Nobody: Bob Odenkirk Transforms Into an Action Hero
3/16/2021 • 3 min read
Before the trailer for NOBODY arrived, no one thought that Bob Odenkirk could be an action star… except perhaps Bob Odenkirk. But the truth is that we love seeing actors slide from one genre to another, especially when they begin their career as comedians.
Those who do comedy successfully don’t merely have a dark side; they often have to embrace it. Bob Odenkirk has done this from the very beginning of his career with “Mr. Show,” and has developed his blend of comedy and drama through his current run as Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
Now we get a chance to see Odenkirk shift gears in the JOHN WICK-styled NOBODY. The movie casts Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell, a doormat of a father who, reeling from home invasion, digs back into his past to reveal long-suppressed aspects of his life and personality. Or be brief, he gets mad, and things get bloody.
This movie didn’t just appear on the actor’s doorstep. In fact, he made moves several years ago to set it in motion — and then drew on his own life experience to inform the character and story.
After learning that “Better Call Saul” was being promoted in China, he told Variety, “I really started thinking, “Wow, maybe I could make a movie that would play around the world.” And action translates. I thought, I’m in good enough shape. I wonder if I could train hard to do an action movie.”
As it turns out, yes, he could train hard enough to do action, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First the movie had to come together, and two core aspects of the main character came from Odenkirk’s own life. For one, he’s a father of two. And he has also dealt with some unusual trauma.
“I’d had two [home break-ins] in L.A.,” the actor said in the same interview. “Both were extremely traumatic for my family and both left me feeling like I hadn’t done enough, even though I probably did the right thing by not doing much. It left me with a lot of frustration and anger, frankly, and a feeling that if I have a chance of retribution, I’d try to take it.”
If that sounds serious, it is, and Odenkirk channels the sense of fear, paralysis, and despair into NOBODY. This isn’t a winking or ironic movie. It’s a story where a man goes deep into the heart of darkness after setting that part of himself aside for a long time.
As a performer, it took Odenkirk two years to get to the point where he would look like someone hard enough to generate the fear that Hutch Mansell does. In fact, he trained in the same gym where Keanu Reeves prepped for the JOHN WICK movies, which were written by NOBODY screenwriter Derek Kolstad. Reeves was in the house working out for JOHN WICK 3 as Odenkirk did his first falls as a middle-aged man making his debut foray into action.
That gym is founded and owned by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, who directed JOHN WICK in the first place, so perhaps the parallels to that recent series are unavoidable. Working alongside the established stars at Leith and Stahelski's 87eleven perhaps had an inspirational effect on the future star of NOBODY, as director Ilya Naishuller told GQ "He didn't want to just come in and do something OK… He wanted to do as much as he could to make it as special as possible.” Achieving that goal kept Odenkirk working at movement and tone while shooting recent seasons of "Better Call Saul" — which might explain why his shady lawyer character looked a little more tough and lean than usual in recent episodes.
In the end, as it turns out, those years of training make Odenkirk credible as a man who can hold his own in a fight, but it's his long experience as an actor that really makes the character hold together. That also means Bob Odenkirk is now in that very small group of actors who can act their way through the action. With the last season of "Better Call Saul" soon to air, we hope there's room in Odenkirk's schedule for another chapter in the story of NOBODY.
NOBODY is in theatres now!
All images courtesy of Universal Pictures.