Dalton Trumbo poses for a photographer May 17, 1971, in Cannes, France
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November 6, 2015 11:00 AM EST

In the new film Trumbo, Bryan Cranston plays the title character, Dalton Trumbo, one of the “Hollywood ten” blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with Congress’ anti-Communist witch hunt during the Cold War. A look at Trumbo’s actual biography reveals that this is one of the cases where the truth of his life was crazier than anything made up by a screenwriter—even one as talented as him.

The topsy-turvy tale began in 1947, when Trumbo was summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee and asked whether he had ever been a Communist. “You must have some reason,” he responded, as TIME later noted, “for asking that.” Things only got crazier from there:

In 1960, Trumbo returned triumphantly to the spotlight with the films Exodus and Spartacus. TIME joked that “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will have to strain to avoid awarding him an Oscar next spring.”

Read the full profile of Trumbo, here in the TIME Vault: Out of the Shadows

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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