Two weeks ago, GeekNation was invited to a preview screening of DreamWorks’ upcoming film Need For Speed. The movie is not just a film version of the popular video game series – it’s also an homage to the classic car films of the ’60s and ’70s. Before the film’s theatrical release this Friday, we had a chance to sit down with Aaron Paul (Tobey Marshall), Imogen Poots (Julia Maddon), and director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) to discuss everything from muscle cars, stunt work, the importance of practical effects in the film, “Better Call Saul,” and more!
Poots speaks about being the main female presence in such a testosterone filled movie:
It certainly felt like that, I’m not going to lie – the female presence. You just sort of got to keep your head down and get on with it because there’s no change in that kind of environment. It was cool and driving the car was fun. I don’t drive in real life so driving the car full stop was kind of closer to being a grown up. It was a cool experience.
On her experience working with Aaron Paul:
The dynamic was wonderful because we had just done a film in London together for a couple months. It was Aaron who was like, ‘Would you be interested in this sort of a film?’ The trepidation I felt about this sort of film was certainly put to ease by the fact that we’ve worked together. I mean, you’re in a car and it’s such a claustrophobic place and it’d be sort of awful not to like the person you’re with. I adore him, so it was a good thing.
On her experience with the stunt work in the film:
I didn’t necessarily understand how incredible these guys are in terms of their jobs. It really is like a dance. I think I had this pre-assumption that it was going to be…that stunts implied muscle and strength. Actually, you have to be so deft with your moves and extremely accurate. There was one shot where a car was driving so quick and then had to jump over some traffic and we were all standing there watching and I was like, ‘This could go horribly wrong!’ It was a very emotional moment. We’re doing this for the film and it’s going to be awesome and everyone else was thinking we were going to use CGI for this moment, but no – they were going to do it the authentic way. This was so much more than what I actually considered stunt work to be. It’s a real art.
On working with Scott Waugh:
He was really cool because I think he understood my reservations and concerns. He was very available and accessible to me personally, I think. He came from this background in stunt work and action but really wanted to find the heart within the story and was very mindful of that.
On Waugh’s decision to make the movie without CGI:
I mean pretty much all my work never has CG, so I think they knew that when they hired me, that’s what they were going to get and I’m not a fan of CG. I feel like it’s the easy way out – unless you’re doing like a futuristic movie that’s in a completely other world, like Avatar. But in a car movie – it’s like it should be all practical, it should be all real! And we can hire guys like Lance [Gilbert] to come up with stuff that’s real that we can do practically and I just felt like when we conceived this film, it was like I really wanted to do a throwback to the movies that Lance and I grew up on that were the ones we still quote today as the greatest car movies of all time, which is Bullitt, which is Vanishing Point, which is Smokey and the Bandit, French Connection. You go down these films and you really watch them and you try to figure out – why are they still the best? And you go look at it and the number one rule is it is all real. It’s the ‘60s, the ‘70s. They didn’t do CG. You go and you look at it. There’s no big music montage. It’s just motor noise and it’s cars. And it’s great. It’s something we really focused on throughout the whole film.
On how the film’s action sequences were achieved:
One thing I said to Lance…his dad and my dad did this jump together in a car for Our Winning Season. They jumped the car through a drive-in movie theater screen and it was huge. Right? But they did it for real and it was practical and I was like, ‘We need to do that in this movie on respect for our fathers,’ you know, and my dad passed away in preproduction for this movie and I really wanted to dedicate this movie to all the things that he was able to accomplish in his career and so that was one of the things with ‘The Grasshopper’ sequence. These are my things I said to Lance: ‘It’s got to be practical, it’s got to be real, we’re going to really jump it, and he needs to drive away.’
Stunt Coordinator Lance Gilbert continues:
Yeah. Well we had to find a spot that actually told the story too of how he gets away. So, like Scott and I do, he likes to reverse engineer his action beats and go to try to find the locations that work best for telling the story while also being able to create good action. So we were in Detroit and we were driving around and we were finding some ridiculous locations.
He’s going, ‘Do you think we think we can do this?’ And I’m looking at him going, ‘Well, I think we can do this, but I don’t know if we can do it here.’ So ultimately we found this other place and it was just a perfect lead in to a trap of being able to evade and get away from the police and going up that grassy knoll and jumping across those three lanes of traffic into that park system. It was a pretty critical area, because the park itself was littered with trees and all of that, but we found a path that was big enough, wide enough and long enough to fit our criteria that we were looking for. We had to go in and modify the landing zone a little bit to make it a nicer downhill transition to ease on the car. Then we built and modified the car to be able to handle the landing and we went, we tested and knew we had it. We knew what speeds we were going to go do and then it was just a matter of waiting for our ticket to get punched to go to Detroit to go actually film it. Then we went there and did it!
On casting Aaron Paul as the lead:
Casting is really important to me and I spent a long time, because I wanted to find the next young Steve McQueen. Steve harnessed three things that are really important – danger, charisma, and likability. Those are really three attributes that are hard. Aaron’s name came up for the bad guy. I saw the tape on him and I was like, ‘Oh my God! That’s the obvious choice, but the more interesting choice is the lead.’ They said the studio would never go for that. That’s too edgy and I was like, ‘That’s the movie we should be making.’ Then they showed the same footage and everything to Steven [Spielberg] and he saw the footage of Aaron and goes, ‘Oh my God! This kid’s incredible! Why aren’t we considering him for the lead?’ They listened to Steven and he got cast and it really did. I was happy, because Steven and I have seen eye-to-eye on everything.
Aaron Paul on his experience with stunt driving in the movie:
You know, we had such a blast doing this and I can see why these stunt men and women have chose this for their profession because it’s just fun. And it’s a science. They’re not just throwing these people in these cars and, you know, acting reckless. Safety is their major concern and priority when doing a film like this and so with that said it was just such a blast.
They didn’t wanna me throw me into a car and say good luck, you know. I was just out at Willow Springs just to track up, just about a hour outside of Los Angeles and I was on that track as often as I could be. I mean from sunrise to sunset, just whenever I had some free time. It was great. I mean, the first few days was really just kinda learning how to get out of problematic situations like if something went wrong, and then the fun started. I mean, just tripping around corners, doing reverse 180’s, learning how to do 360’s and just, you know, the fun stuff.
On the transition from “Breaking Bad” to big budget movie work:
I think it was the time for me to jump into the studio system. I mean I always just gravitated towards the small passion projects and I still do those. I mean, 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. You know, everyone was doing it because of the pure love and passion of it. And I just love independent film making ‘cause you walk on set and there’s about 30 people on the crew. You know – making something that they all believe in and you know everyone’s first and last name, you kinda know their stories…and with the studio system – I’m just learning that the crews are just so giant and it’s really impossible to meet everyone. I mean, I just wrapped a film right before the holidays, Exodus, and there’s about 600 to 700 crew members.
This film was probably the biggest, Need for Speed. Before it, Exodus was the biggest thing I had ever been a part of. I mean, you go to set and there’s 13 super cars, 12 cop cars, 2 helicopters…I mean, it’s just crazy. And it’s massive and it was so much fun but then you go to a Ridley Scott biblical epic and, you know, you’re surrounded by 200 camels and elephants and, there may be a couple cheetahs…you’re like ‘what is happening?’ And everyone looks like they’re walking straight outta the bible. It was epic.
On juggling the emotional tone and action scenes in the movie:
To be honest with you, juggling the action was just, it was just there because we’re actually in the driver’s seat, you know? We weren’t acting like we were driving and there’s no green screen so that was just an easy thing to kinda just use because you’re in that situation. And the brotherhood, you know, The Marshall Motors boys…it was just all in the page. We really hit it off and it was great. And Immy and I…I love her to death and I just did a film with her when I got this script sent to me. I was shooting a film with her and just wanted her to come along with me. I mean, they told me that she was like the top of their list and I just begged Immy to come with me and she did.
He elaborates on his experience going from commercial work to leading big budget movies:
I don’t know if you’ve seen the video of me on “The Price Is Right” but I look like I’m on some serious drugs. I had gone to a 7-11 and filled up a Big Gulp with like 6 or 7 cans of Red Bull because I knew they wanted energy. I had friends come into town from Idaho and we’d go to “The Price is Right” because one of us would always get picked. I drank that entire thing of Red Bull and I could not sit still.
But yeah, even when I was doing commercials or one line on some hour drama, or even “The Price Is Right” I felt like I was living my dream. I was very excited about it. I didn’t really plan on, you know, ‘I wanna be in a crazy huge budget film’. I just wanted to do what I was passionate about, whether that was doing just commercials or guest stars or whatever, just as long as I was happy and doing what I loved.
On the possibility of his involvement in “Better Call Saul”:
Well, it’s a prequel…actually, I had done Exodus where I play a slave and Ridley Scott wanted me to not eat what-so-ever and just lose as much weight as possible. So yeah, I gotta start cutting some weight off. But yeah, “Better Call Saul” has got a straight pick-up which they’ve [AMC] never done before. They didn’t have to do a pilot. They’re doing 24 episodes and it’ll probably go for much longer than that. Shooting in Albequerqe, same stages that we shot “Breaking Bad” on. Will Jesse Pinkman be in it? I hope so. I definitely would love to do it and Vince [Gilligan] and I have definitely talked about it. If that’s going to be an episode, a little cameo or something a little more – I’m not sure. But it will definitely be in Jesse’s lighter days and that’ll be nice – to kind of play that not so tortured.
Need For Speed was directed by Scott Waugh and stars Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scot Mescudi, Dakota Johnson and Michael Keaton. The movie hits theaters nationwide this Friday, March 14th.
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