The plot of Need for Speed is less of a narrative than it is an excuse to accelerate. Aaron Paul is Tobey Marshall, a mechanic wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit and bent on revenging the frame job perpetrated by Dino Brewster, the ace mechanic played with a wink by Dominic Cooper. Marshall’s plan is fairly complicated, but can be boiled down to a fairly simple strategy: Drive very fast.
The movie itself serves as a vehicle for Paul, who is making a run at post-Breaking Bad stardom by trying to establish himself as a high-speed chase sort of guy. He’s paired here with the comely British starlet Imogen Poots, but the real romance is between him and the cars, a collection of Maclarens, Lamborghinis, and Bugatti Veyrons so sizable that the film looks like an auto show conducted at speed. Paul, the proud owner of a Lamborghini Aventador, used filming as an excuse to go all gear head.
The freshly minted leading man spoke to Men’s Journal about drive school, drive trains, and, well, driving.
What was your first car?
My first car was an ’82 Toyota Corolla. It was a manual. The second gear didn’t work. I just skipped from first to third. Anytime it rained the trunk would fill up with water. I took such good care of that car though. I loved it so much.
You like cars.
I like cars. I don’t think to the extent as my character does, but I think these cars are fun. It’s fun to drive fast and go crazy.
Was that why you decided to make this movie?
When I read the script it’s the story that shocked me and their vision that shocked me even more. They just wanted to do a throwback to the classic sixties and seventies car culture films like Bullitt. And they want to do an homage to Steve McQueen. They called me and they sent me mini clips, really pushing the idea. That’s not a bad thing. Steve McQueen is the guy’s guy.
How did it feel coming off Breaking Bad, a show that featured a Winnebago, and onto the Need for Speed set?
It’s been like a night and day, but it’s great. I’ve never really done a lot of action, but for this film there’s a lot of action. There’s also a lot of sitting around doing nothing. There’s a lot of hanging out watching the stuntmen make my character look bad ass and I‘m like, ‘Good job. Thank you for doing that for me.’
So the actors didn’t get to drive?
Yeah, we did. Let’s be honest…. I have been doing as much stuff as they will allow me to do.
Did they give you any training?
Yeah. I went through a whole crash course before we started shooting this at Willow Springs in California.
What did you learn?
Yeah, driving school. It was really kind of teaching you how to get out of problematic situations. It was Survivor School. It was fantastic. It was so fun. It was just three days in a row all day, but then by the end of the third day I knew how to do reverse 180s drifting around corners, doing a full 360 while driving and then driving out of it, or drifting; going to the side and stopping on a mark. I do some of that in this film and it was a blast. I recommend it for everybody.
A lot of parents will send their kids to it to learn how to do this stuff to get out of problematic situations and to understand the mechanics of the vehicle. And it’s super fun.
No life lessons from driving school?
I just appreciate the mechanics of it more and the people that are into doing all this wild, crazy stunt stuff. I applaud them because it’s a crazy lifestyle.