The widescreen desert cinematography in “Breaking Bad” was often compared to David Lean’s 1962 historical epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” so it’s only fitting “Better Call Saul” creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould got close to renting the camera lenses Lean used to film the desert scenes on their prequel series. “Better Call Saul” returned to the “Breaking Bad” desert in a major way on this week’s episode, “Bagman,” one of the most acclaimed installments of the series’ run thus far. Main characters Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) spend a majority of the hour wandering the desert, and Gilligan tells Variety the production got close to using the “Lawrence” camera lens to shoot these sequences.
“We did use a long lens. We were trying to figure out how to make it as ‘Lawrence’-like as possible,” Gilligan said. “It got to the point where [co-creator] Peter Gould wanted to look into renting the actual ‘Lawrence’ lens, which is apparently still out there, and maybe even still available for rent. That would have been good vibes, but I was too afraid we’d break it!”
In an interview with IndieWire’s Steve Greene, Gilligan revealed that the “Better Call Saul” desert sequences were filmed in the same location as the “Breaking Bad” scenes. The desert is actually the To’hajilee Indian Reservation, the same location where Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) cooked their first batch of meth in the pilot episode of “Breaking Bad.”
“Even then, the distance from there to where we shot the scenes in this [‘Better Call Saul’] episode was a solid hour’s drive,” Gilligan told IndieWire. “It was rugged out there. It was remote. We thought, ‘Man, we’re gonna go through so much turmoil getting all the trucks and all the equipment out here, but at least once you’re out here, it’ll be nice and quiet.’ But this is Native American sovereign territory out there. We’re holding these poor folks up while we’re trying to fire off machine gun rounds or whatever. So there’s a balance to be struck between getting the job done, but not inconveniencing folks who live out there. We’re guests in their house, so to speak.”
“Better Call Saul” is currently airing its fifth season Monday nights at 9pm on AMC.