Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Aaron Paul On 'Diving Into' 'Hellion' and Why He Wants to Resurrect Jesse Pinkman

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 9, 2014 at 10:59AM

Aaron Paul talks about life post-"Breaking Bad."
1
Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul is not Jesse Pinkman. Thanks to five trailblazing seasons on "Breaking Bad," it's damn near impossible not to think of Paul as anyone else. But as he stressed to Indiewire in Park City during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in January, the deeply troubled Pinkman is his "opposite." The same goes for the alcoholic father he plays in Kat Candler's scorching directorial debut, "Hellion," which premiered in competition at Sundance and opens in select theaters this Friday.

[Editor's Note: This interview was originally published during the Sundance Film Festival.]

The film marks Paul's second to play at Sundance, following James Ponsoldt's "Smashed," which premiered two years ago at the fest. "Hellion," based on Candler short of the same name, centers on motorcross-obsessed 13-year-old (stunning newcomer Josh Wiggins) and his tenuous relationship to his deeply troubled father (Paul).

Indiewire sat down with the Emmy-winner in Park City earlier this year to talk about his love for independent film, life post-"Breaking Bad" and why fame terrifies him.

"Smashed" premiered at the Library two years back, the same theater where "Hellion" was just unveiled. What's it like to be back?

It's kind of surreal. When we did the "Smashed" premiere, that's when they were doing the shorts premiere for "Hellion." I didn't actually end up seeing it that year, but it's pretty cool to come back to Sundance. I love this festival – who doesn't? They promote independent filmmaking and that's where my heart is.

Both films are hard-hitting character studies. What draws you to this type of material?

Yeah, I love just going for it. I love diving into different skins, skins that make me feel deep emotions. Maybe that says something about what's going on in my insides – I don't know. But in reality, I'm so happy and everyone that knows me knows me as this fun loving guy who plays such intense characters. With "Breaking Bad," it was very intense, but really funny in the beginning. Jesse was kind of like the comic relief for the beginning of the show, but then Saul Goodman took that lead. I always gravitate towards characters that are so opposite of me.

"Smashed" marked James Ponsoldt's second film while "Hellion" is Candler's debut. What makes you take the leap with newcomers?

With "Hellion," it was sent to me from all directions including James Ponsoldt [the director of "Smashed"]. He said the script was phenomenal and that the filmmaker was a total sweetheart. James I just respect for so many reasons. That moved the project up to the top. I saw her short film "Hellion" and "Black Metal," which I thought were both fantastic and then I read the script. It was so beautifully honest. I love coming of age stories that have struggle.

"Hellion"
"Hellion"

You're at a different stage of your career now than when you were last here with "Smashed." What's changed in how you select your projects?

"I'll jump onto a studio film, but it's got to be a good studio film."

From the very beginning, I've always just wanted to do something I've never done before. I'm still just trying to be on that path. It's all about working with filmmakers that you believe in. My heart is truly in independent filmmaking. I think that's where the real, interesting stories are being told.

I'll jump onto a studio film, but it's got to be a good studio film. It's got to be something that's first of all fun.

Which "Need for Speed" sure looks like.

"Need for Speed" was a blast! I needed a break from getting beat up and tortured on "Breaking Bad." It was nice to get away from that and just do something that's just fun, and also has a great story in it. I think the film will surprise a lot of people.

From that I wanted to do something quite the opposite. That was a giant budget, big Dreamworks film. They're hoping that will be a franchise – I mean, that's the goal. And now I just want to do small passion projects like "Hellion." Films like that allow me to do films like "Hellion."

Say you were cast as a lead in a film the size of "Need for Speed" at the outset of your career, before "Breaking Bad" ever came to be -- do you think you could have handled the pressure?

Maybe. I would hope so because I love challenges. It's little nerve racking, because if the film bombs, it's kind of on your shoulders. Now you got me thinking! (Laughs.)

If "Need for Speed" hits big and studios pitch more blockbuster franchises your way, could you see yourself embracing that to become the next Tom Cruise-type actor?

No. I don't see myself ever going down that path. I never saw myself as a leading man whatsoever. I always saw myself as a character actor and I still do. With "Need for Speed" you look at it and it's a leading man, but for me, it's like a character 'cause I've never played anything like that.

Even with "Breaking Bad," I slowly saw my private life drifting away. That scares the hell out of me and I hate it. I want to take the John Hawkes approach. He is such a brilliant actor, and he sticks with independent films. I love that about him. If I could just become half the actor that guy is, I'd be satisfied.

Aaron Paul on 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote/AMC Aaron Paul on 'Breaking Bad'

I'm surprised you didn't follow "Breaking Bad" up with a romantic comedy, just to cool down.

I just pitched a show to Netflix that got picked up and it's a comedy! It's a cartoon and it's wrong on every single level possible in the best way. It's called "BoJack Horseman." I'm executive producing and starring in it. It's so fun just to get in the booth, put on the headphones and be crazy. It's about a washed up 90s sitcom star from the show "Horsing Around," who's a horse, and he's trying to put his career back in order.

Do you play the horse?

I don't. But Will Arnett does. He has the most perfect voice for it. He has issues with drugs and alcohol and a very severe potty mouth. I play his house guest Todd who just never leaves.  It will probably come out sometime in the summer.

In your recent Details magazine profile you say that you'll do anything to be a part of AMC's "Breaking Bad" spinoff, "Better Call Saul." Given that it's a prequel series, how you see Jesse Pinkman fitting into the show?

It could possibly happen because Jesse brought Walt to Saul, so Jesse knows who Saul is. Who knows how he met him, because they never explained it. But what's so great about it is that they can bring back characters who died. We shall see. Both Bryan [Cranston] and I have thrown our names into the hat.

Sounds like you're not ready to say goodbye to Jesse.

No, no, no. I was ready, absolutely. And I did say goodbye to him. But to have the opportunity to play Jesse Pinkman in the lighter days? That would be incredible.

This article is related to: Aaron Paul, Hellion, Sundance 2014, Interviews, Breaking Bad






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More