AKIPRESS.COM - The author of Hollywood-Asia project, Los Angeles film festival executive Asel Sherniyazova, interviewed "Nobody" star Bob Odenkirk.
The Hollywood-Asia project provides the most up to date and important creative and business information relating to world cinema, as well as all the latest film news and events from Hollywood.
Q: As varied as your career is, we have never seen you in a role like this. Can you talk about the "little boy" inside of you that kind of got to go out on the playground and play with these new toys? Like, say, guns...
- Absolutely. There's a lot to talk about preparation for this film because I wanted to do my own fighting. I'm a big fan of those Jackie Chan films all of them but especially the early ones. “Police Story” is one of my favorite movies. I've shared with my kids and everything and so I wanted to do my own fighting which not everyone does in these films. To me that was the fun part so I knew I had a long way to go and I trained for 2½ years. I enjoyed it. I mean, it was embarrassing and stuff because I knew it would be hard but it was playful, very playful and in fact the shooting sequences with – when you're shooting a fight scene and there's, you know, 10 people, guys and girls it's everybody's in this industry now, all different types are pros and experts and an amazing group of people around me you have to work together and you have a lot of laughs and it is as much fun as it was writing comedy in my – which is what I started in the business doing and I loved being in those comedy writer rooms and I had as many laughs here shooting these action sequences.
- With any movie with a good protagonist, we have to have interesting antagonists. To have "Russian mafia" as the antagonist, is there a political underscore considering political climate in the world?
- You know, I don't think so. I have one of – you know, I was a part of generating the story, the early parts of it. Derek Kolstad wrote it and it really is from his imagination but one of the books that I referenced in creating this character was a book called The Dark Art. I'll see if I can find the writer's name for you. It was a very enjoyable book about a DEA agent by Edward Follis and Douglas Century 2 people. It's about a DEA agent and his various missions around the globe and he just – he's in every country so basically there's – you can pick any country to have your bad guys come from and there's – they live in the world. I think Russia for us was – Russia right now is kind of unknown quantity like what are they up to. There's a general feeling that they're shit stirrers around the globe. You know, I'm also for another project that I'm working on I'm reading a lot about troll farms and Internet, you know, Internet sort of you can call it terrorism and Russia's a big part of that so I think Russia was just I think an interesting choice and a modern – it felt – felt like it's what's going on in our western world there's an uncertainty about what – what Russia's really after and what they're up to so but, you know, it really could have been any country, you know, and every country has their bad guys.
- You mentioned Derek Kolstad and obviously he helped birth the "John Wick" films franchise. What are your thoughts of those "John Wick" films? You also mentioned having some input on the script of "Nobody".
- Well, I like the – Derek Kolstad all of his work. I love the John Wick films. They – Keanu Reeves is a very special presence on screen and something that I think is very different from me so putting me in that world that, you know, Derek creates this mythic world. I thought the fun of our adventure would be to go from a very common world whereas in John Wick he from the first time you meet him he already exists in a special kind of fabricated world whereas I think, I mean, you know, he feels like a very special, unique human being where I wanted to feel like just a very regular guy like just somebody you'd pass on the street and who lives in a world that you can recognize. It blows up into this big world of big sort of world class bad guys but it starts and for most of the film it's anchored in a life you could recognize. As far as – Derek loves that. Derek loved that I think as a different flavor from John Wick and yet going to a place where he could fill the world with mythic level bad guys which is what he does in this movie. We get there eventually but for the first hour of the film we're living in a world that you recognize. Buses and suburban homes and, you know, moms taking kids to school in the morning and, you know, a break in where there's really no money to be had, you know, just the change in the change bin, you know, so I think you'd have to ask Derek but I think he got off on taking the slow approach to the higher conceptualized realms of bad guys. My contribution was I wanted to do an action movie and my manager, Mark Provissiero who is a producer on this liked the idea. He understood the point of view that I had which was that the character I play in “Better Call Saul” is in many ways, component ways an action lead except he doesn't fight. He's an earnest guy. He wants what he wants. It comes from his heart. He never quits. No matter how much he's hurt he fights back so I just thought all you got to do is add fighting to that guy and you've got an action lead. You're with him. Your heart is with, you know, Saul or Jimmy McGill as he's presented in “Better Call Saul” and I thought there's some connection there to an action lead and I had certain things in my personal life. We've had 2 break-ins at my house with my family in the house and I carry a certain amount of frustration and anger even about what I did or didn't do in those real life incidents and I thought if that happened to – if that same incident and situation happened to a person who actually could fight back; a person who is trained to fight but who withheld his talents and skills because he was pretending to be a regular guy and that was part of the portrayal of the guise he was in, as frustrating as it was for me to live with the aftermath of those incidents, it would be just exponentially more frustrating for a person who really was trained and could have done something and so to build that character was my contribution and to start with an incident that was a kind of a random home break-in that really wasn't – didn't amount to much but provoked this character that I would play, I thought that was really interesting and so did Derek Kolstad. Now, of course, he takes it to another level because that's Derek but it started with that general notion that I brought to my manager Mark Provissiero. He put it out, asked different writers if they were interested and Derek responded.
- You had an important role in "Breaking Bad" and are a main character in "Better Call Saul" TV series which have a lot of violence, but your characters in both of the series always refrained from it. If you are such a fan of the genre and of the action, it must be frustrating for you to lay back. Did you ever ask Vince (Galligan, the showrunner) can I hit someone or something like that?
- You know, I have never done that, but I know what you mean. I mean, you're exactly right. There is almost pent-up frustration from playing Jimmy McGill that I'm using in “Nobody” to power the character, to inform the character. There are times in “Better Call Saul” where I do wish the character would be more forceful and take more action. Oftentimes I feel like he makes choices that are sort of destined to blow up in his face and yet he can't help himself and that – I wish the character could see that he's creating more trouble for himself but I never asked if he could fight back. I think I get more of a feeling that I wish he could be more – I wish that character Jimmy could take things less personally and be more understanding of the things that happen to him. He gets very personally irked on a deep level by the circumstances in the plot developments that come his way and it drives him to become that character that you see Saul Goodman who's really kind of lashing out at the world using his talents as a lawyer and a con man and I think it's – I feel bad for the guy that that's his choice but in this movie of course I get to fight back with screen fighting and it's really – it was really rewarding. Really fun to do.
- And you still have one more reason of "Saul" to go. Are you getting anxious?
- I am anxious. We're going to go shoot soon. They haven't come through with the calendar yet but we're going to get to it soon. You know, we waited because we want to be as careful as possible about our protocols regarding Covid and coronavirus and so Sony has been amazing. Sony has been so careful and generous and listening to us and our worries and we have – look, I'm 58, you know, we're not the youngest cast in the world so we want to be careful so I am -- but I'm eager to get back and eager to find out what happens to the character.
- You extensively trained with instructor, right?
- I almost cried. The truth is I laughed a lot in training. I laughed at myself. You know, we trained at this great gym that this, you know, my film is produced by 87 North is one of the companies that produces it. David Leitch and Kelly McCormick are 87 North and David Leitch has a gym with called 87 Eleven. So we trained at their gym that they were people have trained for all the John Wick films, “Deadpool,” just so many great movies the stunt teams train there so I trained there with Daniel Bernhardt who's maybe the best stunt actor alive. I really – if you don't know who Daniel Bernhardt is you should look him up. He's the person who fought with Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” in that great amazing fight sequence in the apartment. You've seen him in very – he's just he's a great actor and maybe the best stunt actor alive so I don't know why he was willing to do this because it took over 2 years but he trained me twice a week, 3 times a week and towards the end every day and he showed me the basics of screen fighting which is very interesting, very hard and it got me into amazing shape and I learned how to work out in a really balanced way.
My #1 I mean, I wanted to do the fighting and #2 reason I trained as hard as I did was because I didn't want to get hurt. I mean, you really can get hurt if you're not in good shape, right, so it was just a real adventure and the hardest part, Marlene, was there's a wall of mirrors at the gym and I would be doing the training, you know, I would be mimicking Daniel's moves and he's the best in the world and I just look like – I would just feel terrible watching myself suck and I would laugh whenever, you know, we'd stop doing a movement I would just laugh and go like this is crazy and he would go “come on, let's go “and he would be very encouraging and upbeat. Meanwhile around me because it's a big gym are the best stunt people in the world and they, you know, I imagine they're looking over once in a while going what is that clown think he's doing here. I mean, he's terrible but I got better.
It took a long time but after about a year-and-a-half Marlene I remember the first time Daniel told me okay, now slow down your movements and that was a great thing to hear. You could actually go too fast; the camera can't catch it. It doesn't look good if you move too fast so it was nice to feel that I'd gotten to a place where I could move too fast and I think I pulled it off. I feel very good about the action sequences in the movie. I enjoyed making them. I enjoyed that work and it came out the way I had hoped. Go too fast, the camera can't catch it. It doesn't look good if you move too fast so it was nice to feel that I'd gotten to a place where I could move too fast and I think I pulled it off. I feel very good about the action sequences in the movie. I enjoyed making them. I enjoyed that work and it came out the way I had hoped.
- How would you feel about having a gun at your home?
- I do not have a gun. I don’t think there’s…if you want to do the work of having a firearm in your house then sure, but you have to train. They’re very hard to use well, even the people who trained me told me that that’s not what they would…they would not grab a gun unless they were really forced to. It’s a very dangerous thing to have around. And I worked with guns, I was trained by Mark Semos who’s a Navy Seal sharpshooter and also a writer now on the “Seal Team” TV show. And we trained many times at the police department at the shooting range there. I mean, I got more familiar with guns, I got more comfortable but they’re still very intimidating to me. And I do think, look, I’m in better physical shape, that’s great so if you have some confrontation that’s just a good thing to have but the best thing to do is get the hell out of the way. And oh, the best thing to do is lock your house. In both cases where I had a break-in there was a way in that was unlocked. So if my doors had been locked I wouldn’t have had any problem. So number one, before you go buy a gun, lock your house up every night, it’s not that big a deal, it’s not that hard to do and it should take care of most issues.
- Please talk about Russia director Ilya Naishuller who directed the movie and Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov, who plays the boss of "Russian mafia".
- Aleksey Serebryakov is just a treasure, he is a Russian de Niro, he’s really top-notch actor. It was an honor to share the screen with Aleksey, it was. And his talent, his power, his presence is so palpable; you feel it being near him, he is an incredible presence. I hope that he does more films for western audiences because he’s just a treasure in the field of acting in the world right now. Look, we’re both acting, we’re both pretending to be these guys, it was great fun to bring those showdown moments in the nightclub, it’s great to play opposite…I’ve gotten to play opposite Bryan Cranston, Michael McKeon, in those moments where it’s two really angry guys (Laughs) or two really intense guys facing each other down with everything that they’ve got inside them. And he was a joy to work with, he was great.
I think that…my feeling was that Russians are far more in tune with us and our world here in America, the things we know and care about and sort of our culture than we are of theirs. They know their culture and they know ours and I don’t think that’s just Ilya. Aleksey, they get what we’re about and we don’t fully get them and we really should pay a little more attention to what Russia’s making and the people there. I said earlier and I stand by it, one of the reasons it’s cool to have Russian gangsters is Russia’s a bit of a mystery to us right now. We really can’t…we don’t really know what they’re after, what the country’s after, what the people are after. I think it’s time for us to get to know the Russian people a little better and Ilya was…Ilya’s a man of the world I must tell you, he’s a Russian but he knows his way around the whole world. Similar to Derek Kolstad he…Ilya and Derek are two…they just love the action genre so much and they’re…they know it through and through so they get into conversations about movies I’ve never heard of from Korea that only came out on videotape. They know…it was an amazing thing to be around people who were such masters of this genre. And that includes David Leitch too, who produced.
- You come from the Second City comedy, from “Saturday Night Live”, from “Larry Sanders Show”, of course, your background is really this sarcastic humour that permeates your creative process. But how important is for you to keep this humoristic eye in approaching the reality, your work, your every day life?
- Oh it’s extremely important. And it’s interesting you bring it up in regards to the movie “Nobody” because a lot of times people do these action films and they really…they put an ironic kind of tone into the character and our film is not ironic. I didn’t have that sort of safety valve of ironic comedy point of view; my character is fully engaged and absolutely earnest about his anger, his frustration, his desire for vengeance, his pain. It’s still funny because there’s things that he says that make you laugh but he doesn’t have that safety comic distance that comedy gives you on life, comedy kind of separates you a little bit from the intense emotions or the situation that you’re going through and you get to laugh at it, you kind of a bit removed from the intensity. And I love comedy in my life. I do think one of the revelations of “Better Call Saul” for me was the…what a journey it is when you play a character without irony, when you play a character who is absolutely putting their heart on the screen and is showing you’re their heart. As an actor, to not have that safety and that distance of comedy where you’re laughing at…where you almost sense the character’s laughing at themselves, to take that away and only be those feelings purely I think is kind of more rewarding in acting. I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s a complicated answer.
- When did you start to act, how did it come to you this idea that you wanted to act, particularly to be in this kind of acting, the comedy?
- Look, I wouldn’t have done it if I’d never done “Breaking Bad”. I love comedy, it’s what I write, the projects that I develop mostly are comic, some of them very broadly comic. The opportunity that Vince Gilligan gave me in “Breaking Bad” opened me up to playing characters and playing the stakes of a drama. And I found it rewarding, I found it really…I get a charge out of it. And so I just wouldn’t have thought of it if I had never been given that role. And I don’t know why they gave me that role because outside of “Larry Sanders”, which is kind of…Stevie Grant is kind of a little bit like Saul, it’s really hard to see anything in my earlier career that connects me up to having been given that great opportunity of Saul Goodman (from both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul).
- I wanted to ask you about working with Connie Nielsen. It's hinted at, at least that she's definitely somebody, she seems like a character that has something hidden. Would you have preferred more scenes with her? Also she's shown in "Wonder Woman" that she's into the fight scenes too. Would you have liked to see her…
- Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, she can do action sequences, she’s trained with…for “Wonder Woman” she’s done all of the training that I’ve done to be in that movie and other films that she’s done. I wish we could have done more with her. But one thing that Derek Kolstad does in his films, and listen, we’re not counting on a sequel, that would be silly in Hollywood to feel any surety about things like that, but he does build out big worlds. He starts from a place and he’s always thinking about a bigger world and more action, more plot to come. So yes, I would love to see Connie do a lot more and I love the scenes that we had together and I loved that she played it. And we weren’t sure about this, this was her contribution as much as it was anybody else’s, was playing the character as being…you know look, my character’s in hiding, right, he’s got a persona, he’s pretending to be a regular guy but she knows better. And how much she knows we don’t know but her reaction when my character comes home after that first big altercation and he’s all beat up, she just doesn’t react, she just asks him how he’d doing, she’ concerned, she’s worried. And then there’s that sweet scene that I loved playing with her by the kitchen sink where she’s mending my shattered body (Laughs) and you just get a sense that she’s done this before, she’s been here before. And the way she played it, the intelligence she brought to it, the confidence she brought to the scene and to the moment, there’s no way around it, she built out this character as a woman who probably has done maybe the same things he’s done or more, we don’t know. But in those moments with what she had she laid in this character that if we’re lucky we will get to see. One of the things I love about that Tina is the movie is a fantasy, the movie is kind of…like I said it goes to this conceptualized bad guy mythic level that Derek likes to go to but I do think that every mom and dad looks at their kids and thinks, you don’t know what I’m capable of…not violently…but you don’t know what I used to be, I used to be cool, I used to be powerful potent person and now we see I had a past. And we see that Connie’s character also had a past, she was…I don’t want to try to guess at it.
- What makes you feel "manly"? Say you like your character in "Nobody"?
- Well I’ll be honest with you; I’ve cooked a lot of eggs in the morning and I’ve done a lot of dishes. My kids are in their 20’s now. Maybe boxing. (Laughs) Probably not the most revelatory answer but yeah, hitting something. It’s true.