If Ron Howard’s Rush was any indication, the motoring world and general public have been ready for serious racing movies for many years. When I say serious, I don’t mean that they take themselves serious, so much as the film takes the automotive aspect serious enough to entice the motorsport neophyte, but also satisfy the hardcore enthusiast.
I am here to say that Need for Speed is just that movie. We’re not ready to share all the details about this racing movie just yet, but in the meantime, we spoke with the film’s star, Aaron Paul, about making a racing film, and about his personal fascination with cars.
There had been a lot of talk about the big screen adaptation of the long-loved PC and video game, Need for Speed, but it was the script itself that drew in Paul, who had barely the starting cycle of a Mustang V8 to get ready for this film. “I ready the script,” explained Paul, “and it was just such a fun, crazy, wild ride, it had a really great story. It was such so might lighter than Breaking Bad.” Paul continued “I started this film the day after I wrapped Braking Bad, I was on a plane at 6:30 in the morning and was in a 2.5 million Koenigsegg (replica) by the afternoon.”
Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshal, a local mechanic in Mt. Kisco, NY. He takes part in illegal street racing, and through those connections, he is set up for a crime he did not commit. Once released from prison, the story follows his exploits cross country and behind the wheel of some seriously exotic machinery. But it was his old Toyota All-Trac from his previous role that still pulls at his heartstrings. “I actually wanted that car so bad,” exclaimed Paul, “but they didn’t want to give it up.”
With the newfound machinery, came newfound expectations from Paul’s director, Scott Waugh, about performance driving. “[Scott] said if you wanted to do this movie we would love to have you,” continued Paul, “but I’m going to need you to learn how to drive in a very proper way.” Paul jumped at the chance: “That’s another reason I jumped into this project. It was the idea was learning how to drive in that way.”
For Paul, the love of all things automotive long predated the filming of Need for Speed, which debuts in theaters everywhere March 14. “I was a huge car guy my whole life,” explained Paul, “I appreciate them more after really learning the mechanics of it all. I have an old 65 Shelby Cobra– not original, but registered as one, and, man…it’s beautiful.”
It’s easy for the star of a car movie to fein automotive enthusiasm on a press junket, but we’re here to tell you that Aaron Paul is the real deal. He has proven this through his ownership of a Cobra replica, and his answer when asked what his favorite car was (in the film, or otherwise). “One of my favorite cars that happens to be in this movie is one that Scott and I were discussing,” explained Paul, “along with our stunt driver Tanner Foust, were fighting over was the Grand Turino.” According to Paul, they crashed one Gran Torino in the filming of NFS, but it was an accident. If there is any consolation, the cameras were rolling, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
Paul was certainly not the only true car guy tied to Need for Speed. In addition to himself, and Foust, the director, Scott Waugh, is an enthusiast, and had his own special way of showing it. “[Waugh] wanted to do a a throwback to the car culture films that started that sort of genre.” Explained Paul, “Bullitt, Vanishing Point, Blues Brothers, Smokey and the Bandit…back then there was no CG, they did all of the stunts. The car chases are so raw, and so real, and a car is not jumping 500 feet into the air and landing without a scratch on it. It’s real, and that’s what I loved about it.”
That could be in reference to the absence of racing scenes from (and CGI absurdity of) the Fast and Furious franchise. The last two F/F films have been mostly chase films, and the CG scenes have jumped the shark more than once. Whether he meant for his comments to land squarely at F/F, the place and fluctuating stature of the car movie genera were concepts not lost on Paul.
“I hope people come to this film and go ‘My God, I haven’t seen a true car movie in a very long time,’” exclaimed Paul. “I mean it was just raw, gritty, racing. It’s not a bunch of smoke and mirrors, and people know when they’re being lied to. They will see a difference here between our movie and other recent car films.”
You’ll have to check in March 14 for our full review, to see what we thought. We can already say that this movie will have a legacy for its chases. On a parting thought, we asked Aaron Paul about following in the legacy of following in the footsteps of actor/racers like McQueen, and Paul Newman. “Absolutely,” exclaimed Paul, “I’ve kind of already started. I’ve already spent some time on the track, in addition to the training for the film.”
Paul said that he has been approached by tracks and automakers alike to drive their wares for publicity, but there is also an awareness that he wants to emphasize. “What I learned is that there are tracks everywhere– so if you want to race, do it safe. Go on a closed course. There is no reason to put anyone else in danger. Go on a closed course– and its completely legal.”
Now that’s a parting thought we can all get behind.