John Cusack dispels rumors he turned down the role of high school chemistry teacher turned drug manufacturer Walter White in Breaking Bad, the Vince Gilligan-created series ultimately led by Bryan Cranston. The High Fidelity actor was named as a preferred choice of AMC executives in a 2012 story from The Hollywood Reporter, where Cusack and Matthew Broderick were said to have "passed" on Breaking Bad. Network executives reportedly had trouble picturing Cranston in the role as he was at the time best known for his role as Hal, a kooky suburban dad, in sitcom Malcolm in the Middle.
"No, I never was [offered the role]," Cusack told Variety while promoting Amazon's Utopia. "And it was one of those things where I heard it so many times I started to think maybe it was true. I ran into a creator of Breaking Bad, I said, 'Am I crazy, or did you offer me Walter White?' He's like, 'No.' I was like, 'All right, I'm not crazy. I thought I would have heard of that.'"
Asked if he would have accepted the role if offered it, Cusack answered, "I don't even want to think that way because the absolute perfect actor took it."
"Why would you want to take away Bryan Cranston's performance in that? I'm happy the right actor got it," he said. "I love that show, and Better Call Saul, and those are both two of my favorites."
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, a former AMC executive said it was Cranston's episode of The X-Files — scripted by Gilligan, who recommended they view it — that swayed them on the actor.
"We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle," the executive said. "We were like, 'Really? Isn't there anybody else?'"
The acclaimed Breaking Bad ultimately won Cranston four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, as well as his first Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series (Drama). Gilligan concluded the series after five seasons in 2013.
Cranston most recently reprised his role, via flashback, opposite Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul in Netflix feature film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The actor has repeatedly expressed a willingness to bring Walter White into the prequel series Better Call Saul, focused on White's future criminal lawyer (Bob Odenkirk), which will conclude with a sixth and final season next year.
"I would be in it if Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who are co-executive producers on it, wanted me to be in it. I would do it in a second," Cranston recently told Collider when asked about Better Call Saul. "But it hasn't happened yet, I can tell you, and we'll see. I don't know. There's one more season to go and we'll see what happens!"