The Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston will make his London stage debut in a National Theatre adaptation of Network, the prophetic film which satirized a news industry succumbing to sensationalism. Cranston, 60, will play Howard Beale, the television news anchor who goes rogue and famously yelled “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” in the Oscar-winning 1976 movie.
The screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, has been adapted by Lee Hall, who wrote the film and stage versions of Billy Elliot. The National Theatre production, with other roles yet to be cast, opens in November.
Rufus Norris, the National Theatre director, said the debate around “fake news” demonstrated that Network was “incredibly prescient.” Mr. Norris said: “It is one of the greatest media satires of all time.”
In the film Beale is pushed over the edge by station bosses pushing for ever more lurid, ratings-winning stories. His on-air rant, urging viewers to open their window and yell they are “mad as hell,” merely adds to corporate profits when Beale is rebranded the “mad prophet of the airwaves.”
Norris added: “I think Charlotte Church was holding a banner at one of the marches recently with the quote, ‘we’re mad as hell and not going to take this any more,’ and there was even a still from the movie used as a placard.”
No Network update
The story will not be updated for the digital age but Mr. Norris said he believed its essential message would “absolutely stand up” for contemporary audiences.
The Tony award-winning Cranston, who recently starred on Broadway, had a “fantastic pedigree as a stage actor. It’s a wonderful part and a part that requires something special.” The production will be directed by Ivo van Hove, who brought the Dexter star Michael C. Hall to London as the star of Lazarus, the David Bowie musical.
Other new productions include Anne-Marie Duff returning to the National Theatre to appear alongside Rory Kinnear as theatre’s “most notorious married couple” in Macbeth, and to star in the new play Common.
Saint George And The Dragon, an “epic folk play about the challenges of being English,” opens in October, and Pinocchio, with songs and score from the Disney film, is programmed for December.
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