‘Nobody’ Interview: Ilya Naishuller on Bob Odenkirk, Christopher Lloyd, and Capturing the Bus Scene

Nobody stars Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell, a family man who wants nothing more than to be the best husband and father possible. After failing to protect his family during a break-in, Hutch’s family begins to express their disappointment in his handling of the situation. As this feeling of failure continues to grow within him, Hutch’s dark and secret past, which was fueled by anger and rage begins to take control.

As someone who grew up on a healthy diet of action movies, I have a soft spot for the genre. Nobody is one of those films that is just so unexpectedly over the top that I had no other choice but to turn my brain off, fasten my seatbelt, and enjoy the ride. Bob Odenkirk is an actor whose work I admire. I remember watching Mr. Show as a teenager and thinking it was hilarious. Odenkirk’s career as an actor has been pretty damn fascinating, however, it’s nice to see him in a leading role in a feature film.

We all know that he can act his ass off in Better Call Saul, but Nobody lets him play a character that you have never seen him play before. We get to see him become for a lack of a better comparison, John Wick. We all know Keanu Reeves as an action hero, but who knew that Bob Odenkirk could give him a run for his money. Nobody is like John Wick on steroids. It might be over the top and incredibly far-fetched, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bloody blast. That said, what made this film so much more standout than say a John Wick, is the simple fact that everything about it is completely unexpected with plenty of fun surprises thrown in as the story unfolds.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with director, Ilya Naishuller about the film. We discussed how he got involved, working with the cast, as well as what it was like to work on something with so many stunts. Ilya was very fun and easy to talk to. He had a lot to say which you can read below or simply click the video link above to watch.

Scott Menzel: Well, I have to say, and I’m not going to be censored on this, what a fucking movie. What a blast. This was awesome.

Ilya Naishuller: Thank you so much, Scott. I’m just being very cautiously optimistic with everything, but it brings me great pleasure to hear you say that, thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed this movie.

Scott Menzel: This is like John Wick on steroids. I cannot believe, and nothing could prepare me for, the experience I had when watching this film. My wife and I were just watching it, cracking the fuck up. It’s a blast. And I normally don’t go into interviews praising like this, but it was not expected. I guess that’s the best way of putting it.

Ilya Naishuller: Okay. Well, I want to open my window and I want you to repeat that so everybody can… Hey, everybody. Come have a look, Scott… I mean, thank you. Look, as a filmmaker you go and do something, you think it’s kind of good, you like it, you think it’s special enough, and you always want to do better and more. And then you get actual feedback from people who had no idea what to expect, and it works. So I’m very appreciative and I’m very happy. Thank you, Scott. By the way, I’ll probably mess up all my answers because my head’s big now. But thank you.

Scott Menzel: Yeah, no problem. I wanted to start this off with the obvious question. How did you get involved with the project?

Ilya Naishuller: I just got the script, and it said Bob is attached, written by Derek Kolstad, have a look. And a year before that I remember telling my agent that if I was to do an American movie, what I’d love to do… it’d be great to do an elevated action film, with preferably a comedian who hasn’t done action before in the action part. I mean, that’ll be great. And if 87Eleven could do the stunts, that would be fantastic. And this was right after Atomic Blonde, which was my favorite action sequence of 2017, the stairwell sequence.

Scott Menzel: Oh, that’s the best. 

Ilya Naishuller: It really is the best. I mean, some of the guys that worked on that were in this movie, so I got to ask a lot of questions. I like fanboy-ing out with all the people. But I got the script from my agent and it said, “Ask and you shall receive. Bob Odenkirk in an action film. 87Eleven are producing.” Or it’s 87North now. But I remember reading it and going, “Yeah, I understand what this film is about, I understand what’s so special about it. I’d like to talk to Bob. I’m interested.” And I got on the phone with Bob, and I think the reason I got this film is I saw something in the script that he and Derek were not really aware of. It was already a great draft. But I spoke to Bob, I said, “Bob, forgive me if I’m wrong, but it feels to me like this film is about addiction. It’s about a guy who squashed his addiction to violence or to action for a long time, and he’s very unhappy because of it.” And that’s what makes this film special because every other movie of this hitman coming back to his previous life, it’s always about they did something to me, they stole someone from me, they killed somebody of mine. Nobody really stole shit. They stole 20 bucks, it doesn’t matter, it’s not what the movie’s about. It’s a wink and a nod, I guess, to the expected genre moves. But it really is about a guy who wants to get back to his previous self, to become a happy person again. He’s an antihero, he really is. Everything that happens in the movie is because he makes the wrong choices. So his intentions are great, but his choices are not, and that’s what makes… The inner conflict is much more important to the story to me than the bad guys, the Russians with the shotguns that are coming in. I think when I spoke to Bob about that, it just clicked for him. He’s like, “It really kind of is, now you mention it.” Bob, saw my movie, he liked Hardcore Henry, but the question was am I going to bring something story-centric important, other than just cool explosions and nice-looking shots. And I think with that, my pitch, he got that I really wanted to find something special.

Scott Menzel: I love the fact that the breaking point for his character is his daughter’s bracelet. I mean, that’s really where you just see him losing it, and it’s like his whole entire life changes because of that bracelet. And you brought this up, and I’m glad you did. But I do want to talk to you about the stunts. I run a critics organization, and one of the awards that we do is we do Best Stunts, and I think this movie is going to be a shoo-in to be nominated next year because it’s just perfect for it. Can you talk about working with the stunt team, and how did you film certain sequences like that bus scene which was amazing.

Ilya Naishuller: Thank you. Look, we had a great stunt team. Obviously, David Leitch producing, he obviously knows a thing or two about stunts.

Scott Menzel: A little bit.

Ilya Naishuller: I’ll tell you a little David Leitch story. We were doing the Hummer crash before the bus scene, and we usually shot on two cameras, and this time we had three. And I knew what the two shots were, and I’m like, “All right, where do we put the third one? We don’t really need a third, where do you put it?” And Paul and I walking around, trying to find something that’s really unnecessary. At a certain point, I see David just walking around, and I’m like, “David, excuse me, David but how many cars have you crashed in films?” He’s like, “150, 200.” I’m like, “David, could you just please tell us where to put the third fucking camera.” He’s like, “Over there.” I’m like, “Great, thank you.”

Greg Rementer was stunt coordinator. Hugely experienced, really nice guy. Again, all movies are made by people talking. Just prepping and talking and looking at previous… Greg would go out and shoot with a bunch of cardboard boxes. He’d a layout of the bus and he’d do a bunch of these beats. We’d sit down and think, “This is a little too much. It’s over the top. It’s not violent enough. Let’s do this.” And it’s a lot of discussions. My pitch for the character was Hutch Mansell is a wolverine. Not the Wolverine, not Hugh Jackman, not the superhero, but he is the animal. He is that rough and unstoppable force, and that to me was… When he gets back on the bus, that was to me the moment I said, “This is the wolverine.” He’s going to go in there. We want to do one take as he’s cutting through everybody. One-shot, rather. A couple of takes, one shot. And the one other thing with Bob training for a year and a half is that you could do whole sequences. Like the reason there are cuts in the bus is because the bus is so tight. We didn’t want to do the split-cut bus old boy style. But it’s just an unbelievable blessing to have the lead, Bob, be so over-prepared. He was so adamant about doing this properly because he knows it’s his one shot to get it right. He’s going to be in real good shape, he’s going to practice the shit out of all the moves, and he’s going to have a stunt team that is going to be devoted to getting the best thing possible. I remember one of the stunt guys on the bus… we had taken a pause, it was lunch, and he goes up to me and says, “Ilya, you should really value this movie.” I’m like, “Oh yeah? I am already, but why? Why especially this one?” He says, “Because you’re hardly ever going to work with people who care as much about this as Bob.” I was like, “That makes total sense, thank you.”

Scott Menzel: Yeah. I mean, you can tell that he was really in it. And again, I just love the transitioning with his character. It’s interesting that he was already attached to the project before you came on board. Was Christopher Lloyd also attached?

Ilya Naishuller: No. We had six weeks of prep, and as I arrived in Winnipeg, we only had Bob, and we had six weeks to prep the film and get the cast. The reason Bob was attached is that it was Bob’s idea, to begin with. I’m not sure I should be telling his story, but I’ll share the highlights of it. He had his home broken into, he had a home invasion, and that obviously has some… it leaves a mark. And he kept thinking about this character. He was like, “What would I be?” Because he did the right thing. He called the cops, he locked the guy in the basement. When the cops came, they were just very… not despondent, but they were like, “If it was me, I’d kick his ass. But you did the right thing.” So pretty much some of the lines in the film were very close to what Bob was retelling in that story. I asked Derek to put some of those key lines in with the cops because that’s exactly what pissed Bob off so much. Because he did the right thing, as you would do and I would do, but he was thinking, “If I was a badass, how would I handle this differently?” And then that whole dilemma came about, and that’s the film.

But with Lloyd, we had a list of people, and I remember we were about to start going out when Bob calls and says, “Guys, what about Christopher Lloyd.” And we were all like… phone drop, get Christopher… let’s try it. Perfect. I printed his picture up and I put it on the wall next to Bob, next to RZA, and it just made perfect sense. RZA, Lloyd, Bob. It’s so unexpected but in the best possible way.

Scott Menzel: Yes. Yeah, that’s what’s the surprise is about the movie, is that when he pops up, I’m like sitting there and I’m like, “Whoa.” And then when he starts becoming the badass, just like his son, I mean that took me to a whole nother level. I was like, “Wow, this is such perfect casting, and it’s not expected.” You know when you hear about cliched casting and it’s like, “Oh, he’s a perfect choice?” This one, on paper, you look at it and you’re like, “Really?” But you made it work, you made it work.

Ilya Naishuller: I’d love to take full credit for it, but no, I can’t. The wonderful thing was, Christopher Lloyd, we talked about it. I can tell you quickly my Chris Lloyd story before he flew out to Winnipeg. I had one conversation on the phone with him, because obviously, you don’t audition him. You know he’s going to be great. So we said, if he’s into it, let’s have him, and we’d be lucky to have him. And we get on the call, and I remember talking to him and saying, “Mr. Lloyd, we’d like to put a bunch of shotguns on you. We want David’s character to have… He doesn’t want to reload, so instead, he’s going to have a bunch of shotguns at the ready. And they’re heavy, so we’ll make props, we’ll make it light for you. We don’t want to make it physically silly.”

Heads-up, warning, for a really shitty Christopher Lloyd impression, but he says, “Ilya, you know in a lot of movies, people have coffee cups and there’s no coffee, and the audience knows?” I’m like, “Yes sir, I do.” And he’s like, “Well, let’s not do that.” So then, yeah, for most of the time he is carrying four very heavy shotguns, which is… I would occasionally put them on and walk around with him while we were prepping for the next shot because every time we had a moment to hang out with Chris Lloyd of course you take it. And I remember going, “This is not that comfortable,” and I’m in pretty good shape and I’m two and a half times younger than him.” But that’s Christopher Lloyd. He wanted to make it properly good, just like Bob and just like I. And it’s wonderful to be blessed with partners who are in it to win it.

Scott Menzel: Oh man. Ilya, I’ve got to tell you, congratulations again. What a fun movie. I cannot wait to watch this again and I think this is destined to be a cult classic. I think there’s going to be a sequel. I hope you come back for the sequel. Appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.

Ilya Naishuller: Thank you so much, Scott. I really appreciate you liking the movie and taking the time as well. Thank you.

Nobody is now playing in theaters wherever they are open.

Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott D. Menzel has been a film fanatic since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associates Degree in Marketing, a Bachelors in Mass Media, Communications and a Masters in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com, which he founded. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name changed occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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