Aaron Paul might be best known as the Emmy Award-winning, meth-making Jessie Pinkman on AMC’s "Breaking Bad," but in his latest film with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, "Smashed," Paul is trading in the bag of blue crystal rocks for the bottle.
Currently out in limited theatrical release, "Smashed" deals with the repercussions of a couple addicted to alcohol and what happens when one of them decides to finally get sober. It’s a harrowing look at love, life and the dire consequences of addiction, and it’s one of Paul’s finest performances.
Paul is clearly in demand -- news came this week that he will play the lead in Dreamworks' film adaptation of EA's "Need for Speed" video-game series, scheduled for a February 2014 release.
The actor recently sat down with ESPN Playbook to chat about the Boise State Broncos, rocking out with James Bond and the difference between playing a meth addict and an alcoholic.
What team would make you happiest if it won a championship?
Probably the [Los Angeles] Angels [of Anaheim] simply because my fiancé’s family are the most die-hard Angels fans I’ve come across and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I’ve got to be honest and say that, growing up, I wasn’t a big sports guy, but I love the camaraderie. I just love people getting together, fighting for a team and getting super-emotional about it. For the pure joy of watching the Angels from the beginning to taking it down with her family would just be an incredible thing.
If your life depended on your performance in a competitive sport, which one would you choose?
Oh my god. If my life depended on it? I would have to try snowboarding. [Laughs.]
So, growing up, you didn’t play a lot of sports.
Yeah, I was on the snowboard team at my school, but that was the only sports team I was on. I played soccer growing up in elementary school. I would love to maybe pull off a Rudy and play football to try and save my life. That would be great.
You grew up in Idaho. Was there a big sports scene around where you grew up?
No, not really. There was really just BSU -- Boise State Broncos. I actually do follow them and I think it’s great what they’re doing.
You recently tweeted a picture of you with James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan, going to see Radiohead. Are you guys filming the Nick Hornby adaptation “A Long Way Down"?
Yeah, we’re shooting “A Long Way Down" and Pierce and I went one night, and then the rest of the cast and I went the following night. Then I decided to go see them again in Paris last night. I’m obsessed with Radiohead. They’re just the greatest band on the planet. Pierce is such a great guy to see a concert with. It’s so fun. I got to a see a whole different side to him and he’s the nicest guy, truly, and I’m just so happy to know him.
What happened in the O2 Arena? They wouldn’t let you dance?
Yeah, they wouldn’t let me dance. They would not let me dance. They said, “People buy seated seats here at the O2 to sit down.” And I’m like, “What?! Who sits down at a concert? That’s crazy!” And the next night I told everybody, “We’re gonna dance. They’re telling us that we can’t, but we’re going to.” The entire crowd the first night was seated. I was the only one that was standing up and they’re like, “You need to sit down.” So I was like, “OK, this is weird. So bizarre.”
So the next night our entire group jumped up during this one song and we convinced everybody around us -- in front of us and behind us -- to stand up. We told them, “Just stand up for at least a couple songs. Trust me, you’re gonna like it! Trust me! Please do it!” And then they did and it just slowly spread. Within two or three songs later, it spread all the way around the entire stadium and everybody was standing up. It was amazing.
So you started a revolution.
I always dreamt of being the one who started a wave at a football game or something. Like, “Come on! Let’s start a wave!” And everyone’s like, “Well, I don’t know. Let’s just wait to see it come around.” And this time, we actually started the slow wave so I’m pretty proud of it.
Good for you, man!
Yeah, we showed you, O2 Arena! [Laughs.]
That’s a very Jesse Pinkman moment.
Yeah, it was great. You are not gonna tell me to sit down.
Congrats on your second Emmy Award for “Breaking Bad.” How does it feel going from this extremely popular, critically adored show to working on a lower-budget, independent feeling movie like “Smashed”?
Super-fun. It’s just so great. We didn’t have trailers to go back to. It was just chaotic the entire time. We didn’t have much time to shoot it. We shot the entire thing in three weeks, I think. It was just so great. We became so close because we just hung out on set. We didn’t branch off. Once we were there, we were there. Love it. Love it. Love it.
Some of the scenes in the trailer alone remind me of the craziness of Jesse Pinkman’s parties in previous seasons. Both “Breaking Bad” and “Smashed” deal with forms of addiction. How is it different preparing for one role from the other?
Oh, wow. I mean, I gotta tell you. Alcohol and meth are completely different animals. You know, both can have dire consequences, but preparing for Jesse is just a different thing. I never did any drugs to get into the role at all, but I’ve definitely had my long, lonely nights and Jesse is really sad inside. He really is.
With Charlie, I drank my face off many nights and filled myself. I just tried to play it as honest as possible and hopefully that shows through. Hopefully I did it justice. I love Charlie and Kate. They’re such a loving couple and they do love each other so much, but they also love alcohol. At the end of the day, they’ve never been sober together and maybe they’re just not right for one another. I don’t know.