Bob Odenkirk kept expecting to be laughed out of the room.
After a three-decade career in comedy, and with a few years of Better Call Saul under his belt, he had a notion he could be an action star as long as he put in the training.
“I called my manager and I thought he might say ‘you’re crazy, don’t think about that’, but he didn’t,” Odenkirk, 58, told news.com.au. “And then I expected the next person we told to laugh at us, but they didn’t.
“My idea was to play a guy who’s more human than most action heroes we’ve seen, he’s somebody who gets hurt when he gets hit, really winces in pain and carries that pain forward.
“And they said, ‘yeah, that’s different, and that’s you, you could do that’. So, it developed, and I never got laughed out of the room.”
That action hero is Nobody’s Hutch Mansell, a seemingly suburban dad whose repressed rage explodes after his family are the victim of a home invasion – and he does indeed carry the pain forward.
Walking away from a brutal fight scene against four or five thugs, Odenkirk adds a limp to Hutch’s stride.
“They were like, ‘what are you doing, why are you walking like that?’. I’m like, ‘the guy just stabbed me in the back, I’m walking with a bit of a limp’. Can you imagine how you’d feel if somebody stabbed you in the back, you wouldn’t just walk away.”
Odenkirk’s mission to headline an action flick brought John Wick writer Derek Kolstad into his orbit, who turned the actor’s idea of a dad who doesn’t know what to do with these intense feelings stirred up after a break-in into Nobody.
“Derek was like, ‘Yeah, I want to write that’,” Odenkirk said. “And he turned it into this grand opera of vengeance and rage, and a crazy ride.”
Nobody is violent. It’s really violent with a ridiculous body count courtesy of an enormous cache of weapons and Hutch’s deadly bare hands. Blood is sprayed into every corner of the frame as Hutch smashes, shoots and explodes each faceless bad guy.
But as much as the violence is gritty, it’s also outlandish, so over-the-top it’s about three planets away from realism. For Odenkirk, the severity was the point.
“What like about what [Derek Kolstad] did was he took it to such an extreme,” Odenkirk explained. “If you don’t go to that extreme, then I do think it looks more like you’re trying to say, ‘this is the real world’.
“This movie is mythic, this guy has gold bricks in the pinball machine. This is not a real human being. I wanted it to start from this real-feeling scenario and something that duplicated a real thing from my life. Then I wanted it to go big and Derek just blew it up.
“That makes it different for me, when the violence gets to that level, which you could call John Wick level. Now it’s not real, it’s a fantasy. If it didn’t get as excessive as it gets, then I’d have a problem doing it.”
The experiences from his life Odenkirk is referring to are two break-ins at home in Los Angeles and an incident in Chicago during which he was held-up at gunpoint. Like Hutch, he was restrained in his responses at the time, de-escalating dangerous situations.
Unlike Hutch, Odenkirk didn’t draw on those feelings of anger to trigger a violent spree. He made a movie about it instead.
“Hutch can’t hold it in. Now, in real life, you can’t act out on those things, it’s not OK,” he said. “It doesn’t mean people don’t have strong feelings. So, what do you do with them? Well, one thing you can do is make movies about them. You can write about them – you can write poetry about them.
“You can go train and box and do physical things that kind of exert those intense feelings. That acknowledges those feelings are real and that people have them because we’re animals. We need to acknowledge our limitations so that we can work with them.
“This character had his family victimised and he doesn’t know what to do with those feelings. There are better things to do with them, that’s for sure. He’s not going to therapy and he should.
“If he was my friend and he told me what happened, I would say ‘you need to get a therapist to come to the house and sit with the family and talk about what you guys experienced and how you feel and what it left you feeling’.
“Of course, that wouldn’t be much of a movie. But movies are not real life.”
Nobody is in cinemas from Thursday, April 1
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