Mike Muse: This could be a franchise. Do you see yourself being a franchise guy? Need for Speed 2: Faster?
Aaron Paul: [Laughs] Um yeah, we’ll see. I had such an amazing time doing this film. I thought it was just such a fun story and a really good excuse to drive around this country of ours in very fast cars. And so yeah, if they want to do another one, if this film does well, then why not?
MM: Now you’re normally known for indie work and supporting roles but this is your first major lead. Are you starting to feel the pressure of it at this point? Like this is your movie, your name is on the marquee.
AP: The more I do interviews like this, yes [laughs]. People always say “Are you feeling the pressure? How are you taking all this pressure?” In all honesty I try not to think about it too much and the film comes out [March 14th] so we’ll know soon if it’s going to do well or not.
MM: We all think it will.
AP: Yeah, it plays well. I think the movie speaks for itself. I think it's a fun movie, and I think it has a great story. Be honest, the film surprised you, yeah?
MM: Yeah, definitely.
AP: See, it surprised me too when I read it. I just kinda had my own thought of what it may be, which is fine, but it's just something different.
MM: Is this something you would like to keep doing? These big budget films and being the lead?
AP: Not necessarily. It just depends on whether or not the character is there, you know? Right after Need for Speed I did a film that we did for, I think, $400,000. It's called Hellion. Super small, low budget, independent. I love those movies. So, yeah, just mix it up, trying to do something different.
MM: Did you ever play any of the video game series before getting the script?
AP: I did! I did. I remember when I made the switch to the iPhone, from the Blackberry, that was the first app I downloaded, or first game I guess. They had a Need for Speed game. I'm not really a gamer any more, but I was a big fan of those games.
MM: I had my own expectations of the movie, having played the video games, but what really surprised me the most was - it wasn't a message movie at all, but, those car crashes really made me think about the impact of street racing. I had never really thought about it. I thought, yeah, it's cool, but the car crashes were so real. Was it the realism that really drew you to this?
AP: Yeah and I agree with you. With this film, we obviously do not condone street racing whatsoever, but [the realism] is one of the reasons why Scott [Waugh], our director, wanted to do all of this practical, there was no CG. And these people are paying for their actions, you know what I mean? I think we're used to watching films where there's just a lot of CG, which is fine or fun and they have a purpose, but they're lying to us. A car can't jump in the air 500 feet, go through a building, and land on the other side without a scratch. I love that they wanted to do a throwback to how car movies used to be done, like Bullitt or Vanishing Point. That's what they pitched me when they sent me the script. When [Scott Waugh] told me what his vision was, that was his vision. He grew up on the sets of those movies and I love that he wanted to do it all practical.
MM: Speaking of when the script came your way, were you thinking you wanted to try to get into the world of action? Did you want to go into something a little bit more in that direction?
AP: Not necessarily. I did know that I wanted to do something lighter, because I'd been a part of a show that was so heavy for so long. And [Breaking Bad] was amazing! We were such a family. In between takes we were having the best time ever, but the character was just so heavy and he was just so tortured. I wanted to do something that kind of steered far away from that sort of thing. Will I play more tortured roles? I'm sure [laughs]. For some reason I like to put myself through that. But, again, I wasn't searching for this but it kinda just came my way out of nowhere and I'm so happy it did.
MM: People like to see you cry.
AP: [laughs] People like to see me in despair, yes.
MM: Now you've worked opposite Bryan Cranston, Christian Bale, etc., what's it like to have a character like this where you are the lead? What's the process like to not have someone like that to play opposite against?
AP: It's all the same, you know? I think we have a stellar cast. It's very strange to kind of be at the top of the call sheet, the pressure is slowly seeping in, but it felt the same. The whole goal is to get lost in the moment and believe what's actually happening. But working with Bryan was just, you know, going to work every day was a master acting class. I would not be the actor I am today if it wasn't because of him. Working opposite of him for 6 years, you just naturally become better at what you do. And then Christian, he's just incredible to watch.
MM: Did you approach this role any differently that you would have in your more serious roles like Breaking Bad? In terms of your preparation?
AP: Um, no, I approach it all the same. With this it's a different experience because with Breaking Bad you shoot an entire episode in 8 days and then this we shot in just under 4 months. So Scott always joked around saying "hey, you got a really big day today, you have two lines. Don't mess it up". You know, it's just a different thing.
MM: I thought you there was some good chemistry between you and the Marshall Motors crew. Did you guys know each other before or...?
AP: No, I didn't know any of the guys before. I did start meeting them before we started shooting, but once they were cast we would have dinner or just hang out. They were such great guys. They were all great, but how great was Scott Cudi? He's just so... what he did with that character is just so fantastic. Yeah, I love those boys.
MM: Is it any different for you acting while spending about half the time inside of a car?
AP: Yes! Usually you dread doing car scenes in anything just because it's become so claustrophobic, but I think with this film since I was actually driving it wasn't bad. But it's weird, the majority of the film takes place in a car, but they're really fast cars and they're fun cars.
MM: You mentioned Bullitt earlier and some of the other classic driving films, is that what you watched to get into character for this?
AP: Oh yeah! I was big fan of those films before, but Scott wanted me to watch all things Steve McQueen for this movie. I love all those films. There were a lot of little... I don't know if you guys noticed any of the little hidden Easter eggs in the film. Throwbacks to all of those great car movies.
MM: Is this the most pre-production you've done? Like you had to do the driver training and...
AP: Yeah, I had to gain a lot of weight to do this movie. And I'm sure if you guys re-watch the final season of Breaking Bad you see me slowly start to balloon out [laughs], but that was on purpose. Yeah this is definitely probably the most prep I've had.
MM: Did you like it? Not like it?
AP: I loved it, I thought it was great. Every day I went out to the track [for driving training] I got just a little better and I learned something new. There are tracks all over this country and you can go take these courses and learn how to do [driving tricks], and it's actually so much easier than you think. To slide the car around is super simple. To do a reverse 180 or even like a full 360 is actually kind of simple. But once you learn how to do it you just kind of tweek it and...
MM: We do it in the snow, but that's...
AP: [laughs] by accident.
MM: What was your favorite car to drive?
AP: My favorite car in the movie, hands down, was the Gran Torino. I just wanted that car so bad. We all wanted that car. There's two identical Gran Torinos that they gutted and made brand new. Beautiful cars, super fast. They ended up wrecking one of the cars during the first race by accident. And then the director and I were fighting over the remaining one. Neither of us got it.
MM: I think a lot of people would like to think that this is the second phase of Jesse after getting away from the Neo-Nazis.
AP: [laughs] Yeah I just drove straight into this film.
MM: What do you think of that theory?
AP: [laughs] Yeah, sure, why not? Jesse's doing okay. He went from driving a really beat up Toyota to... what, he left in that El Camino, right? And then into some crazy super cars.
MM: Once he drove out he realized he had all these racing abilities.
MM: Are there any particular directors you'd looking forward to working with in the future?
AP: Oh man, there are so many. I just worked with one of my all time favorites, Ridley Scott. He's just such a legend. But I would love to work with Spielberg, [that] would be great. I mean, he [asked me to do] this, he didn't direct it but it was nice to be part of a project [where] his hands were involved. Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Nicolas Refn, Quentin Tarantino, there are so many great directors.
MM: How many times have you been arrested, thrown in jail, or beaten up in your projects? Because you get arrested two times even in this movie.
AP: Yeah, I tend to get arrested in everything I'm in [laughs], honestly. Actually, I really get arrested in everything I do, I don't know why, but pretty much every project I do you can look forward to me getting arrested.
MM: You take a good beating though too.
AP: Thank you! I like getting beat up, I don't know, what does that say about me? [laughs]