‘Malcolm in the Middle’ Stunt Nearly Painted Bryan Cranston to Death

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‘Malcolm in the Middle’ Stunt Nearly Painted Bryan Cranston to Death

It was typical Malcolm in the Middle hijinks when Hal quit his job after a Career Day disaster at Dewey’s school. In the Season Two episode, a newly unemployed Hal decides to fulfill a lifelong ambition by creating a garage-sized painting. The art slowly drives him mad, as Hal splatters colors with abandon and eventually strips naked and douses himself with blue paint. You know how dads are.

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Unfortunately for actor Bryan Cranston, the stunt didn’t exactly agree with his body. “I did a thing where my character was in a depression, and he started painting, and I was completely covered in blue paint,” he told Graham Norton last week. “Completely, head to toe, in blue paint.”

Hey, the Blue Man Group does it all the time. But the cobalt comics must have better face-painting methods than the crew over at Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston admitted that other actors have suffered trying similar effects, referencing an urban legend that actress Jill Masterson died after being dyed gold for the James Bond movie Goldfinger. (Don’t worry, she’s fine.) Not mentioned but actually true — actor Buddy Ebsen had to quit the original Wizard of Oz after his silver Tin Man makeup caused a near-fatal infection in his lungs.

“I was gonna say, that’s not safe, Bryan,” said another of Norton’s guests, Cranston’s Argylle costar Bryce Dallas Howard. “That’s not safe.”

Cranston found out the hard way that his body couldn’t regulate heat with all his pores covered in blue goo. “As you shoot, you’re moving around, and then there was a part of me, at one point, I was like starting to shut down the circuits,” Cranston said, pretending to wobble by way of explanation. “And they went boom, and they grabbed me, and they threw me in the shower and they just… It was weird.”

The episode inspired Howard to imagine an inventive murder plot with paint as the weapon. “Paint them to death” would be original, conceded guest Daniel Kaluuya.

Sure, it’s possible, said Norton, but it’s one of the slower ways to kill someone. The host then pretended to meticulously murder his victim by painting the air: “Nearly finished!” 

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