overstuffed it is. Though clocking in at 128 minutes, it doesnâ€™t have enough time to devote to all the pieces it starts. There isnâ€™t enough of the brilliant Melissa Leo as Lady Bird Johnson, the side plot of the CIA monitoring of Martin Luther King Jr. feels like an afterthought, and the brief mentions of distress in Vietnam are shoehorned in with no time to breathe.
But in the end,Â All the WayÂ succeeds in taking us back in time to tell a story that shows what can happen when the political process is focused on helping people. Roach said, â€œGood government can do amazing things and LBJ showed us how to do that.â€
All the Way premieres Saturday, May 21st at 8/7c on HBO.
Here’s the full Q&A:
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…