If you’ve never seen Breaking Bad but you’re thinking about watching El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie on Netflix, you may want to reconsider. The sequel film was made in secret, picking up after the events of the series finale with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan writing and directing. But instead of trying to make a film that would appeal to general audiences, or include some kind of recap of the events of Breaking Bad, Gilligan decided El Camino is really only for people who have already watched and enjoyed the iconic series.
Speaking with THR, Gilligan says he initially tried to find a way to make El Camino work for non-Breaking Bad fans, but ultimately decided it was a fool’s errand:
“If, after 12 years, you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, you’re probably not going to start now. If you do, I hope that this movie would still be engaging on some level, but there’s no doubt in my mind that you won’t get as much enjoyment out of it. We don’t slow down to explain things to a non-Breaking Bad audience. I thought early on in the writing of the script, ‘Maybe there’s a way to have my cake and eat it too. Maybe there’s a way to explain things to the audience.’ If there was a way to do that, it eluded me.”
Gilligan first started thinking about the story at the center of El Camino—i.e. what happened to Jesse Pinkman when he drove away?—before the Breaking Bad series finale aired:
“I didn’t really tell anybody about it, because I wasn’t sure I would ever do anything with it,” he says. “But I started thinking to myself, ‘What happened to Jesse?’ You see him driving away. And to my mind, he went off to a happy ending. But as the years progressed, I thought, ‘What did that ending — let’s just call it an ending, neither happy, nor sad — what did it look like?’ “
He didn’t start writing the feature until planning begun for events in 2018 to mark the show’s 10th anniversary, and while he initially toyed around with simply making a short film, he was eventually spurred to make a full feature when ideas kept flowing. Naturally Sony Pictures Television (which owns Breaking Bad) was thrilled, and the studio made a pact to premiere the film on Netflix before airing it on AMC in 2020.
Aaron Paul, the Breaking Bad co-star who would be the centerpiece of El Camino, was taken aback at first, but one key ingredient convinced him that returning to the character of Jesse Pinkman would be worth it:
“I’m like everybody else on the planet — I think Vince and the rest of the writers really nailed the landing with the ending of Breaking Bad, and why mess with that?” Paul recalls thinking. “But it’s Vince we’re talking about. I would follow Vince into a fire. That’s how much I trust the man. I would do anything that he asked me to.”
The 50-day shoot of El Camino happened under the radar in Albuquerque in 2018, using many of the locations they used for Breaking Bad during the series’ run. But Gilligan and Co. went to great lengths to keep the whole thing under wraps, flying Paul in and out using a private jet, shielding their shoots from the public, and asking crewmembers to remain tight-lipped to other locals in the community.
Indeed, that led to a number of iconic cameos in the film, and I’m happy they were able to keep them all under wraps.
Whether El Camino marks the true end of the road for Breaking Bad going forward, Gilligan says making the film inspired him to direct more movies in the future, and he also aims to create another television show. Just don’t expect it to be yet another antihero story.