How Bob Odenkirk became a badass for anyone

the Better call Saul star spent almost two years training with him John wick gear to go full Keanu.
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Before Bob Odenkirk contemplated undergoing an extreme physical makeover, transforming himself from the most morally lax / physically wimpy criminal lawyer on television into a convincing movie butt-kicker, the Better call Saul star experienced three very real life-threatening brushes. Odenkirk says he was inspired to invent a ruthless, crisp homicidal reversal of the kind of guy he’s known to play. No one (Available Friday) – a Normcore suburban father whose failure to protect his family during a home invasion robbery unlocks a hidden and seemingly limitless capacity for chaos and ultraviolence – after his own home was burglarized twice, and on the heels of “an incident in Chicago” during which (the actor will only cryptically disclose), “I had a gun pointed at my head at 2 am and I gave all my money to this person.”

“I think most people who see this movie will not realize the level of autobiography in it,” Odenkirk, a 58-year-old father of two, tells Vulture via Zoom from New Mexico, where is ending the sixth and final season of Saul. “I had two burglaries at home in Los Angeles. One was particularly traumatic. Just a typical dad scenario. What do you do for a living? I grabbed the baseball bat; in the movie I grab a golf club. I think I did the right thing, as I told myself, and since then I have told the police a thousand times. But it’s not like that feel as if I had done the right thing. No one it is closely related to my real experience of having someone in the house, threatening my family, trying to keep the damage to a minimum ”.

In No oneThis apparent inability to be a man in the face of danger makes the character lose the respect of his wife and his teenage son, but it helps him to relocate a kind of murderous rectitude that was lost in his daily domestic life. Refusing to play Odenkirk’s Everyman-gone-loco out of irony, the film’s most visceral jolts come from watching the actor, quite convincingly, chew and spit on assailants in a hail of fists and bullets, often being chewed up. and spit more than once. little to himself in the process.

From start to finish, Odenkirk’s process of learning to realistically inhabit the physicality of an Uzis shooter, facebreaker and grenade launcher, an all-round nasty fighter whose hidden delicacy for murder and disembowelment is gradually revealed. as he took on the Russian Mafia – it took almost two years. A veteran sketch comedian and Emmy-winning television screenwriter who burst into the public consciousness with the goofy comedy showcase. Mr. Show and I wrote for Saturday night live Y The Ben Stiller Show, is best known for playing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodeman in Breaking bad from 2009 to 2014. Odenkirk came up with the film’s premise about a “father who is downcast by life, who is prompted by a home invasion to reconnect with his skills and unleash his furious instincts,” and developed a screenplay with Derek Kolstad, the writer behind the blockbuster John wick franchise. Onwards Wick-ian synergy, Odenkirk and his producing partners pitched the project to 87North: the production company operated by David Leitch, co-director of the first John wick delivery, as well as thrilling stunt rides such as Atomic blonde, Deadpool 2, Y Hobbs and Shaw.

Then for about a year and a half, like No one sought financial support and distribution, Odenkirk trained regularly at 87Eleven, the Los Angeles-based action lab, the slash training center that Leitch co-founded, where actors like Charlize Theron and Brad Pitt are not taught stunt choreography as much. as those who don’t know down and rebuilt as functional martial artists. “With Bob, it was like, ‘We get to take someone who doesn’t have a movie history of playing action characters, or no action movie experience, and transform him,'” says Leitch, the film’s producer. . “We were trying to prepare the movie and Bob was looking forward to the movie happening in so many different ways. A lot of that was like, ‘I’m going to keep training and be ready so that when the opportunity presents itself, I can do the choreography. I can be this guy. I can be this character. ‘

No oneDirector Ilya Naishuller (the Russian-born film violence stylist responsible for the 2015 sci-fi action festival) Henry Hardcore) first met Odenkirk at 87Eleven in 2018. His first impression of the actor could fairly be described as “one of these things is not like the others.” “In one corner was Keanu Reeves training to John Wick 3, and he was pitching 12 guys. In the smallest corner of the room, Bob was face to face, ”says Naishuller. Bob was sweating. It was hard for him. It would fall, it would rise again, it would shake. I would go again. He would fall again and he would do it over and over and over again. “

Odenkirk confirms that his training with 87Eleven’s Dean of Stunts, Daniel Bernhardt, was hardly a symphony of bodily harmony: “The hardest part was not the physical exertion. It was shame. Here I am training in a corner. Next to me, we can all see each other, there is Keanu, who is really good at these things. Halle Berry is there a few days. Jason Statham passed. There are real fighters; The guy who taught me how to fight with knives trains the Navy SEALs; many of them are the best specialists in the world. And here I am in the corner, doing the basics and sweating and looking terrible. So the hardest part was this feeling of, ‘What am I doing? I’m never going to get there. ‘

The actor underwent firearms training at Taran Tactical, the same facility where Reeves honed his shooting and speed reloading skills for the Wick Film (s. Y for a solid two months before the cameras turned on No one, Odenkirk spent every waking moment outside the Better call Saul set in an Albuquerque mixed martial arts gym, perfecting his fighting form. “Never in a million years would I have thought that this comedy actor had this fire inside him,” he says. No onesecond unit director, Greg Rementer. “He already had the basic knowledge that comes with 10,000 hours of bending the knees, twisting the hips and throwing a punch. Then we spent a lot of time developing the style we wanted Bob to fight with. I’d say, ‘I want to see him do this kind of judo throw.’ I want to punch him in the face. I want you to punch them. With Bob, we believed he could stomp and break his knee. He could hammer his fist and it felt more in his vocabulary. “

According to Leitch, even after such a lengthy training regimen, no one on the production team was fully prepared for what a swole Odenkirk had become. “We were getting ready to shoot, doing some make-up and wardrobe tests, and Bob took off his shirt,” recalls the producer. “And everyone was like, ‘Damn it, Bob. You are shattered! It is like Cape of fear Up here man! ‘”(Adds:“ We didn’t do the traditional shirtless shot you do in all action movies for Bob. ”)

All that preparation was finally put to the test in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2019, during the filming of No oneIntroductory Action Scenario: A rumble on a public bus, where Odenkirk’s character, Hutch, impulsively decides to take on a quartet of mob thugs (two of them played by Bernhardt and the film’s stunt coordinator Kirk Jenkins) in a frenzy of blows. close combat, dragged out. “Bob walks upstairs. I’m not kidding: it looks like he wants to rip their heads off, ”says Rementer. “And I looked at Kirk and Daniel and I was like, ‘Guys, good luck. He’s going to kick the shit out of you. He’s not going to pull his punches. ‘

Odenkirk, for his part, felt the weight of some performance anxiety. “He traveled a lot at the bus scene,” he says. “When we talked about making an action movie, I knew I didn’t want to make an ironic one. I don’t want to be cute about it. I don’t want to soften it by myself. Like, ‘Oh, is he really trying to sell himself as an action star? Not really.’ I’m not winking or being cute about it. So yeah, I was nervous about it. It all depended on us getting it right, in I. “

However, over the course of three nights filming the bus scene, the filmmakers say that Odenkirk found his groove without the use of stuntmen, his character was hit in the back of the head, stabbed and thrown through a glass window on the road. to clean the floor with each of his assailants. “We make sure it’s human. Get hurt. How strange. And get hit in the face. That doesn’t just allow the audience to connect on a different level. It builds the story, ”Naishuller says.

“Bob really brought it up,” Rementer adds. That’s why it’s such a visceral scene. He’s screaming, drooling, ripping, hitting. Wearing it. It’s there. He was completely committed. Like he’s getting into his first cage fight. “

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