Breaking Bad

Aaron Paul on making the top-secret ‘Breaking Bad’ movie: ‘It felt like a ‘Star Wars’ set’

How do you make a top-secret film sequel to one of the most beloved TV shows of the 21st century?

For the cast and crew of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” streaming Friday on Netflix and in select theaters nationwide, it entailed some blatant yet shockingly effective disguises.

“When we were shooting outside in public places, they had us wear these hilarious-looking cloaks. It felt like we were walking onto a ‘Star Wars’ set,” recalls Aaron Paul, who reprises his role of wayward meth cook Jesse Pinkman from the Emmy-winning series. “I personally thought it brought far more attention to us, but it was actually much easier than I thought it was going to be. We didn’t have a problem with paparazzi at all; no one knew this was happening,” he said of the clandestine 2018 New Mexico shoot.

That it happened at all is thanks to creator Vince Gilligan, whose addictive crime drama went out on a critical and ratings high in 2013 after five seasons. In the “Bad”  finale, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was found dead of a gunshot wound after a bloody shootout with white supremacists, just as protege Jesse sped away from their compound in a borrowed 1978 Chevrolet El Camino. 

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) is on the run and seeking redemption in "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie," a movie sequel to the hit AMC drama.

At the time, Gilligan was satisfied with the show’s final shot of Jesse, laughing and crying behind the wheel as he fled to an unknown destination. But as the years passed, he continued to wonder what became of the fan-favorite character, a former student of Walt’s who worked as his assistant in the illegal drug scheme.

“How exactly would he have gotten out of that? Did he get caught by police a mile or two up the road?” Gilligan says. “That, coupled with my desire to work with Aaron again, made me think there might be more story worth telling. It wasn’t a feeling of incompleteness, but rather a desire to see what happened next.” 

Aaron Paul, left, and Vince Gilligan at the Los Angeles premiere of "El Camino."

Gilligan brought the idea to Paul in summer 2018,  before a “Bad” 10th anniversary reunion event, and the actor immediately said yes. The two mulled a 10-minute short film or hourlong episode that solved the riddle of Jesse’s fate before landing on a two-hour movie for Netflix, where “Bad” built a devoted fan base during its six-year run on AMC. (“El Camino” will air on the cable network next year.) 

Paul insists he had no reservations about returning: “Vince gave me a career, and I trust him as a storyteller. He has a legacy to uphold with ‘Breaking Bad’ and nailed the landing on that show – he’s the last person that wants to screw that up. If he’s going to tell a story, it’s going to be pretty damn great.” 

Little can be said about “El Camino” without revealing spoilers, except that it follows Jesse’s attempts to atone for his sins and reinvent himself after Walt’s death. 

“He’s definitely done some bad things in his life, but at the core of him, there’s this good guy desperately trying to find himself and find freedom,” Paul says. 

Jesse's friends Badger (Matt Jones, left) and Skinny Pete (Charles Barker) are back for "El Camino."

Naturally, the movie features appearances from familiar “Bad” faces including Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), Badger (Matt Jones) and Old Joe (Larry Hankin), along with others. But Gilligan, who wrote and directed “El Camino,”  avoided bringing back popular characters for mere fan service – a lesson he and “Bad” producer Peter Gould learned from AMC’s Saul Goodman prequel “Better Call Saul,” heading for a fifth season next year. 

“You just go where the story takes you,” Gilligan says. “Certain characters had to come back, and others I would’ve liked to have seen in the movie but didn’t quite fit.” 

If successful, could “El Camino” spark a “Star-Wars”-style universe, with multiple movie sequels and spinoffs centered on different “Bad” characters? Gilligan laughs at the notion, and advises fans to not hold their breath. 

“It would definitely have fewer lightsabers, that’s for sure,” he jokes. “It’s been a surprisingly fun universe to inhabit all these years, considering how dark the subject matter is, but this may well be the end of it. Although I don’t want to go on record as absolutely saying yes or no, this is it, because I’m not sure myself.”

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