As the second Need for Speed trailer debuts, we visited the Need for Speed edit bay in Culver City, California, and caught up with star Aaron Paul and director Scott Waugh. They took us inside the making of the movie that didn’t use a single CG shot when it came to the action-heavy car stunts that even saw Paul attending a speed racing school to get behind the wheel for real.
“Most of it, I was terrified -- I’m joking,” Paul said to Movie Fanatic and laughed. But for most of the scenes featuring Paul’s car jetting at ridiculous speeds, that was the former Breaking Bad star living on the edge. “There is one scene where we locked down an entire freeway and I’m flying, chasing after the camera car. I had to stay away from a camera that was on a long arm and I looked down at the speedometer and I was driving 120 to 140 miles an hour trying not to laugh because it was so much fun. I tried to just have as much fun as possible.”
As you can see in the trailer, there is one scene where his car drives off a cliff and is “caught” by a helicopter. Apparently, director Waugh wanted Paul behind the wheel on that one! “There is some stuff that obviously I didn’t do but I asked that I could do. They were like, 'You are out of your mind.' [That] scene where I drive the car off a cliff and a helicopter catches me … they wouldn’t let me do that for obvious reasons,” Paul admitted.
Paul, when he first met with director Waugh for Need for Speed, knew immediately what he was signing up for. This was going to be a movie where practical stunts ruled the day. There would be no CG. There would be no sound stage. Need for Speed would work unlike any other film of its kind because audiences would know that was Paul behind the wheel.
“Scott, when we were first talking, said, ‘I want to just let you know I want to shoot this movie where the actors are actually driving. It’s all done practical. It’s not going to be done after we are done shooting. It’s not going to be done on a computer. I want you to do this,’” Paul said.
“The first order of business was to take a crash course and learn how to really drive. And by the end of the first day I was flying down a ramp and doing a 360 on a skid pad. It was a blast.”
Paul welcomed the challenge, clearly, and could not have identified with his director’s mission more. “Scott’s focus was that he wanted the audience to feel like they are in the car with the characters,” he said. “We use a lot of helmet cam shots so you feel like you are actually behind the wheel and that is how you feel when you are driving cars in the game. So that is one element that we took from the game as well.”
Waugh wanted his audience to feel as if they were experiencing a first person world with Paul’s character of Toby -- kind of like the video game on which the film is based.
“When it involves him, you really feel him and what he’s feeling. You feel what it’s like to be him,” Waugh said. “That’s why I chose the first person for this movie on that perspective. I wanted to a) feel what it is to drive that fast because that is a thrill that most people don’t get and b) I wanted you to root the way Aaron is rooting.”
Waugh, whose previous credit was the blockbuster Act of Valor, used that experience as a baseline and then proceeded to push the envelope of action.
“When you work with Navy SEALs (in Act of Valor) in that type of platforms the way we did in that type of movie and then taking it to a bigger level with the speeds we were working with on Need for Speed and the coverage we had to have as we traveled across the country, we didn’t cheat it. That kind of mobility, I learned in Act of Valor. We traveled the globe on Act of Valor, I wasn’t afraid of going to locations because of what we did on Act of Valor,” Waugh said.
“I knew I wanted to do a car movie. It’s one of the coolest genres in the 1970s and 1980s -- Bullitt (on our Top 10 Movie Car Chases!), Hooper, French Connection, Grand Prix -- all these great movies that were so much fun. They kind of disappeared. I wanted to do a throwback to that world.”
Working in the “real” world as opposed to using computer-generated effects is something he and his producing company (Bandito Brothers) are most proud of.
“Practically is one of the Bandito skill sets, doing it all practically. When we say we’re in a location, we film in that location. The studio wanted us to shoot all of this in Georgia. I was like, ‘You can’t cheat the United States in Georgia. It’s all green!’ Then they wrapped their heads around my approach and they went for it,” Waugh said.
“I was really stoked that they did because I think visually, you can’t replicate that.”
Having a director in Waugh who not only had Act of Valor under his belt, but a lifetime of working as a stuntman allowed Paul to let go of his inhibitions and trust his helmer to guide him through the most astounding of stunts. Although sometimes Paul admitted that his helmer may have forgotten that he was “only” an actor!
“I think with his background and having been a stuntman that Scott automatically thought I was a stuntman, which I’m not. Steven Spielberg (producer on this film) said to me, ‘Now listen, Scott is going to probably try and get you to do as much of this stuff as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable with it then you have to say no and that is why there is a stuntman.’ And Scott did try to get me to do as much as he possibly could,” Paul said and smiled.
In the end, Paul admitted that it was worth the nerves to give the audience the thrills in Need for Speed. “It was so much fun.”