In Triple 9, Aaron Paul is unrecognisable as a tortured ex-cop turned criminal with a Skrillex-style hairdo. Director John Hillcoat’s brutal heist thriller features an all-star ensemble cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kate Winslet chewing scenery as a crazy Russian gang boss. The Breaking Bad star sat down with NME to talk even crazier fans, hanging with Jay Z & Beyonce at the Superbowl and how he became mates with Jack Garratt.
In Triple 9 your character Gabe is on both sides of the fence – a former cop and a crim. How did you prepare for the role?
“This guy’s such a tortured individual but he’s the one that’s trying to do good and convince the other guys in his crew not to kill one of their own. The director John Hillcoat (The Road) sent us all a bible of material to study. I also did some ride alongs with LAPD and saw some pretty intense things go down!”
A breathless opening heist scene is up there with Michael Mann’s Heat. Did you and the guys go method to make this look so real?
“We had such a laugh. I’m going to work carrying a big rubber gun into a bank with big bags of money! It was a dream come true because I love watching those big shoot ’em up action movies like Heat and The French Connection. Getting to rob a bank was a highlight for me.”
In the film, Kate Winslet’s Russian gang boss warns, ‘There’s no limit to what desperate men will do when pushed…’ How far would you go?
“I’m not gonna kill anybody but you gotta do what you gotta do. My character has limits and he’s the one that’s trying to stop the madness. But I guess the most intense thing I had to do to chase my dreams was move from Idaho to Los Angeles. But at 17 years old I was so naïve it was really an easy thing for me to do. It wasn’t scary. I wasn’t pushed. I drove there myself in this beat up old car…”
You’ve said that you’ve been offered some awful roles since Breaking Bad. How bad?
“There’s been so many! It’s nice to have offers, don’t get me wrong. But since Breaking Bad the number of ‘loveable drug addict’ roles I’ve been sent is comical!”
What’s the strangest place you’ve been recognised? And the weirdest thing a fan has ever said or done?
“Well, Lauren and I were on our honeymoon… We were flying from London to the Maldives and when we were getting off the plane we were on the runway at this tiny airport on a small island. And this guy was doing his thing flagging in one of these planes. But then he just leaves his aircraft on the tarmac and comes running towards me screaming, ‘Yo bitch!’ I mean… We’re in the middle of nowhere! And I met this old lady once, must have been in her late 80s, and she told me how she’d be proud to call me her grandson. She was just saying the nicest things and then at the end of the conversation she asked me to call her a bitch. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it but she insisted so… I did!”
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Could Jesse and Walt still return in Better Call Saul?
“It’s something I would absolutely love to do. I’ve talked about it with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould (the show runners) and it would only be done if they could figure out the right way to do it, they’re not just gonna throw us in there for the sake of it. It would have to really make sense.”
If you could play any music icon or one of your music idols on the big screen who would it be?
“I love music and I always find myself gravitating towards tortured characters. I think Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith… They’re lives were such a whirlwind crazy rollercoaster, which for me as an actor would be incredible to play.”
You’ve staged concerts at home with the likes of Angus and Julia Stone and Jake Bugg. Tell us how it works…
“We try and do them as often as we can and it’s usually people we don’t know, people I’ve fallen in love with by listening to Pandora. It’s how I became friends with Jack Garratt and he mentioned this in an interview which is how people have heard of it. Emerging bands and artists are more accessible and really jump at the opportunity to play in our living room. We don’t film anything and no cameras or phones are allowed because we want everyone to be present and in the moment to appreciate and respect the music.”
You’ve been on stage with Arcade Fire in the past. Have you had any more crazy music moments?
“I had a wild night with U2 when they played The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. It was an intimate gig with only about 200 people in the audience. So after the show I’m hanging with Bono, The Edge and Jack Nicholson… It was such a surreal thing. I’d never met them before but they were such sweethearts! Bono came over and gave me a hug. Music was playing. It felt like we were slow dancing a little bit. Then he grabbed my face. It turned into one of the coolest nights of my life!”
Has anything topped that since?
“I saw my wife, the other night, do a little dance battle with one of Beyonce’s dancers at a Superbowl after party. Beyonce and Jay Z were standing behind her so unbelievably impressed by my wife. And me, as a husband, I was just so proud of her!”
Triple 9 is in cinemas everywhere now