The movie Nobody is a fun and brief escape from reality. The premise—essentially, “What if Bob Odenkirk was a John Wick guy?”—sells itself. The similarities—a plot based on one man’s quest for revenge, intricate action sequences, and exaggerated violence—are not a coincidence: The script was written by Derek Kolstad, the mind behind the John Wick franchise.
The movie focuses on Hutch Mansell, a family man played by Odenkirk, most recently known for his role as Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Like John Wick, the movie begins with a home invasion. Unlike Wick, Mansell is unable to attack any of the assailants, and while he does not lose a dog, he loses the respect of his family. But over the course of ninety minutes, as Hutch draws upon his previous life experience as a trained assassin, the story mutates from a profile of a defeated man to an oversaturated festival of violence. Odenkirk is supported by his father, played by Christopher Lloyd, and his brother, played by RZA.
There is a personal connection for Odenkirk here. He has experienced two break-ins at his actual home, and says he found some catharsis in preparing for this movie, which involved intensive martial arts training. “I was surprised to find that it did feel like I unburdened myself of a great deal of the weight and darkness of those feelings by acting them out,” Odenkirk told VICE.
Director Ilya Naishuller, who made the 2015 sci-fi film Hardcore Henry, made one very large modification from Kolstad’s original script, influenced by his own experiences. The story initially set Mansell against a group of South Koreans in the K-town neighborhood of Los Angeles. NaishuIler, a Moscow native, decided to replace the South Koreans with Russians.
“I don’t know enough about [South Korean] culture. I would do the same thing as Hollywood usually does to everybody else,” he told VICE. He insisted on casting Russian actors for these roles, including star Aleksey Serebryakov who plays Yulian Kuznetsov, a drug lord. Naishuller also insisted on using actual Russian dialogue with on-screen subtitles, instead of the Russian-accented English often heard in action movies. These details and personal connections—for Odenkirk and Naishuller alike—result in an enjoyably ridiculous experience.
VICE spoke to Bob Odenkirk about Nobody, the psychological dimensions of performing in a film such as this one, and how he prepared for the role of Hutch Mansell.
**This movie is probably more personal to you than people will realize, since you have experienced a home invasion. Was it therapeutic to prepare for this movie?
**I’m surprised that my answer is yes. I knew that I was using this experience that happened to me and these feelings to ignite the story. Derek Kolstad wrote the movie, and the movie grows from a very real-feeling human family scenario into a mythic, insane bloodfest. So at a certain point, it goes way past this kind of thing we’re talking about right now. Because it’s ignited from an understandable scenario and feelings, then maybe more people can go on the ride. They can find their way into the intense feelings of rage and vengeance that my character feels.
After the break-ins—we had two, but one was particularly disturbing—and I know that sounds crazy, [but] you can’t help but feel a rage and anger towards that person. And I imagine anybody who has a crime against them and feels violated has those feelings. We can’t act them out, but we can in the movies! Because it’s a movie. It’s not real.
**It probably goes both ways in terms of acting out that rage but also having to revisit those experiences.
**Well, except that you can’t help but revisit it. You can try to push it away, but it’s coming to you all the time, so you might as well use it for a movie. You know, Ashwin, it’s true that there’s this initial spark of this notion and for this character, and what drives him came from that, but the movie, in the end—it’s very much an action, genre myth. It kind of blows up. At a certain point, all the feelings are big. And that’s what Derek Kolstad writes so well. And it’s wonderful. It makes you smile, to read it and to see it. It’s like a kid telling you a story.
**The beginning of the movie—it’s a guy who’s stuck in a rut, like “every day is the same.” Is that something that you relate to?
**I have an incredibly varied life with incredible dynamic range in it. So I don’t really feel that beleaguered, Groundhog Day-type thing. But it’s not hard to imagine people feeling that way. In this case, my character’s overdone it. [He] even says, “Maybe I overdid it,” but he really has overdone it. The idea of hiding himself away, in this job for his father-in-law in the back of a building, and just trying to look like nothing and never exert his personality and never push back on anything—that’s no way to live. And we all do that sometimes, to keep the peace and to keep things copacetic. And sometimes we have to do it for a job.
He’s a guy who had this very adventurous, dangerous, youthful life. And then he said, I’m gonna become a family man. And I’m going to shut all this down. We still got to keep some degree of spark and surprise and adventure in our lives.
Why do you think a guy like this, who seems like a very buttoned-up operator, keeps missing garbage day? Because everyone misses garbage day once in a while. Everyone. Who gets mad—really mad—about missing garbage day? A buttoned up guy like this. It gets to him. “Fuck! I did it again! The stupidest thing in the world, the easiest thing in the world.”
**You had to do quite a bit of prep to get ready for this role. What were some of the more intense things you had to do to physically be ready for shooting this?
**Spend four hours in a gym, four days a week.
**What were you doing in the gym?
**I was doing a lot of stretching and toning. But I was learning the basic moves, which is a hell of a workout all by itself. I was a comedy writer for 25 years. Then I drifted over into drama acting. And the only thing I did was cardio; I would do about a half an hour of cardio a day. So I had none of the skills of movement. I didn’t know any of the moves. I didn’t learn any fighting. I never boxed. I’d never done karate. I had to build from zero to what I did for the screen fighting that I do in this movie.
I do all my own fighting [in Nobody]. I trained at 87eleven, and what they teach is an amalgamation of moves from every discipline. They take from karate, jujitsu, boxing, judo—they take moves from everywhere that look good on screen. They kind of exaggerate them. The one thing I wanted to do was the Bruce Lee one-inch punch. But I think I need another 20 years of training to do that. I asked if I could do it, if they could train me, and they said, “No. You will never be able to do that.” And I said, “Oh.”
**Do you think you’ll carry on any of this in your regular fitness practice?
**Yes, absolutely. I’ve continued to go to the gym there—that stunt gym. Pretty much I’ve gone once a week. The truth is, it’s really good for you. It’s kind of a full body workout, with an emphasis on the core and an emphasis on stretching. And so those things are really good for me. I’m 58 years old, and it’s not about bulking up. It’s not about weights. It’s about movement and stretching, and it’s really good.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
“Nobody” is in theaters on Friday, March 26.