Geek Interview: Nobody Director Ilya Naishuller On Working With Bob Odenkirk & Christopher Lloyd

When the trailer for Nobody dropped, showing Bob Odenkirk kicking ass ala Taken and John Wick, audiences were quick to point out the similarities of such projects, of having a much older actor take on the role of the action star.

Others though probably wondered, “Why Odenkirk?” 

The actor and comedian turned director and producer is best known as lawyer Saul Goodman on the popular crime series Breaking Bad, and subsequent spin-off, Better Call Saul, but action isn’t a genre he’s good at, so why would anyone cast him in an action film?

Surprisingly, director Ilya Naishuller would like it known that he wasn’t the one who made the casting decision. In fact, it was Bob Odenkirk who made the choice. 

“The interesting thing is that this project came from Bob. It was his personal experience that made him think about this character whose home gets invaded and he doesn’t do anything about it,” explained Naishuller in a phone interview with Geek Culture.

“And then the cops come and say ‘You did the right thing.’. And then he thought, ‘Well, what if I was a badass. What if I could have stopped the intruder. And then, I didn’t.” 

I didn’t cast Bob, Bob cast me as director. So, thank you, Bob.

In the film, the nobody in question is Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), who is faced with a home invasion and does nothing. Not only is he the lead, but he is also the producer and writer, but Nobody isn’t a vanity project that attracted the Russian director.

Naishuller loved Odenkirk’s twist on the mainstream ‘secret agent comes back’ plot that every action film has. In terms of how Mansell was waiting for an opportunity to exercise his combat skills, Naishuller felt that the plot flowed better that way, as it made more sense to him thematically. Instead of agents reluctantly coming back because their past mistakes catch up to them, Mansell unhinges himself from the boring working husband to that of a father able to protect his family while being able to reveal the skills of his past life. 

The irony of Mansell being the cause of his family’s issues that he solves in the end also adds important differentiation to the movie. 

“John Wick, Taken, Commando, Schwarzenegger, it’s always a man who no longer indulges in violence who has to come back. He doesn’t want to, but he has to. But with Nobody, he [Mansell] definitely doesn’t have to. But he really wants to… I started doing the storyboard and I quickly understood what kind of feeling we’re doing with the story… There’s a story to be told, and there’s a great character which usually is missing from this genre. It goes a little bit deeper in terms of the character.”

Naishuller also knew that Mansell was not going to be like every other main lead of action films, but more so of a character with multiple layers to his personality, that deals with family and inner conflict. So when people enter the cinemas, expecting a John Wick rehash, they would be pleasantly surprised by the difference of themes.

If you haven’t heard of Naishuller before this, he isn’t upset. This is actually his second feature and his first is Hardcore Henry, an action, thriller, and gore-filled first-person perspective movie, that was actually made in a rush. And comparing both experiences, this took a lot longer. 

“He [Odenkirk] knew what he was doing because we had so much time to talk. It’s just usually more time than, you know, an actor and a director have before we start, we talked for a year… It was a fantastic process, I really loved the entire making of this movie.” 

With no rush, Odenkirk, Naishuller, and Derek Kolstad went through the script and rehearsals to perfect every scene they shot. Odenkirk, in particular, trained extremely hard for the role. According to Naishuller, Odenkirk got into shape and sharpened his fighting skills, making sure that the film could go smoother without shaky imagery. Because of that, Naishuller was able to capture all the drama and emotion on camera, and that wouldn’t have been possible if Odenkirk needed a stunt double.

Bob put in those two years of training, he said ‘Let’s do it honestly if I’m getting the opportunity to become an action guy. Let me do it properly. No stunt doubles’ Bob could do continuous sequences of 8, 9, 10 punches and throws, no problem.

He also talks about including Christopher Lloyd, best known for playing Dr. Emmet Brown from the Back to The Future Trilogy in Nobody. With two actors that have never worked in action movies before, it is an unexpected side of violence and manliness that viewers have never seen before on camera. 

“Christopher Lloyd’s never done this. He’s an incredibly warm human being, very warm actor, he’s the grandfather type, and to have a grandfather type walking around with four shotguns, is just fun.” 

Naishuller goes on about how these unexpected surprises bring joy and laughter to the cinemas, something that not all action movies can do.

“It makes for an exciting and a good time in the theater and we wanted to make a movie that, you know, while it’s certainly deeper than the expected action thing. It’s still as entertaining as possible.” 

His inspiration for this movie was his dad. Most of the current movies are full of CG and post-production effects. Naishuller wanted to make his dad something else to watch other than reruns of old TV drama shows. He also thought this would be a great chance for families (who are all above 18 obviously) to be able to enjoy some time together watching the movie since there is more to the fistfights and gun wars with the Russian mafia. 

“You can take your wife, you can take your kids, unless they’re, you know, too young. But it is going to sound strange, but to me, it’s a family movie, it’s just a family that’s a little older.”

Nobody opens in cinemas on 15 April 2021.