Last year, when director Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed was filming in Detroit, I got to visit the set along with a few other reporters. While I was excited for the film based solely on the cast (Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson and Kid Cudi), I walked away excited for something else: the practical effects. While on set, I watched as real cars raced around the city and they were definitely breaking every speed limit. From what I was told from the cast and crew, this is how the whole movie was made; using real cars racing at high speeds with cameras recoding every move. It should be a hell of a ride when the film opens March 14th.
During a break in filming, I was able to participate in a group interview with Aaron Paul. He talked about getting ready for the driving, what it’s like driving the Mustang, how the film is grounded in reality, his character’s revenge plans, whether he played the video game, the ending of Breaking Bad, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Finally, before getting to the interview, for those unfamiliar with the film, the pic is an adaptation of the video game of the same name and chronicles a cross-country race against time as a blue-collar mechanic (Paul) who was framed for manslaughter by a wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver (Cooper) sets out for revenge in a high-stakes underground racing tournament. Here’s the trailer.
AARON PAUL: I definitely wasn’t trying to stay away from the whole crime element in future opportunities. I like crime. It’d 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?
PAUL: 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?
PAUL: 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?
PAUL: 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?
PAUL: Everyday, yeah. In rental cars. The winnebago I haven’t tried to flip yet (laughs). We’ve been having a blast.
Do you get to keep one of these beauties?
PAUL: 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.
PAUL: When it was placed in my lap, I instantly thought, “Oh, it’s going 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.
Can you talk about the energy that Scott brings to set?
PAUL: 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 and 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?
PAUL: 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 canvass 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.
PAUL: Yeah, on and off. Not really so much right now. But I dabble. I definitely was a huge gamer.
Is it fair to say that playing a video game pales in comparison to driving a car at 120 miles per hour?
PAUL: Kinda, yeah.
Does this film have its lighter moments?
PAUL: 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, the two people stuck in the Mustang on the cross-country venture, that’s a pretty funny one.
So it’s very much “Smokey and the Bandit” with you as Burt Reynolds and Ms. Poots as Sally Field?
Can we talk about your wardrobe? Is there more badass leather>
PAUL: 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.
Is this your character’s company?
PAUL: Yeah, it’s Marshall motors. I’m Tobey Marshall. It was his father’s business but his father has, tragically, passed away. So has his mother. So he’s left alone, struggling to desperately keep this business afloat. It’s not looking good for him.
PAUL: It’s great. I don’t have a problem not telling people. No one wants to know. Everyone asks me but, deep down, they don’t want to know. And I know that, so it’s not that big a deal. Before I read the final eight episodes, the final eight hours of the show, I was thinking that it was all so tragic. I couldn’t believe the show was ending. I didn’t want it to end. After knowing how the final eight hours play out, I couldn’t be happier with how it all ends. Hopefully you all agree and I feel pretty confident that you all will.
Did you have a ritual for reading the final scripts?
PAUL: Actually yeah, a little bit. That’s what I did with the part one. The first eight. I took my time with all of them, but I honestly couldn’t wait. I got an e-mail on my phone of the final eight and I said I was going to wait until they were in paper form. Sit in the house, drink some wine and take my time with it. In all reality, though, six of the last eight I read on my phone on a plane. I just could not wait. I’m a huge fan of the show as well. You guys are going to shit your pants.
What kind of music does Tobey listen to on a cross-country trip?
PAUL: There’s actually not a ton of music.
What about just in terms of his personality? What fits him?
Where is he from original?
PAUL: New York. A small little town in New York.
It sounds like, in a lot of ways, you’re trying to revive Steve McQueen.
PAUL: Yeah, that was definitely one of the pitches they gave me. Steve McQueen was one of the ultimate badasses because he wasn’t trying to be. That’s just who he was. Hopefully I can pull it off.
Can you tell us a little about Tobey’s revenge plans?
PAUL: He is desperately trying to make it to a race to make a wrong a right. He knows this particular guy is going to be at this race at the end of the film. He’s seeking some very intense revenge. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s going to be fun.