Author-director Riley Stearns has developed a work known for its deadpan tone – a disturbing, distinctive addition to his already provocative stories of cult programming, self-defense, and, now, cloning. DoubleStearns’ latest, follows a young woman named Sarah (Karen Gillan), who decides to copy herself after being diagnosed with a fatal disease and is then forced to fight that clone after she will not voluntarily accept being “killed”.
Aaron Paul plays opposite Gillan as Trent, a no-nonsense combat coach who agrees to teach Sarah how to defeat her clone using unconventional techniques – such as showing her horror films with titles such as You only kill those you love.
Paul spoke recently AV club about its role in Double, his relationship to Stearns and the filmmaker’s distinctive voice. Paul also reflected on his iconic role as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad (a character he returns to last season of Rather call Saul) and how that opportunity has shaped his career and his choices going forward.
AV Club: One of the things that really struck me Double is how clever Riley Stearns is when it comes to tinkering with well-known storytelling conventions. Was that part of what drew you to this truly unique character study?
Aaron Paul: I’ve known Riley for some time now. He’s been my buddy. I’m such a big fan of his work. He has such a unique voice. When this meeting was set up, he came over to the house and we kind of dived into this world. I actually thought he was interested in getting me to play Beulah [Koale]’s part, Karen’s boy [Peter], and then I just talked to him about it. And when he then made the official offer, it was to Trent that I absolutely loved, but I never even wrapped my head around that guy because I was told that Riley was interested in me for a completely different character. But when I was told he wanted me to play Trent, I quickly reread the script and it was an instant yes. I just loved the guy. He’s just so committed to his work. The way Riley writes is just so stagnant, which I have never done before, which was a unique challenge, but a fun one. I was jet lagged the whole time I was out in Finland. I literally landed the day before I started shooting, just because there was a bit of a struggle to get to Finland because I had lost my passport and there was a whole thing. So I got there literally the day before I started shooting. It was a beautiful time.
AVC: A movie like this one really succeeds or fails to reach that tone. I doubt Riley gave you line readings, but how did you get to the right place in terms of tone?
AP: When you first enter his world, the set he creates, you just roll with it and just trust it. Yes, Riley by no means gives line readings, but sometimes it’s just, “throw it a little more away”, or let’s give a little more energy here. But Riley’s writing is kind of how he is in real life. He’s by no means a deadpan character, but he’s just very matter-of-fact. I really think Riley is such a genius. I just love the man so much. And so it was a beautiful experience for me to be able to see how he orchestrates around in a set.
AVC: This movie feels personal in a way that I did not quite expect. What was this story about for you? What were you particularly interested in exploring?
AP: With Trent, I just loved his obsession with his work. He lives and breathes it. I guess he lives in his studio where he trains. But with Sarah, it’s just such an interesting tag, like, Oh, do you want the new, fresh stuff? Relationships are tough and you really have to struggle to keep the relationship going. And so this is an interesting bid on this. It’s like, Oh, you have a duplicate. And then you hear an amazing line where the clone looks like, Oh, I think I’m a size smaller than you, like a subtle little plug and it’s just so beautiful. But it is [about] people who are in a relationship and they are introduced to this shiny new toy. And they’re like, I want to explore this a little bit. And then the family also starts to like more of the shiny new toys. And it’s just, oh my god! It’s just so brutal. But I think Riley did a beautiful job of telling an honest story in such a strange world.
AVC: It has been fun to see all the opportunities you have had in the wake of Breaking Bad. Has there been a point where you go from being tired of talking about Jesse Pinkman to returning to embracing him? You have been able to return to the role a few times and deliver so beautifully on the creative challenges.
AP: Oh, thank you very much. I feel so blessed to have Breaking Bad be such a big part of my life and family that we all fell in love with …we all received and grew up together out in Albuquerque—is something I can not imagine ever experiencing again on a movie set. It was just magic. That was it really. And that’s Vince Gilligan. I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity to talk to him or not, but he’s just the kindest man, so gentle, and he surrounds himself with the same kind of people. And we told a story that we were all so incredibly passionate about and proud of. That is, to be able to explore that world again with The roadand now we can finally talk about jumping into it again Rather call Saul, it’s a blessing. And then there really is an embarrassing wealth there, but you’re right. I’m known to Pinkman.
I have been knocking on the sidewalk in this industry for now 25 years. I have Breaking Bad 10 years inside the game. Lots of ups and downs, more downs than heights before that. But I feel blessed that it happened, but it’s about spreading its wings and exploring new things and hoping to make the right decisions. I’ve definitely missed some, but I’m at a time now where I would rather hang out with my family and my growing children than be on a set. Tthe hat is just me throwing the dice. But I feel blessed to have just worked in this industry. It’s hard to get hold of, but I’m excited about the way forward. I’m not desperate to jump into any movie set. If the right thing comes, then I do it. But if not, I’m happy to just be with my family and grow my booze business [laughs].