When Need for Speed producer Steven Spielberg chimes in on casting, and it's you he is zeroing in on, that could be a life-defining moment. That is exactly what happened to the film's star Aaron Paul. The veteran of Breaking Bad has a fan in the superstar filmmaker! “It’s just so surreal to have really anyone saying that they are a fan of our work," Paul said on a recent edit bay visit Movie Fanatic attended. "But then to have Spielberg call you up and say, 'Hey, it's Spielberg,' then you are trying not to panic!"
Then, we had the chance to talk to Paul, as well as director Scott Waugh (his interview is coming later today!). The footage we saw was impressive, especially given the fact that Waugh insisted that the film feel like the classic 1960s and 1970s car movies that didn’t use CGI… because it wasn’t invented yet.
These are real actors driving real cars… really fast!
The story, based on the famed video game of the same name, follows Paul’s character Tobey -- who is wrongly found guilty in the street racing-related death of his friend. After several years in jail, he exits to his freedom, bent on bringing justice to the man who essentially put him in prison, played wickedly by Dominic Cooper.
“The hero of the film, Tobey, is the good guy, and an everyman. He comes out of prison focused on trying to right this wrong with a lot of revenge on his mind. Cooper’s character and Tobey have been arch rivals since they were kids,” Paul said.
“They lived on opposite ends of the track. Dominic’s character started racing professionally and Tobey continued street racing. Now Dominic’s character has started dating Tobey’s ex-girlfriend, which is another stab in the heart. So he’s got something against him.”
Paul was all too eager to get behind the wheel (check out Aaron Paul in Need for Speed driving school!) for Waugh (Act of Valor) in a feel-like-a-classic car movie, especially with a story that spoke to him.
“That was Scott’s vision. That was his main thing when he was pitching me this film. He wanted to do a homage that was a throwback to this 1960s-1970s classic car culture movies,” Paul said. “He wanted me study Steve McQueen and really watch movies that he was in because McQueen really lived and breathed racing. That is what Tobey Marshall does. He loves racing and he loves building cars. So it was a super fun film to shoot all over the country and drive around in the craziest cars possible!”
When we spoke to director Waugh, he called Paul “the next Steve McQueen.” In an era where Hollywood is looking for their next great action hero that can carry that mantle for a decade like Bruce Willis and his kind did previously, could Paul be the next one?
“I’ve never really thought of myself as being an action hero or a leading man or any of that, I’m a character actor. So this was such a surprise when DreamWorks came to me and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’" Paul admitted. “I may not have thought of myself as being an action hero but it is a blast! I will continue to do this for sure. But in between these films, if we do more, I’d like to do more character-driven stuff.”
Need for Speed is a film that has potential series written all over it. “When they approached me for this a franchise was always a possibility. It was not signing on for one movie but three,” Paul said of the future possibilities. “It was so much fun it was a joke. Not just because of the cars, which were a lot of fun, but this film has a great story attached to it and great characters. So I would love to dive deeper into these characters and dive deeper into Tobey’s past, which is a very intense one.”
Besides having practical stunts throughout, Waugh insisted on not shooting in one area of the country and having it double for others. Need for Speed features a race cross country, and he shot it in multiple locales. “I loved it all,” Paul said of his favorite places.
“Macon, Georgia was beautiful. We did nothing but night shoots there for a race in the film and we just left skid marks all over the city, but everyone loved it. People just stayed up until the sun came up watching these scenes go down. But Moab, Utah had to be my favorite. You felt like you were on Mars. It was just a huge playground.”