'Nobody': How Bob Odenkirk's home intruder experience inspired his action film debut (exclusive)

·12-min read

Watch the trailer for Nobody

In 2021, Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk will make his action film debut in Nobody, playing the kind of character Jimmy McGill might find himself defending in his hit Breaking Bad spin-off.

He’s in safe hands when it comes to the genre however, with John Wick’s Derek Kolstad and David Leitch writing and producing, respectively. And there’s definitely shades of that tale in this story of a seemingly reformed character having to face demons from his shady criminal past, as his character discovers his inner fire after wilting in a home invasion experience.

As the first Red Band (ie NSFW) trailer for Nobody lands (watch it above) director Ilya Naishuller – best known for 2015’s first-person action flick Hardcore Henry – tells Yahoo, that Odenkirk’s own experience with a home intrusion partly inspired the film.

“It originally stemmed from an experience that Bob had with a home intruder that led to thinking in this direction,” Naishuller revealed. “The bad night that Bob and his family went through was the inspiration that led to the creation of this character.”

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)

Odenkirk trained for more than a year to get in shape for the film, and Naishuller says that pays off in the finished flick: “There’s two times in the film where we had to double Bob, but it was for insurance purposes only.

“Everything else is him. He can do fights where he does sequences of eight/nine/ten connections. Usually you do a punch, then a cut, then a punch, then a cut. Here, every time we cut, it’s because we want to make something more dynamic, to sell the story or the beats better, but not because Bob can’t do it.”

Bob Odenkirk stars in Better Call Saul. (Michele K.Short)
Bob Odenkirk stars in Better Call Saul. (Michele K.Short)

Here’s what else we learned from the director about how he landed the gig and potential plans for future Nobody films…

Yahoo Movies UK: The trailer is certainly action-packed – can you talk a bit about what we are seeing in that three minutes of footage?

Ilya Naishuller: I love that the trailer is a long trailer that doesn’t really give the plot away. There are misdirects and there are surprises and what I loved about the trailer when I first saw it – because you know a director really doesn’t pick trailers until there’s options – but I saw it and thought ‘Yeah, I’d go watch that.’

Bob Odenkirk, David Leitch, Ilya Naishuller on the set of Nobody (Universal Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk, David Leitch, Ilya Naishuller on the set of Nobody (Universal Pictures)

I think it does a great job of setting up the tone and the world. There’s this guy who has trouble brewing that leads to much more trouble brewing, and that leads to a film that we can all go watch and enjoy as popcorn entertainment, but if you do delve into it a little bit, it’s got quite a bit more inside than the expected action thriller. Which I’m very proud of. Because shooting action scenes is not difficult when you have a great star and a great action team. The more complicated part is making sure there’s a story to tell. And this story is a little bit deeper than the expected. Which is why I took the film.

Bob Odenkirk’s character says that he used to be an ‘Auditor’ in the film. What is that in this world?

An Auditor is a person who takes care of things. It’s another name for a guy who takes care of problems. You can call him a Cleaner, you can call him an Auditor, you can call him a guy who works for three-letter agencies. As far as the character goes, it doesn’t matter what you call him. The fact is now he’s a nobody, and he yearns for his glory days.

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)

It’s basically ‘What if James Bond decided to retire at the age of 30 and start a family? How would he feel?’ He would not be normal. He can’t be normal if he’s been travelling the world and doing exotic action and killing people in exotic ways and having sex with beautiful women. If that changes, and all of a sudden that comes down to a very simple life, not everyone will have the mental skills to be able to make the new life work.

You’ve got Derek Kolstad writing, David Leitch producing, and John Wick is even referenced onscreen in the trailer, so how big an influence are those movies on Nobody?

<i>Atomic Blonde</i> director David Leitch gives instructions to Jason Statham during the <i>Hobbs & Shaw</i> night shoot. (Headlinephoto/SplashNews.com)
Atomic Blonde director David Leitch gives instructions to Jason Statham during the Hobbs & Shaw night shoot. (Headlinephoto/SplashNews.com)

The truth is, there were two important films made in the action genre in the last decade – The Raid movies, and John Wick. Those allowed movies like ours to be able to have a chance. That a studio would see potential and that this does kind-of work. In terms of influence, it’s the same writer, but working with Bob and I. So influential in the fact that it exists? 100%. And obviously David was incredibly important in not just getting it made, but in also helping me out.

But we don’t pretend this is part of John Wick. It’s a different beast with a bigger emphasis on character. The conflict is different. I love the conflict in John Wick – here’s a dog, the dog dies, you’ve got to get back in the game. But what if there is no dead dog, and it’s about a guy who wants to get back in the game so bad because he misses it? You have the interior conflict, the s*** starts, and then it just keeps rolling like a god-damn snowball. It’s like a s***-ball! Sorry – that’s kind of disgusting! 

Was Bob Odenkirk attached when you joined the project?

It originally stemmed from an experience that Bob had with a home intruder that led to thinking in this direction. The bad night that Bob and his family went through was the inspiration that led to the creation of this character.

The poster for Nobody. (Universal Pictures)
The poster for Nobody. (Universal Pictures)

It was Bob who went to the producers, who went to Derek, and when they had a first good draft they started looking for directors. I was lucky that I was one of the earlier ones called, and I nailed it! I’m more surprised than proud. I had a 30-page presentation of how I saw the movie. I flew out to LA and knew I really wanted to get this one – I’d been passing on things for quite a long time; I’d been doing writing for the last three years, since Hardcore Henry. And this was the movie I really wanted to get. It wasn’t just perfunctory. I

wanted to work with Bob. I wanted to work with this script. I wanted to work with David Leitch. I wanted to make this work, and I did a very intricate 30-page presentation, and I was stopped at about page 14. And I thought ‘S***, did I f*** it up?’ Five hours later I got the call to say that I had the movie.

What did Bob bring to the role of Hutch Mansell?

He brought a real human being. It’s phenomenal to be in a room with Derek and Bob and go ‘Bob, what would Hutch do physically to sell that he really wants that or this to happen?’ And Bob does a simple gesture with his hands. And I say ‘That is going in the f***ing script, and it’s going in the film - that’s something that will give away more character than any line that he’d say.’

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)

Bob was not just a star – the fact that he’s a producer means he had his heart in this fully. He dedicated a year and about six or seven months to working out, which isn’t easy for a guy who started this when he was 54/55. He wanted to try his hand as an action star, and he never said ‘Let’s do doubles. Let’s do trickery. Let’s speed it up. Let’s do shaky cam.’

I told him that I didn’t want to do shaky-cam – it’s not my jam. I respect people who do and there’s good movies with it, but that’s not my thing. But let’s see how far we can push it. And then Bob went and did the really hard work. He can do more pull-ups in one go than I’ve done in my entire life. And I’m not exaggerating, though that probably says more about how weak I am; I’m more of a push-up guy! But it’s that dedication to get it right.

There’s two times in the film where we had to double Bob, but it was for insurance purposes only. Everything else is him. He can do fights where he does sequences of eight/nine/ten connections. Usually you do a punch, then a cut, then a punch, then a cut. Here, every time we cut, it’s because we want to make something more dynamic, to sell the story or the beats better, but not because Bob can’t do it. So when you have that freedom, it’s incredibly liberating. 

Hardcore Henry had a very specific visual style – what’s the look and style of this film?

I think in the best possible sense of the word, it’s classical. We did not want to make it look flashy. We wanted to make it look great on the big screen. This was never talked about as a streamer or DTV kind of thing.

We wanted to make it look rich, but without resorting to cheap camera trickery. Before I flew out to Canada to shoot I had 2,000 storyboards, which was the film. Because I had the luxury of time before pre-production, so everything is thought out.

How did you go about building your action sequences – was it all in the script, or did you craft moments with your stunt team while doing prep?

Bon Odenkirk in Nobody. (Universal Pictures)
Bon Odenkirk in Nobody. (Universal Pictures)

The wonderful thing with Derek’s writing is that he knows when to go into detail, and he knows when to say ‘Hutch goes berserk.’ You can take all these beats and do what you want with them, because the character is there. So it had a great foundation by Derek, with tons of space to improvise.

Then as we worked over the script because we had a year – we were supposed to start in ’18, but we started in ’19 – there were all these ideas we were switching around. Bigger ideas and smaller ideas, and then finally I had the action in my mind, I do some of the storyboards, and then I meet the action team. We had a phenomenal action team – Greg Rementer, and obviously David Leitch is a producer – they know their stuff.

We would go and they would talk and Greg would shoot pre-viz of what we discussed. It’s a team collaboration and it started with the script and then there were things being changed, little details, on the day. But in the end we’re all serving the story, and we’re all serving Bob. There were lots of goals on this movie for me, but one of the key ones was that I wanted to make sure Bob comes off as cool as he possibly can.

You’ve got one of the best actors in the world starring, but who else should we keep an eye on in the cast?

(from left) Sammy Mansell (Paisley Cadorath), Brady Mansell (Gage Munroe) and Becca Mansell (Connie Nielsen) in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)
(from left) Sammy Mansell (Paisley Cadorath), Brady Mansell (Gage Munroe) and Becca Mansell (Connie Nielsen) in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. (Universal Pictures)

I don’t think there’s a single questionable performance in the film. I think everyone will have their own favourites and I’m guessing I’ll know who they are. But I have to highlight Aleksey Serebryakov as the villain, who I’ve wanted to work with for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity. I think he absolutely kills it.

Having Bob, who as you say is one of the best actors working today, you need someone as a counterweight to that. To not just be a tough looking guy, but a guy who can really deliver the dramatic stuff, and be a real Russian gangster. So Aleksey is phenomenal. Connie [Nielsen] is great as the wife.

Christopher Lloyd and Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. (Universal Pictures)
Christopher Lloyd and Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. (Universal Pictures)

And people are going to be very surprised by what Chris Lloyd does in this movie. We’ve never seen Bob like that. And I guarantee you you’ve never seen Chris like that. Or I should say MR Christopher Lloyd. 

If this film is a success, do you and the team have ideas for further stories in this universe?

I think with Hutch you could make another 10 movies. But anytime we talk about any potential sequels – and I know in today’s reality everybody has to do that – I was always of a mindset that people want to see a second movie not because the first one ends on a cliffhanger, but because the first one was so great. And here – with the Hutch character that Bob did – I’d love to see more.

Nobody hits screens on 9 June.