Judd Apatow Couldn’t See Bryan Cranston as a Drug Kingpin For ‘Pineapple Express’

Another reason why Judd Apatow didn’t create ‘Breaking Bad’
Judd Apatow Couldn’t See Bryan Cranston as a Drug Kingpin For ‘Pineapple Express’

2008’s Pineapple Express starred Seth Rogen and James Franco as bumbling potheads who go on the run after inadvertently witnessing a gangland murder. Kind of like Some Like it Hot, but instead of dressing in drag and joining a jazz ensemble, they smoke copious amounts of weed and beat the crap out of Danny McBride. 

The movie was a big hit, making more than $100 million at the box office, although its true legacy may be that it spawned an actual strain of weed called “Pineapple Express” (the fictional strain in the movie was named after “a Hawaiian weather system which sometimes affects the Pacific Northwest”). Not to mention that it popularized the wonder of stoner engineering that is the crucifix-shaped joint. 

Of course, not every aspect of Pineapple Express totally holds up today — like how Seth Rogen’s character Dale, a 25-year-old adult man, is dating a literal teenager. In the opening minutes of the movie he’s straight up making out with her in the hallway of her high school. Even creeptastic 1970s Woody Allen characters didn’t pull that shit.

But one of the biggest errors, in retrospect, was the film’s casting. As producer Judd Apatow later admitted, Bryan Cranston auditioned to play the villainous drug lord character and, according to Apatow, “may have even read at a table read.” But Cranston didn’t get the part because Apatow concluded, “I don’t think he seems scary enough to seem like a real drug dealer.” 


To be fair, at the time, Cranston was mostly known as the awkward dad from Malcolm in the Middle and Jerry Seinfeld’s dentist. Apatow had no way of knowing that Pineapple Express would eventually come out the same year as Breaking Bad, and that Cranston would go on to portray one of the most famous drug dealer characters in pop-culture history — a role that required him to be pretty goddamn scary at times. 

Apatow also noted that if he had cast Cranston in Pineapple Express, it could have possibly prevented the actor from landing Breaking Bad, if its producers thought “not him, he always plays drug dealers.” 

Weirdly, looking back at Pineapple Express it’s not all that different from Breaking Bad — at least in terms of their respective endings. The finale of Breaking Bad, of course, finds Walter White returning to Albuquerque and hatching a scheme to save his estranged partner Jesse Pinkman from the neo-Nazi drug meth dealers who have him locked up in their remote compound. 

Pineapple Express similarly finds Dale Denton trying to save his dealer friend Saul from a drug-lab bunker where the villains have him locked up. They too have just had a falling out (but not because Dale lied about poisoning a small child).

I’m not saying that Breaking Bad copied Pineapple Express but had Cranston been cast in the latter, it would have been extra strange that the two stories shared some narrative DNA. 

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