In his first starring role since the conclusion of Breaking Bad last September, Paul picks up where you might say the finale of that show ended-- only as Tobey Marshall, not Jesse Pinkman, behind the wheel of a very fast car. In his character's sharp leather jacket despite the June heat, Paul talked to us about his love of the fast cars on set, his lack of hesitation playing another criminal after Jesse, and the stunts he got to participate in while making the film.
Was there any apprehension about jumping back into the crime genre after Breaking Bad?
I definitely wasn't trying to stay away from the whole crime element in future opportunities. I like crime. It's dangerous. It's super-fun. With this film, it gives me the opportunity to drive really fast in really crazy cars. So why not?
How is the Mustang?
The Mustang is amazing. His Gran Torino is unreal. The Konisegg is pretty freakily fast, too.
Do they let you drive very fast or are they scared you'll kill yourself?
A combination of both. I do drive fast. I've probably gone, maybe on camera 120. And it's legal and I'm flying by cop cars. It's so great.
What kind of preparation did you have to do?
In terms of driving, they had me do just a stunt course outside of Los Angeles. It's mostly to teach me how to get out of problematic situations if something were to go wrong in the car. I learned how to drift around corners, do reverse 180s and 360s. I don't why they had me learn that. I don't do it in the film. But it was badass.
Do you now apply it in your life?
Every day, yeah. In rental cars. The winnebago [from Breaking Bad] I haven't tried to flip yet [laughs]. We've been having a blast.
Do you get to keep one of these beauties?
Oh man, I'm trying. Trust me, I am trying. I think everybody wants the Gran Torino and we only have two of them. I know Scott, our brilliant director, wants to take one home and I know my stunt driver, Tanner Foust, who is truly the one making me look like I know what I'm doing. In all reality, he's doing most of the driving.
We've heard this film is very grounded in reality.
When it was placed in my lap, I instantly thought, "Oh, it's going to be another Fast & Furious film". That's not necessarily a bad thing. Those films are super-entertaining. That's why they're so highly successful. I read the script and I went, "Oh, wow. This is really interesting." Then I heard the pitch from Scott Waugh and heard that he wanted to do a full throwback to the 60s and 70s classic car-culture films. Stuff like Bullitt. I thought that was very interesting.
What kind of energy does Scott bring to the set?
Oh man, you walk on set and -- you can't really tell today, but it's such a testosterone-driven set. He's a second or third generation stuntman, and he has a very specific, unique vision of what he wants for this film. It's very gritty and edgy. Really, to be honest, I think this film is going to surprise a lot of people. But he's a wild man. He knows what he wants and he's really a perfect director for it. He's super energetic. Super excited. Some days are more stressful than others, but he's a madman. He's great.
The game doesn't really have a plot. Can you talk about having that blank canvass to build a film on?
That's what's so great. There have been so many Need For Speed games, but there's no narrative. It's truly a blank canvas for the writers. You'll see when you watch the film that you actually feel like you're behind the wheel. For a lot of the camera angles, you feel like you're actually driving the car. It kind of makes you feel like you're in the game in a way. In terms of character, it's a blast being a badass but also the good guy. Being a badass in these crazy cars. It's just been fun.
Does this film have its lighter moments?
Even with Breaking Bad, even though it got super-dark, the show is pretty funny. You find yourself laughing at very terrible things. Bodies being melted by acid. It's funny, but in reality it's not. Here, we're having fun. It's really an intense story, but there's the story between Tobey and Julia [Imogen Poots's character], the two people stuck in the Mustang on the cross-country venture, that's a pretty funny one.
Does your wardrobe include more badass leather like what you're wearing right now?
Actually, this is pretty much the only thing he wears in the entire film. It's a story of this guy desperately trying to make it across country in a very short period of time. He doesn't have a lot of time to change. But it's definitely very different than the attire I wear on Breaking Bad. That's not necessarily a bad thing.