So he’s involved in that race that they’re trying to get to?
Yes. Ultimately — well, he is, yes. He’s the antagonist.
Did you have any guidelines or must have scenes that you had to put into the script or did you just have kind of a freedom?
The interesting thing about this process what that Electronic Arts decided to, because they’ve have video games before that have great titles and some of them have worlds and narratives, and they’ve made partnerships with movie studios that have developed their titles into the ground. So EA sort of felt like, “We can develop stories. We do it in our games all the time.” So their agents who are my agents said to them, “Why do you keep the process a little longer? Don’t just sell off the ID, develop the story yourself.” So that’s when we partnered. So with Electronic Arts and myself and my brother George — we developed it with them, so it was kind of great because there was no shocker to them. It wasn’t like we turned in a script and they went, “Oh my God, what did you do?” Along the way we had really detailed treatments where we said, “This is what we want to do.”
We want to create this ensemble of young guys, and this what we think we should put them through, and they had input all along the way. So by the end we had a script, we had a game with a great title and a great following, and then we were able to go out and meet with DreamWorks and Fox and a couple of studios — and DreamWorks, I’ve worked with Steven [Spielberg] and Stacey [Snider] for years like on and off, and they knew that I had the project kind of thing, and then it was was kind of like, “Let’s do this.” So it was great, because that’s what Electronic Arts really wanted to hear, because they had been down the movie development path a few times and they were like — but Spielberg literally walked in and just looked at them and said, “Let’s make this movie.” And they were like, “Okay. Good.”
I know you said there were new models of cars that were being debuted. Is there also though a sense of timelessness to the story?
Well, I think so. Like you were talking about, like Two-Lane Blacktop — it’s been so fun. We were in Macon, Georgia. The race that opens the movie features a ‘67 GTO and a ’68 Camaro, and all of these iconic muscle cars, that no matter where we go, we have to bring all that stuff with us, and people always want to stop and look at them and want to talk about them. So I think that that definitely invites you, especially because it’s the opening of the movie, that it just immediately invites you into like into like, wow. This a movie that I want to see. Those cars — I remember those cars. I had this car.
What makes a great villain car?
A great villain car? It’s gotta be fast and deadly, probably, and Dominic has a variety of them, which is really funny, because he constantly shows up in a car that’s like, “God, what is that?!”
You said that Aaron Paul’s character is like a blue collar hero. What traits about his character, other than the themes of vengeance, which everyone can get behind him, you think make him so relatable and such a good character?
What’s interesting is these guys, as much as they’re kind of like wise asses, are very honorable and very loyal to each other, and have grown up together, so that’s a theme that comes through, is this loyalty and friendship and love they have for each other. And there’s a tragic event that happens that even draws them closer together and Aaron’s character’s right in the center of it, so you kind of click into him right away.
What do you think he actually brings to the role?
Aaron? Well, it’s, I mean, it’s funny, ‘cause that’s kind of who Aaron is in life. He’s such an open, straight away kind of guy. I’ve worked with a lot of actors, like he’s a guy — the first day I met him, I actually talked to him on the phone while he was in England making a movie, and just on the phone in two seconds, it was super comfortable. He was so humble and excited and not an asshole at all. It was kind of amazing.
How big of a team of guys are we talking about? You said there’s air support, there’s gonna be another car — because I thought it was just a guy and a girl traveling cross country.
No, like I said there’s Rami Malek and Ramon [Rodriguez], those guys are the Beast guys, and there’s Scott Mescudi in the air, so that’s three. And then the two of them, Aaron and Imogen [Poots].
Can you tell us a little about her character?
She’s amazing because by design, Scott really loved Imogen and was like, “I want her to be a twisted version of herself.” Like, wasn’t gonna her make try to do an American accent — wanted her to be European and play this kind of upper crust character so they can be opposites. He’s a kid, an American kid, and comes from humble means and he wants to run in this world of dealing these really high end cars. So immediately they’re a little bit like oil and vinegar.
But that makes a delightful salad dressing.
Is she running from a wedding?
Is she running from a wedding? Hah! That would be good. Maybe in the second movie. God, that’s gen– I didn’t even think about that. We should’ve totally did that. We actually did put a bandit car in at one point. I don’t know if it’ll make the movie, but Scott was like, “Should we give the guy your hat, or is that too much?” And I said, “Yeah, let’s leave the hat out.” We do a bandit in there, a ’79 Trans Am.
There’s obviously big action set pieces in this film. Was there one before filming began that you guys were like, “Oh, how are we doing this one?”
Oh, we have a couple like that. Like, there’s one called The Grasshopper that we’re doing here, which is kind of great because Scott’s father — there’s a great history among these stunt guys. There’s a camaraderie and this amazing almost military like respect they have for each other, ‘cause they’re real jokers and they’re hilarious guys and you see them out and they’re full of life, but when it comes to doing the work, like — when we get closer and closer to doing what they call the events, it gets quieter and quieter and they get more serious, and then literally, like, the last moment before they go to do it, there’s a lot of like, everyone stops to get out of their car, and all this hugging, and like, “Hey man, see you on the other side.”
They take it incredibly seriously. Because I’ve never worked on a movie with stunts like this. It’s usually a lot of green screen and different kinds of stunts. Car stunts are intense. You’re driving thousands of pounds of metal at tons of miles an hour at each other. It’s kind of insane. So the Grasshopper was one of the Gilbert — Lance Gilbert is our stunt coordinator, and the Gilberts and the Waughs, Scott and his brother and his dad, they’ve all known each other for years. They’ve kind of grown up together. Mickey Gilbert’s a very famous stunt coordinator, stunt director, so they’re redoing a stunt that their fathers had done, which a car stunt called the Grasshopper, which is a huge jump and all this crazy stuff. So the Grasshopper is very near and dear to the heart of the production, but there’s other things too. I mean, we’re using a Sikorsky helicopter to lift a mustang and fly it off a cliff. There’s some shit that’s like, “Oh my God, please let’s all survive this day.”
DreamWorks Pictures’ Need For Speed is directed by Scott Waugh and stars Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Scott Mescudi, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson and Michael Keaton.
Need for Speed hits theaters on March 14, 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.