'Comedian with a shotgun': Nobody director Ilya Naishuller on making Bob Odenkirk action thriller

Teng Yong Ping
·Lifestyle Editor
·4-min read
Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. (Photo courtesy of United International Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk in Nobody. (Photo courtesy of United International Pictures)

SINGAPORE — Bob Odenkirk is known more as a character actor, especially for his role in the critically acclaimed TV drama Better Call Saul as Jimmy McGill, the controversial lawyer who carries piles of court documents as he fights for his underdog clients. 

Which is why it's surprising that he's armed himself with machine guns and knives in his new movie as an action hero in Nobody. Just like his TV role, his movie character Hutch is also a guy whom everybody underestimates except that instead of a lawyer with questionable ethics, he's now a "nobody" with slick close combat skills. (Read a review here.)

Nobody started off as a Bob Odenkirk-driven project, though, as director Ilya Naishuller told us. The movie only exists because Odenkirk experienced a break-in at his California home, and wanted to make a movie about that experience. He had also watched John Wick and loved it, so he called up John Wick creator Derek Kolstad and the two worked out a story and script for Nobody, which is similar in style to the Keanu Reeves franchise.

Naishuller said about Odenkirk's home invasion, "There was a man who broke into his house, and Bob did everything correctly. He called the cops, he locked the guy in the basement. And the cops – they said the same thing that the cop in (Nobody) says." Basically, the real-life police officers apparently judged that Odenkirk was not doing enough to protect his family and "kind of attacked his masculinity". 

Odenkirk was understandably peeved, because he wasn't a fighter. Naishuller says that the incident got the actor thinking: What would have happened if I were a badass, who had to do the same thing in that situation? And from there he had the idea of a badass fighter who had to control himself from not doing something violent. Naishuller said Odenkirk then reached out to him to cast him as the director for his film. 

Bob Odenkirk (first from left) and director Ilya Naishuller (3rd from left) on the set of Nobody. (Photo courtesy of United International Pictures)
Bob Odenkirk (first from left) and director Ilya Naishuller (third from left) on the set of Nobody with producers David Leitch and Kelly McCormick. (Photo courtesy of United International Pictures)

The 37-year-old Russian filmmaker, who's making his big break in Hollywood with Nobody, directed his first feature film in 2015 – the Russian sci-fi action flick, Hardcore Henry. I told him that I appreciated the realistic style of action in Nobody and asked him to talk about the gritty style of action that he portrays in the film.

"Compared to my last movie, which was, you know, a cyborg killing 200 people... but this one, we kept it much more realistic. We wanted the character to be human, we want him to stumble, we wanted him to get hurt. We wanted him to be bleeding, we wanted him not to be perfect." 

It was not just Reeves' John Wick character that Nobody took inspiration from – it also paid homage to the classic Die Hard movie series starring Bruce Willis.

Naishuller said, "And one of the references was Die Hard's John McClane – he's always whining, he's not super excited to be there, he's not the Terminator. He takes damage, he bleeds... And this was the same thing: let's ground the character, let's make it as real as possible within the genre, which I think we succeeded at."

Naishuller let on that Bob Odenkirk knocking on his door was a dream come true for him. "You know, a year before I got the script (for Nobody), I told my agent that if I'm doing an American action movie, in an ideal world, I'd have an actor who's going against type, a comedian with a shotgun, as I call it." His wish had come true as Odenkirk is not just a great character actor, as exemplified in Better Call Saul, but is also known for his comedic roles such as in Breaking Bad and Mr. Show With Bob And David.

The director shared more about the storyline of Nobody: "Bob's character Hutch really, really wants to go back to his life and the thing with the kitty cat bracelet, these are all excuses, because ultimately he's addicted to violence and for 15 years he hasn't had a sip from that bottle. And now that bottle is right in front of him and it's very hard not to take a sip. And it's this inner conflict which is what makes it so thrilling for me. I said to Bob, look, maybe I'm totally wrong but it really is an addiction story. It just happens to be an action thriller, but that is the core and that is the theme. So he liked that, and Derek liked that and we sat down and rewrote the script more along that line."

Naishuller himself makes a cameo as one of the henchman sent to kill Hutch's father in Nobody (played by Christopher Lloyd of the Back to the Future trilogy) – so watch out for his fleeting scene if you catch the movie!

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