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EXCLUSIVE: Bryan Cranston's Father Shares Family's Painful Past

Bryan c

Credit: Photo by: Mike Marsland/Getty Images

It’s been a successful few weeks for Bryan Cranston, whose latest blockbuster, Godzilla, brought in $93 million on opening weekend alone. But if the 58-year-old’s rise from bumbling dad on Malcolm in the Middle to movie star seemed unlikely before, it’s even more amazing given his troubled childhood!

In an exclusive interview, the Breaking Bad star’s father, Joe Cranston, tells Star how poverty, alcohol abuse and a painful divorce tore his family apart — and how they ultimately put their anguished past behind them.

Joe appeared on shows like Dragnet and Father Knows Best in the 1950s, but he certainly wasn’t pulling in anywhere near as much as the $225,000 per episode his son would make later on. Desperate to provide for his wife and three children, he worked side jobs to make ends meet, and ultimately invested in a nightclub.

When it was shuttered, the former WWII pilot was left with nothing but a drinking habit. The family lost everything, and his marriage to Bryan’s mother, Audrey, dissolved. “My mom and dad were broken people,” the Godzilla star said of those early years. “They were incapacitated as far as parenting. We were largely raised by our grandparents.”

But adult life didn’t prove to be any easier for the Cranston men. In fact, Joe refused to attend Bryan’s first wedding in 1977. “I was divorced and didn’t want him to end up the same way, which I knew he would,” Joe explains. When he was proven right, tensions continued to mount between the two.

When Bryan married Robin Dearden in 1989, his dad was back in his life. They grew closest, though, when Joe’s second wife, Cindy, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma around the time Breaking Bad debuted. “Despite how busy Bryan was with his career, he was there for me 100 percent,” he says. “Whenever he could, Bryan would come and sit with Cindy and me at the hospital.”

In the end, his son’s success is what kept Joe going. “When I lost my wife of 41 years, it was devastating,” he concludes. “But seeing Bryan’s success has lifted me when I otherwise would’ve fallen apart. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

For this story and more, pick up the latest issue of Star, on newsstands now.