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Adrenaline Rush :: Aaron Paul on ’Need for Speed’

by Fred Topel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Mar 13, 2014

When it comes to cars, the "Fast and the Furious" movies own the roads at the cinemas. They may have a new competitor in "Need for Speed." Based on the video game series, "Need for Speed" takes automobile action to the next level with real stunts executed by Hollywood's elite drivers. Starring Aaron Paul (double Emmy winner for "Breaking Bad,") there may not be a faster more furious movie this year.

"Your choice of words was just brilliant," Paul laughed when I asked him if there would be a faster, more furious movie. "I have no idea. We'll see. Do you think?"

"Need for Speed" has a good shot, though there are still nine more months to go in 2014. Perhaps more importantly to Paul's career, it is the first big studio movie in which he is the lead. Paul always appeared in movies throughout the run of "Breaking Bad," indie dramas like "Smashed" and the horror movie "The Last House on the Left." "Need for Speed" was a chance to prove himself in a larger pond.

Jumping into mainstream filmmaking

"I think it was the time for me to jump into the studio system," Paul said. "I always just gravitated towards the small, passion projects, and I still do those. Right after I shot ’Need for Speed,’ I did a little film called ’Hellion’ that was at Sundance this last year and we did it I think for $400,000 dollars. Everyone was doing it for the pure love and passion. I just love independent filmmaking because you walk on set and there’s about 30 people on the crew just making something that they all believe in. You know everyone’s first and last name and you know their stories."

The crew of "Need for Speed" will have to forgive Paul. He could not learn everybody’s name. "With the studio system, I’m just learning that the crews are so giant and it’s really impossible to meet everyone. I just wrapped a film right before the holiday, "Exodus," and it was about 600-700 crew members. It’s impossible to meet everybody. Then you don’t remember if you had met the person and you feel bad. Anyways, I thought it was time to kind of jump into the studio system and that way I could kind of still do the passion projects."

In "Need for Speed," Tobey Marshall (Paul) loses his brother in a race against corrupt auto magnate Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Dino actually frames Tobey for the accident and Tobey does time. After getting out of jail, Tobey enters an underground street race to avenge his brother by defeating Dino. Along the way, Dino’s men are out to get Tobey so there is plenty of action leading up to the climactic race.

Credit to stuntmen & women

"In all honesty, I want to give the stunt men and women credit," Paul said. "They did all of the heavy lifting. Like the grasshopper jump, that was definitely not me, and I did not want to do that. When they drove off the cliff and were caught by the helicopter, that was not me, but that was someone, and that’s just terrifying. All of the major crashes were the stunt men and women, but the majority of the driving and all of the races, that was me. A lot of just the driving through the freeway sequences where we’re going about 125 miles an hour, that was me. When we needed to get the speed up to about 180, 190, they got the stunt men and women in there."

Though he was happy to turn over the most dangerous stunts to the professionals, Paul could see why those stunt drivers enjoy cars so much. "We had such a blast doing this and I can see why these stunt men and women have chosen this for their profession because it’s just fun. It’s a science. They’re not just throwing these people in these cars and acting reckless. Safety is everyone’s major concern and priority when doing a film like this. With that said, it was just such a blast."

For sequences where Tobey is driving on his way to the race in San Francisco, Paul did have training. "They didn’t want to throw me into a car and say, ’Good luck.’ I was just out at Willow Springs, just a track which is about an hour outside of Los Angeles, and I was on that track as often as I could be, from sunrise to sunset, just whenever I had some free time, ready for another day of practice. It was great. The first few days were really learning how to get out of problematic situations, like if something went wrong. Then, the fun began, drifting around corners, doing reverse 180s, learning how to do 360s, the fun stuff."

Working with Imogen Potts

Tobey is not alone on the road. The owner of the supercar he drives, Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) is along for the ride. Tobey also has a team of his Marshall Motors mechanics, two driving a truck alongside, and one in the air alerting him to traffic patterns.

"The brotherhood, the Marshall Motor boys, it was just all on the page," Paul said. "They’re so different from each other, and all of us as humans are so different from each other, but we just really get along. We really hit it off and it was great. Then Imy (Poots) and I, I love her to death. I just did a film with her when I got this script sent to me. I was shooting a film with her and I just wanted her to come along with me. They told me she was at the top of their list. I just begged Imy to come with me and she did."

Everyone is still talking about "Breaking Bad," and spoiler alert if you have not caught up with the finale yet. Many of the fans still want to know what happens to Jesse Pinkman (Paul) after the finale. "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan himself said Jesse wouldn’t last very long.

"I disagree with Vince there, just because I want him to be okay. I don’t know if he deserves to kind of get away but I think he had his time in that hole. He was just tortured enough so I think he paid the price. I would like to think that he got away. He’s hiding out in Alaska somewhere, carving some wood."

Using ’Bad’ for charity

Spoilers for "Breaking Bad" are still an issue for those who have not caught up. While filming "Need for Speed," the last episodes had not aired yet and cast and crew members were conflicted about their access to its star.

"Everyone wanted to know but really they didn’t want to know. So everyone would say, ’Come on. Please tell me.’ I’m like, ’Oh my God. All right, but you have to promise not to say anything.’ Then I would start to just talk and they’re like, ’No! Don’t tell me.’"

Paul even used the "Breaking Bad" finale to raise some money for charity. His wife, Lauren Parsekian, began The Kind Campaign while at Pepperdine University to combat girl-on-girl bullying. Paul sold tickets to a special "Breaking Bad" finale screening to benefit The King Campaign.

"I had been planning on doing an event for the night of the finale for a couple years. I wanted to do an event. I wanted to give the opportunity to the public to get together with everyone that made the show. So I rented out the Hollywood Forever cemetery. We played the pilot episode and then we played the final episode. I got Jimmy Kimmel to moderate the little Q&A afterwards. It was great because when we put the tickets up, we sold out in 36 seconds.

"We raised just under 2 million dollars and it was fantastic. I was so happy with the way it ended. You could hear a pin drop in that cemetery during the final episode. Vince was a little nervous to play it with that many people. There were thousands and thousands of people there, five thousand maybe. But everyone was so respectful and they were so invested. If anyone screamed out, I think their neighbors would have knocked them out, like, ’What are you doing, you psycho? Shut up.’"

"Breaking Bad" is really over, except for the spinoff "Better Call Saul," but "Need for Speed" could be a new beginning. If successful, Paul might play Tobey Marshall again.

"We’ll see," he said modestly. "It hasn’t been a big discussion but if the film does well, I’m sure the studio would love to do another one. After shooting this first one with everyone involved, I would absolutely without a question jump into it, as long as the story’s there, and I think it would be, because the first one was great. So yeah, I would love to."

"Need for Speed" opens March 14.


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