Bob Odenkirk had plenty of time to prep for his latest role — two years to be precise. During the week he would film “Better Call Saul,” and on weekends he would fly to meet up with a stuntman for his role in Universal action thriller “Nobody,” which opens March 26 in theaters.
The 58-year-old actor plays Hutch, a seemingly milquetoast suburban husband who, trying to keep his family safe, doesn’t fight back when thieves break into his home one night. But the robbery triggers his long buried, violent past, propelling the film from “Hardcore Henry” director Ilya Naishuller.
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It was the first time Odenkirk, known for a career in comedy, had delved into stunts. But the actor, also a producer on the project, had another motive — a personal one: His own home had been broken into twice. If anyone could relate to Hutch, it would be him.
Notably, Odenkirk does nearly all of his own stunt work in the film. Before the first frame was shot, he trained twice a day for 45 minutes in martial arts with stuntman Daniel Bernhardt. Once filming began, the two would work daily for two hours or more.
Naishuller and supervising stunt coordinator Greg Rementer were thrilled at the prospect of collaborating with an actor who had been drilling so enthusiastically. The first big action sequence — a fight on a bus that begins when Hutch sees some women getting attacked, represents a turning point for the character. For once, he fights back. “He has this choice to walk away and he doesn’t,” Naishuller says.
Rementer and Naishuller wanted the fight that ensues to be aggressive and sloppy — to show that Hutch is rusty. To map it out and make the scuffle look more spontaneous, Rementer rode a bus and paid attention to items people were carrying to integrate them into the scene.
The sequence was shot on a real bus that was then made “stunt friendly” by “hiding padding on the floor and in the chairs. We added it everywhere to keep Bob safe,” Rementer says.
Because Odenkirk had immersed himself in the physical aspects of the performance, it allowed Rementer and Naishuller to push him more than they would actors who didn’t have that experience. Naishuller notes that not having to rely on cutaways heightened realism. “When you have a star who is willing to learn complicated bits of [fight choreography], it becomes a bit easier,” he says. “We could do everything without cheating the camera.”
While Odenkirk doesn’t use a stunt double, Bernhardt figures in the scene as one of Hutch’s attackers (with stunt colleagues Kirk Jenkins and Alain Moussi).
Rementer says that the weeks of training together paid off in the scene. Odenkirk could trust Bernhardt and focus on his performance. “Bob could feel comfortable about where his punches landed and unleash them in a way that took his training to the next level,” the coordinator explains. “It’s such a special scene because he looked like a prizefighter ready to take his first fight; he looked like he was going to rip those guys apart.”