The idea for the movie that eventually became Nobody started with you. How did you get other people to buy into your vision of Bob Odenkirk, action star?
I was expecting to get shot down by everyone I know. The first person I call is my manager, Marc Provissiero. And Marc says, “You’re right, Bob. You might be able to do an action movie.” The character of Saul Goodman is indefatigable. He has a lot of heart. He gets knocked down over and over, he never quits coming back, and he’s not above doing something devious. In a lot of ways that’s an action hero — except he doesn’t fight. And that’s how people know me around the world, more than Mr. Show or any of the comedy I’ve done.
Even with the dramatic roles you’ve played in recent years, I have to admit: I had a certain idea of what “Bob Odenkirk in an action movie” might look like, and Nobody is definitely not that. There are jokes, but the tone is darker and more serious than I expected.
I didn’t want any safety valve. “Bob Odenkirk is an action star — but don’t worry, he’s joking.” That would’ve been the safe way to do it. But who gives a shit about that?
From the time I was talking to Marc, I said, “It’s going to be not ironic. I’m not going to wink at the camera. Every time I do anything violent, I want a look of fear underneath the brazen, blazing vengeance. I want uncertainty and fear to permeate my character through the whole movie. I’m not going to be cute, and I’m not going to do funny stuff.”
If I fail, then I’ll be deeply embarrassed — and that’s okay, because I’m comfortable in deep embarrassment. But it’s not worth doing if I’m going to give myself the out of being self-aware, and clever, and making fun of the action. It only works if I go too far.
What did “going too far” mean in this case? I know you spent the past few years doing some pretty intense physical training for this movie.
I was at a party, and Tim Olyphant and I were talking, and he always kills me. He just makes me laugh. I said, “I’m training so hard for this movie.” And he looks at me and he goes, “Just get a stuntman to do it.”
And it was the first time it even occurred to me that I could do that! So I stood there, silently thinking, “Well, yeah. Of course you could do that.” And then I thought, “What’s the point of that? I want to do this.”
Were there any action movies, or action stars, that you looked at as inspiration? Someone who made you say, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do?”
I watch a lot of Bruce Lee stuff on YouTube. I asked if I could do the One-Inch Punch in Nobody, and I was told, “No. You will not be good enough to do that.” And they were right. I am not good enough to do a Bruce Lee One-Inch Punch. I don’t think I ever will be, but I will continue to try.
You clearly put a lot of yourself into Nobody. How much of your own life, and your own feelings, were you drawing from?
Making this movie was a great opportunity to let out some deep-seated frustration. And, you could say, vengeance.