My full thoughts on Need For Speed are laid out in my review, but I think this particular excerpt complements the interview below very well:
Aaron Paul actually drove million dollar cars at 120mph. It shows. Steve Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi) actually piloted a military helicopter in the air. It shows. A Shelby-influenced Ford Mustang was actually hung by cables over a giant canyon. It shows. Etc.
The very real adrenaline Scott Waugh directed into his actors’ veins shows on screen, and you could tell it was a very central part of their experience filming the movie. The conversation often turns to the unusually stunt-based work the actors were involved in. I have to say, meeting Aaron Paul was, naturally, a huge treat as he and everyone I know (including me) are still riding high on the culmination of one of TV’s most incredible achievements ever: Breaking Bad. Fortunately the deep sadness of Jesse Pinkman doesn’t stain Paul in real life, as the actor brings an instant light to any room he’s in. His partner in crime Scott Mescudi has made his bones in the hip hop world already and is moving into movies with some ferocity, considering he’s played a serial killer and piloted real army choppers in just a couples years of acting. Still, like Paul, he’s branching out with Need For Speed and showing fans a very real, happy side of himself not necessarily as evident in his work so far. The two made a great pair, and I hope you enjoy the roundtable interview below (my questions in green). Check back tomorrow for my interview with Need For Speed director Scott Waugh.
Aaron Paul: Right. Right.
CHUD: So to actually see something that went 100 mph and actually blew up is really intense, satisfying.
Aaron Paul: Yeah. Right. Good. That’s what we like to hear.
Q: So, how was it getting to drive those cars? And for you, a helicopter.
Aaron Paul: I mean he learned how to fly in this movie. But listen; if you want to do this movie, you have to fly all these crazy machines.
Kid CUDI: It’s all done for real, yes.
Aaron Paul: But yeah, same and that was the whole thing. And it’s just, you know, “if you want to take on this role of Toby,” our Director, Scott, just said, “Listen, I’m going to need you to be behind the wheel. You know, I don’t want to lie to the audience. I want them to know that you’re actually driving.” So, yeah, it was a blast. I wanted to take home that Grand Torino so bad.
Kid CUDI: That was a bad, bad bitch, man.
Aaron Paul: Oh, yeah.
Kid CUDI: I was there. That was my first day, when he was doing the scene. That street racing scene with the old man. And I saw all the madness. It was so dope. And then I got to this point where I was like: “Man, is that stunt guy or is that Aaron?” And he pulls up and I’m like: “Oh shit, that’s Aaron.” It was my first day on set and I was like, “they’re having you do that?” Yeah, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.
Q: When you get in the car now, are you like: “Oh, I just want to go fast”?
Aaron Paul: I do… but I don’t, you know?
Aaron Paul: You know, shooting this film, I learned. We shot all over the country, and there are tracks everywhere we were at. There’s many here. And you can just take your car and fly around as fast as you want, but it’s a closed down track and it’s much safer. So, yeah, I kind of keep on the track.
Aaron Paul: Scott Waugh and I were fighting over the Grand Torino. There was two identical Grand Turinos.
Kid CUDI: Yeah, I remember that.
Aaron Paul: But during the making of the Georgia race, they destroyed one of them by accident .
Kid CUDI: What part?
Aaron Paul: That was when they were drifting around into the alleyway.
Kid CUDI: Oh.
Aaron Paul: They drifted around and slammed it into the building. And it just destroyed it. And like, just the frame of it. And so, there was one remaining, and there was two people. They gave me a discount only on Mustangs. Did you take a helicopter or anything?
Kid CUDI: I wish. I wish. No, I should’ve just, on my last day, just never got out of it and just flew home.
Aaron Paul: I’m going home.
Kid CUDI: Thank you.
Q: Is there any talk yet?
Aaron Paul: Not really. Not officially. We’ve toyed around with the idea. I mean because we had such a blast, shooting this movie. It took four months to shoot it, and every single day was just such a different, crazy, wild ride. And just laughing on camera, off camera. So, yeah, if the film does well and if people want more, we’ll give the more, right?
Kid CUDI: I would love to work again.
CHUD: Mr. Paul, you were involved with something that was so pop culturally substantial, and so your career- you kind of have to engineer from this point. I think you would have put some thought into what kind of things you deliberately want to do. And Mr. Mescudi, you’re a man of balancing careers, exploring different interests. So tell me a little bit about how you both look at your opportunities and your future and decide what you want to do.
Aaron Paul: Well, coming off of a show that was just such a, I think, cultural phenomenon, I knew I had to be very picky with my next move. And I always tended to just gravitate towards kind of the smaller, independent side of things, but I knew I needed to finally kind of jump into some sort of studio format. And this was on my desk and I read it, and I was so surprised that it had such an incredible story behind it all. And also, it was just so fun. I mean the idea of driving around in this beautiful country of ours in these insane machines was very exciting to me, and you know, the show – it was six years. It was great, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it, but it was just so heavy. You know? So, I wanted to jump into something that was fun and that was good, and something that I just had never done before.
Kid CUDI: For me, you were just asking what it’s like to kind of juggle both. You know, I always find these pockets to create. You know? And then always find a pocket to release a project. You know? And luckily, the timing for Need for Speed, like I got the job in the middle of working on In The Cut, which is my last album that came out in April, right?
Aaron Paul: It’s so good.
Kid CUDI: Thank you. So, you know, usually you drop an album. You go on the road. And the only difference with those circumstances, I was able to go on the road. Like the album came out and two days later I was in Macon [note: GA town in which much of the film was shot], getting ready to shoot. You know what I mean? Like not promote an album like I should’ve been doing. Traditionally, an artist is supposed to go and do that. But I think my fans, you know – they’re patient with me. They know I’m wearing a lot of hats. I’m super Aquarian to the max. And I went and shot Need for Speed in three months, and then went on tour later. You know? So, I’ve been able to find a balance. My fans are patient with me. And it’s so far, so good. I haven’t had any issues.
Kid CUDI: Yeah, man, a lot of people don’t know that 80% of the time that’s who I am. Because my music – the majority of my music – is very serious in nature, and that’s kind of like my serious side, so to speak. And you know, so the public and the world has gotten my serious side first, which is usually different in real life. You get the nice side of someone when you meet them. And then, if you get to know them, you see the serious side of them. So it’s kind of like a reverse to the audience, where they got a chance to see this intense side of me first. And now, with acting, I can show them the lighthearted side. The real me. Like the playful, goofy bastard.
CHUD: Well, with a movie like this, the thing that prevents it from just becoming a stunt reel is the humanity and the dynamic between people. And I think that’s what draws people in, between the races and action.
Aaron Paul: Yeah.
Q: That was definitely a priority for you guys?
Aaron Paul: Oh, absolutely. And it’s not, you know. It has the cars, but it’s not just a car movie. Like you said, I mean there’s a great human story behind it all.
Q: And I read too that some people probably thought you’d be a great fit for Dino [the villain role] because of Breaking Bad and everything. But what attracted you to Toby and doing something a little bit different?
Aaron Paul: You know, when it was sent to me, I never knew about the whole idea of Dino. When it was sent to me. And I love that character. I also hate him. But it was sent to me with Toby in mind. I mean they said, “Read and have Toby in your head to possibly play.” And so, I just found out during this whole press thing that initially they were thinking of sending it to me with Dino in mind, but then, long story short, they put all the options up in front of Spielberg, and Steven said, “Why aren’t we considering him for the lead,” and then that was that.
Aaron Paul: Yeah. [thinking] Yeah–
Kid CUDI: Tell that story about how you met Steven. The first time you met.
Aaron Paul: Oh, with Spielberg?
Kid CUDI: Yeah. It’s really awesome.
Aaron Paul: I just moved to LA, and from Idaho. I was 17 years old and I was working at a movie theater at Universal City that’s connected to Universal Studios. And two weeks into working there, we were doing a premiere for Primary Colors. That was held there and I was taking people’s tickets as they walked in. And the first celebrity that I recognized was Spielberg, and my spine instantly started like turning. And he like walked by me and I like almost shook his hand after I grabbed his tickets. And I thought to myself: “Oh my God, I have made it.” And in cut too, you know, I didn’t see him for like 15 years, and then, you know, we’re not working together. But yeah, the first time I met with him on this project was after I had already signed on and we just sat down.
Kid CUDI: I just think that’s a cool story.
Q: So much of the film is in confined spaces within the car, within the helicopters. You know, can you talk about how it was filming those scenes when so much of your acting has to be, you know, you in the front seat?
Aaron Paul: Yeah, I mean usually when you’re doing a driving scene or car scene, from my experience, you’re like on a back of a bed and you’re being pulled by a truck, or there’s a green screen behind you and, you know, you’re just acting like you’re driving. But with this – and it’s very boring, and you’re like: “Oh my God, another car scene.” But with this, you’re just on the road and you’re driving. And so, it was easy. You didn’t have to act because you actually had to drive, and so I thought it was a blast. I loved it.
Kid CUDI: Yeah. I wasn’t claustrophobic at all. The only thing: it was hot, but the hot tub was way too hot in the Sesna. There was no real AC. But I think when you’re in it, you’re not really thinking about the conditions. I think I was so happy to just have the opportunity to be in the film and to have the opportunity to do this crazy stunt that I know people would see and be like: “Holy shit, was that really you in the plane?” You know? So, yeah, it didn’t really – it wasn’t really a challenge. You know, I made it work. From having conversations with Scott, you know, we made sure we were prepared before we went up there, because Scott Waugh wasn’t in the planes all the time. Like he maybe went up once with me. So, you’d think I’m doing these scenes blind, and then they have to go check out the dailies or give me notes the next day – what they want me to do. And really, it was kind of like me letting off a bunch of different ideas the first day. We figured out what we wanted to do, what tone, and then we kind of just ran with it. You know? So, it could be a little nervous and restricting if you don’t fully have a grasp of the character, but it ended up working. I had fun.
CHUD: I think a lot of focus is put on Scott for being a stuntman and that whole action directorthing. Making it happen for real and all that. But tell me a little bit about those quiet moments in between the explosions and everything in the car, about him as a Director Of Actors guiding you to a performance.
Aaron Paul: It’s really so great, you know, but it’s coming from a guy with a lot of testosterone. I mean you’re walking through a cloud of testosterone on set. Do you know what I mean? And his voice. And they all grew up together, and so they took a minute to get used to that, but then i just found it kind of endearing in a way. Just like these bros hanging out, you know? But he just knows his story. I mean he developed this story with the writers and he knew how he was going to kind of present it to the world, and so yeah, how we communicated what he wanted was great and he always had our best interest in mind, and he didn’t ever want to like hurt our feelings if he wanted to change something. And so, yeah, he was just very easy to talk to and we’d just collaborate and kind of just make it happen.
Kid CUDI: I would’ve never gotten in that helicopter or the Sesna without his encouragement. Do you know what I mean? Because it’s like coming from a stuntman. You know, it’s not like just some dude who got this script and got this gig and has never done a stunt in his life. He’s like: “All right, we’re going to throw you in the helicopter for real.”
Aaron Paul: “Good luck.”
Kid CUDI: Good Luck! Every stunt that I did, I felt like Scott would’ve done it too. Or has done it at some point. You know? So it gave me the confidence to not be such a pussy.
Aaron Paul: I mean he’s the man, you know? He wanted to get a specific angle. I think it was a helicopter shot. He’s like: “I’m going to go up there and strap myself in, and just like hang completely outside.”
Kid CUDI: I was nervous the whole fucking time.
Aaron Paul: He was way more nervous.
Kid CUDI: I had to do this scene and it was like I was half in the scene, half not, because I was like: “Man, if this little man falls out this helicopter,” we aren’t going on no sequel.
[Note: At this point the conversation devolved into a back and forth about hotels and trying to remember names of Atlanta bars. That said, I did discover Aaron Paul is a huge fan of Antico’s Pizza, which may well have the best fucking pizza in the country right here in Atlanta, and is certainly my favorite. If you’re skeptical, come out and I’ll make sure some ends up in your face.] Q: What do you guys want people to take away from this film or why should we tell all of our readers to go see it?
Kid CUDI: Man, I personally feel like it’s better than what people are expecting it to be. It’s a ride from beginning to end. It doesn’t stop. Do you know what I mean? And it’s fun. There’s intense moments, there’s sad moments, and then there’s a lot of fun moment. You know, it has it all. All across the board. And if you’re into cars, action, and awesome actors like Aaron Paul and myself, come check it out.
Aaron Paul: Come check it out, yeah.
Kid CUDI: I’d watch it if I wasn’t in it. And I think that’s one of the things that I think before I approach any project. It’s like would I watch this if I wasn’t in it. That’s how you know if it’s a good script or something that’s worth being a part of. And that’s how I feel about Need for Speed. I was like: “Dear God, I want to fly around in helicopters and I want to work with Aaron Paul.”
Aaron Paul: Yeah, and that’s why you signed up for it, because you read it. You loved the story, the characters, and you decided to just go for it.