When we visited the set of DreamWorks' Need For Speed last summer, the theme of the day was on practical stunts and real action. Where Fast & Furious was pushing for more over-the-top, CGI-heavy action in its latest installments, Need For Speed - based on the video game franchise - would do every car sequence with real vehicles and real drivers.
We saw a bit of this happen right in front of our eyes as a custom Ford Mustang, the hero car of the film, drove at high speeds in downtown Detroit. We also chatted with star Aaron Paul while on set who spoke about the driver training he endured to take part in at least some of the high-speed shots in the film.
Last week, Don Kaye had the chance to catch up with Paul to talk about Need For Speed and playing a somewhat lighter role after Breaking Bad, with the focus of the conversation centering in on just how fast he was able to drive while shooting the film.
This must be a nice change of pace for you, going from the darkness of “Breaking Bad” to playing a guy who’s got a little more of the standard heroic qualities…
Yeah, absolutely. That was definitely one of the things on my mind after leaving “Breaking Bad,” because, you know – first of all the show was just so heavy, but the character I was playing was just so broken, you know, and just so sad and lonely and just tortured. So it was nice to go from that to something a little lighter, and a lot of fun. I mean, that was a lot of fun as well, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to do something that was just lighter and fun and had a good story, and this has all of that.
What was your relationship to car and racing culture before doing this? How much did you know about it, delve into it?
To be honest, I didn’t really know much about the racing culture, but car culture – I’ve been a huge fan of just cars, muscle cars, old classic cars since I was a young kid. But yeah, I own an old classic car myself and the idea of driving around this country of ours, beautiful country, in all these incredible cars and really learning how to drive these cars properly was so exciting to me.
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What was the training like, especially when you started to get into those high speeds?
The training was very long. I mean, I was on the track as often as I possibly could be, really from sunrise to sunset. They just needed to have me have as many hours of seat time as possible. And so yeah, it was great. First few days was really just learning how to get out of problematic situations, and then I’ve got to really learn how to, you know, do the fun stuff, and yeah, it was great.
How far were you willing to go before they say, ‘OK, we’ve got to let the stuntman come in and take over’?
We just kept pushing the limits, you know. They would never let me do something that they did not feel comfortable with. If they felt that I was ready for it, then they were like, “All right, you’re ready, you can do it.” And it was just a slow and steady pace. But right out of the gates, I mean, after getting out on the track, they could see that I, you know, it was easy for me to just kind of drift around corners – like, I got the hang of all that stuff. It was pretty natural. But you know, they didn’t want me to go past 130 (mph). When the cars needed to go past that, like 180 to 200, they brought in the professional drivers.
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I think the fastest I've ever driven is like 80 miles per hour, so what does it feel like to drive 130 miles per hour?
It feels crazy, but granted, we’re driving supercars, and so when we’re going 130 it did not feel like we were going 130. ‘Cause I was just so focused on the road, when we were done, I’m like, ‘How fast were we going?’ Because I was following a picture car and they were filming me, and the camera was right in front of the windshield and they were like, “You’re going about 125, 130.” It really didn't even feel that, but yeah, it was great. So fun.
Planning on checking out Need For Speed on the big screen? Let us know your thoughts on what you've seen so far.
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.