Wake up. Shower. Make coffee. Go to work. Take out the trash moments before the garbage truck arrives. It’s a monotony we know all too well, and one that often calls for an escape. In his recent film “Nobody,” Bob Odenkirk shows how breaking free from a routine life may involve violence, bus fights and a break-in.
Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) lives an extraordinarily normal life in a normal suburb: he lives with his smart, successful wife Becca (Connie Nielson), teenage son and young daughter. He gets up and goes to his mundane job every day and returns home for a nice dinner every night — that is, until two people break into his home, and he avoids fighting them off. He wants to do what he feels is best and keep the damage to a minimum. As part of a virtual roundtable with Odenkirk, The Chronicle had the opportunity to interview the actor about the movie.
“This is a movie I needed but I didn’t even know I needed it,” Odenkirk said. “Which is a funny thing to say about an action movie — who needs an action movie? At the core of it is pure escapism, it’s not confrontational of your inner life, it’s meant to be your fantasy that you lose yourself in.”
After the home invasion, though, Hutch is immediately consumed by guilt and shame. Not only is he embarrassed that his teenage son took more physical action against the robbers than him, but other men in the neighborhood and at work brag about what they would have done if in his position. We soon learn that, although Hutch now leads a relatively normal life, he spent his past working for “very dangerous people.” And he wants to engage in this danger again.
“While he’s the hero and it ends in this triumphant, rewarding place, the character is an addict,” Odenkirk said. “He was addicted to violence, and he quit cold turkey. And that’s not always the best way to quit something. When he goes back in, he gets unhinged. As you see in the bus fight, he’s unhinged: he has a very good moment where he could walk away, but we wanted to push it very far.”
Trained by actor Daniel Bernhardt, Odenkirk performed all his own screen fighting. Several scenes are enhanced by explosions and car chases and hoards of weapons, but are ultimately carried by Odenkirk’s stunts and hard-punching lines. The actor, who has spent most of his career in comedy, worked to bring the intensity needed in action.
“I didn’t want to do an action movie just to do it,” Odenkirk said. “I wanted the full experience. I wanted to push myself and stretch myself, and the hardest thing about it was not the drudgery or the hours of gym time, but the embarrassment of sucking at it for so long.”
Odenkirk is most well-known for his roles in crime-dramas "Breaking Bad" and its spin-off "Better Call Saul." These roles allowed the actor to diverge from comedy and find a sincerity reflected in the film.
“Until I played Jimmy McGill (Saul Goodman), I had not done much on screen that wasn’t ironic or sarcastic or a comical take on what makes up a person,” he said. “Everything was exaggerated or lampooned or twisted for comic effect. Jimmy is funny at times, but there are big scenes that are utterly earnest and heartfelt and there’s no safety valve of comedy or self-awareness that comedy affords you. So that’s the place I went to as an actor. That’s what an action lead does, they really pursue their heart cut-open and pursue those intense deep feelings.”
What I found to be the most interesting part of the film, though, was not the guns or gangs or often unwarranted fights. It was the irony of fatherhood and masculinity: Hutch believes that re-entering a world of violence will help him protect his family, but instead he puts them in more danger than before.
“I had two break-ins in my home, one of them was particularly traumatic,” Odenkirk said. “I did exactly what the character did, except instead of grabbing a golf club, I grabbed a baseball bat. But I tried to keep damage to a minimum. And I left that incident feeling doubtful that I had done the right thing, even though I had done the right thing. Sadly [inaction] doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, and in a movie you get to play out your fantasy. I also like that when he does express his rage, it creates more trouble for him than if he had just found a different, healthier way to deal with those feelings.”
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