'Breaking Bad' Star on New Book and the 'Great Joy' of Playing Saul

Bob Odenkirk

Before he was the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman on "Breaking Bad," Odenkirk was a regular writer-performer on the "Stiller Show. "In between, he wrote for many seasons on "SNL," co-created "Mr. Show," wrote for "Conan" and acted on several series. He also directed a handful of features.

Bob Odenkirk's new work, "Hollywood Said No!" collects unproduced scripts he wrote with his "Mr. Show" collaborator, David Cross.

[Editor's note: THR spoke with Bob Odenkirk over the weekend, before news of his Breaking Bad spin-off broke.]

Things are getting busier and busier for Bob Odenkirk, whose Breaking Bad spin-off is moving forward at AMC.

The actor, known for playing the criminally talented lawyer Saul Goodman on the AMC hit, released a new book one day before the news broke of the show, tentatively titled Better Call Saul.  

Written with David Cross, Hollywood Said No! collects whacky, unproduced scripts the longtime collaborators wrote in the late '90s and early 2000s. Odenkirk says he's surprised many of them are "not entirely irrelevant," despite how long ago they were written.

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"Especially Hurray for America!!! which is about David being run for president by a corporation," Odenkirk tells The Hollywood Reporter. "A corporation that is basically hiring an actor to play a character. With the Citizens United [Supreme Court] decision, that script and the ideas in it are more relevant than they have ever been."

The actor, who starred with Cross on the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show from 1995-98, says people might assume he and his collaborator are bitter that these scripts were never produced. Not so.

"When we wrote these movies, we knew that they were an indulgence of our point of view and our voices, and the only way they would ever get made would be a fluke or a bit of luck. Our model for getting them made was to get lucky," Odenkirk says.

He and Cross are both massive fans of Monty Python, who were able to produce Life of Bryan because George Harrison was a fan and helped finance them. They knew the only way these scripts would be produced would be if they were lucky enough to find an independent financier -- and when that didn't happen they didn't sweat it.

"It's like, 'I hope I win the lottery, but I probably wont.' How mad are you when you don't win the lottery every day?"

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Both he and Cross went on to work on acclaimed shows: Breaking Bad and Arrested Development, respectively. The pair have plans to reunite for a live Mr. Show tour in 2015, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show's launch.

"I find him to be maybe the funniest mind I've ever worked with," Odenkirk says of Cross. "We both feel that we complement each other in a really surprising way that we can't even characterize. And like a good marriage, you don't want to examine it too closely."

THR spoke with Odenkirk before his Breaking Bad spin-off was announced. But he did discuss a recent scene in which Jesse (Aaron Paul) beat Saul to a pulp.

"I love doing fake fighting. I'm incredibly, deeply amused by pretending to have a physical confrontation and fake blood on your face," Odenkirk says. "I'm 50 years old, and it's my job. And it's just wonderful that that's where I find myself occasionally."

He calls the series' writing "incredible" and says the chance to immerse himself in the character of Saul is "a great joy."

"The capper of it is to act in a scene with a person as good as Aaron Paul and be that close to a person who is so good and doing such a wonderful job," Odenkirk says. "You're in it with them, and also some part of you is watching this amazing, amazing performance. Those are some of the greatest moments of being in this business -- being that close to something so great."

Hollywood Said No!: Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings From the Creators of Mr. Show is available now from Grand Central Publishing.

E-Mail: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch

before he ever became Walter White's lawyer," Sony Pictures TV and AMC said in a joint statement."]