Bob Odenkirk (Nobody)
The Messy Art of Breaking Bad People
He charmed as slimeball lawyer Saul in the drugs drama and its spinoff – but now Bob Odenkirk has gone badass in action thriller Nobody. Has he left his comedy days behind?
On the surface, Bob Odenkirks new film is entirely preposterous. As the story of a man who goes on a murder spree after his house is broken into, Nobody is an all-out, full-throated action movie. In one scene, 58-year-old Odenkirk tears a handrail off the inside of a bus and beats a man senseless with it.
However, as he explains, the story stems from something much more personal. My family had two break-ins, he reveals from his home in LA, where he Is sitting beneath a vast Chinatown poster. It was very damaging.
It happened a decade ago and, though Odenkirk did not come face-to-face with the intruders, a family member did. There is a feeling, a residue that stuck with me very strongly, of what else could I have done? I wish I had done more, he recalls of the encounter. If you look back with any perspective at all, you say, Well, you did the right thing. You did not blow up the danger or make the interaction more damaging than it needed to be. But you cannot help but think, what else could I have done?
Nobody feels like something of a handbrake turn in Odenkirks career. Until recently, it looked as if he was setting up a lifetime of uncomplicated prestige. Since bursting into the mainstream as Breaking Bads slimy lawyer Saul Goodman – and then consolidating his success with the incredible Better Call Saul – he has acted for the likes of Alexander Payne, Steven Spielberg and Greta Gerwig.
In the last three years alone, he has managed to co-star with Meryl Streep on two separate occasions. And yet here he is now, two years older than Liam Neeson when he starred in Taken, suddenly punching Russians unconscious by the dozen.
Listen, Odenkirk explains. When I suggested to my manager, I think I could do an action movie, I expected him to laugh. But he did not laugh. Then I expected him to get laughed at when he ran it up the flagpole here in Hollywood. But people responded like, Yeah, that would be cool. The resulting movie is joyously entertaining from start to finish.
Odenkirk spent two years training for the role with Daniel Bernhardt – a stunt actor best known for playing a seemingly indestructible karate teacher in Bill Haders Barry – practicing the same moves thousands of times to lend the bone-crunching fight scenes a level of authenticity.
I was totally against bulking up, he says. I did not want to look like a superhero. I have had friends who do these superhero movies, and they do that kind of weight training, and it is all about their biceps and all that shit. I said: I want to do my own fighting, but I also want to look like a dad.
Odenkirk knows how to get the most from a Zoom interview. While we chat, he is constantly using his laptop as an auxiliary information source; Googling names and dates for accuracy, and noting down references to read up on later. When he mentions Bernhardt, for example, he quickly pulls up his IMDb page to tell me everything he has ever been in. It demonstrates a giddy fan-level enthusiasm for anything he enjoys.
This even stretches to his own show. Better Call Sauls next season will be its last, bringing an end to a character he has now played for over a decade. I ask if he knows how it is all going to end.
I really, truly do not, he replies. And I try not to find out those things. I like being surprised just like a viewer of the story. I have my own theories, but they are just basically fan theories. So while he does not know the fate of Kim Wexler he has a theory. I do not think she dies, he says. I think she is in Albuquerque, and she is still practicing law. He is still crossing paths with her. To me, that would fuel his desire to be on billboards everywhere, because he wants her to see him.
With Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Odenkirk has participated in two of the greatest television dramas ever made. But he also has a reputation as a writer for Saturday Night Live, a stint which by all accounts he did not enjoy, and as a co-creator of the still-peerless 1990s sketch series Mr Show. He reveals that he is currently in the process of copy-editing a memoir – entitled Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama – that will focus heavily on this part of his career.
I figured I would write it early, he says. I am aware of how fast pop culture moves these days. A lot of the things that I have done on a more cultish level will be forgotten in a very short amount of time. Things like Mr Show, which I am super-proud of, even the stuff I wrote at Saturday Night Live, it is just all very close to being completely forgotten. The truth is even a show like Breaking Bad, in a few years I will probably have to remind people of what it is!
Official Nobody Movie Trailer