While Kevin Hart reigns as one of the most popular comedians in the world, his dramatic skills haven't really been pushed to any really extreme level. It's part of what makes Neil Burger's The Upside a big change for him -- but not everyone involved with the project was initially convinced that he was up for the task. One significant early naysayer was his would-be co-star Bryan Cranston, who told me about his initial reservations during an interview:
Can I tell you the truth? I didn't know if [Kevin Hart] could do this. That was the honest truth, and I asked that we could arrange for lunch because I wanted to talk to him to find out: does he realize that this is not a full on slapstick comedy? Big comedy chops that he has, but can he be grounded?
I had the opportunity to sit down with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart this past fall during the Los Angeles press day for The Upside, and during that conversation the former was very open and frank about his early impression of his co-star. While Cranston was fully aware of Hart's gifts as a comedian, he wasn't positive that he had what it took when it came to dramatic skills. Fortunately, that hesitance was proven foolish once the two had the opportunity to sit down and talk about their visions for the project.
Bryan Cranston related the second half of the story through a conversation that he had with his wife after he had after the meeting. To hear him tell it, he was convinced Kevin Hart was right for The Upside not because they ran lines from a script, but instead because of the way that they related to one another. Said Cranston,
I came away from the restaurant, and I'm not kidding. I came away and I told my wife, Robin, I said, 'He's got this.' 'Really, does he?' I said, 'Oh yeah.' 'How do you... did you read a scene?' I go, 'No, no, we didn't have to read anything. We just talked about it.' And I swear to you, I thought [Kevin Hart is] going to be really good in this.
The subject came up because the relationship between Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart's characters is absolutely crucial to The Upside. A remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, the movie is based on a true story and tells the story of Dell Scott (Kevin Hart), a struggling former criminal and father who winds up with a strange new job when he is hired to help take care of Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), a wealthy quadriplegic writer. Both of them have their own separate issues, and it initially leads to some conflict, but as they continue to work together they begin to understand each other's perspectives and significantly change.
You can watch the full discussion with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart by clicking on the video below -- which also features some funny back-and-forth between the two actors in the run-up to the truth.