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As one of the "Hollywood Ten"—film professionals who refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and were subsequently imprisoned—screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, The Brave One, Spartacus, Exodus) made a heroic journey from Hollywood royalty to blacklisted writer to Academy Award winner. Against the backdrop of tremendous political unrest, we are given an emotional and at times humorous account of how this turmoil affected one of Hollywood's most prolific writers. Director Peter Askin's documentary features brilliant readings of Trumbo's extraordinary letters (performed by Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn and Donald Sutherland), interlaced with interviews, home movies and excerpts from his films. Written by Christopher Trumbo (Dalton's son), based on his play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumbo by director Peter Askin

I was first given a copy of Dalton Trumbo's collected letters, Additional Dialogue,
in 1999. I was in London at the time directing the stage version of Hedwig and
the Angry Inch
, and there was interest in creating a stage play from these
letters. I knew little of Trumbo's work or his politics. The George Bush-Al Gore
campaign dominated my political landscape, though the Florida re-count hanging
chad events, much less the Patriot Act, and Iraq, still lay beyond the horizon.
Trumbo's Blacklist had occurred a lifetime ago and, surely, in a different
America. Hedwig's post gender politics seemed more relevant. Sadly, we now
know better.
 
Eight years later, Trumbo's words ring prophetic, his fight against the perversion
of American ideals that held sway at the height of the Cold War has new
immediacy, and the cost to personal freedoms feels as threatening as anything
George Orwell could have predicted.
 
Trumbo left a rich legacy beyond his award-winning films. Stifled by the studios
during the Blacklist, he kept his immense literary gifts honed by composing
letters that positively sizzle with wit, intelligence and a bracing moral rectitude.
Self-expression was, for him, armor against the armies of the night. Heroic,
generous, ornery and grandiose, what agony it must have been to have such a
voice—not to mention career—stifled by slamming doors and power politics.
 
A selection of these letters, performed by a brilliant cast including Joan Allen,
Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Liam
Neeson and David Strathairn form the dramatic spine of the film, Trumbo.