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Below, find out why Bryan Cranston was creator Vince Gilligan‘s first choice to play Water White — but not the network’s — who baby Holly is named for, and a tease of what Aaron Paul predicts will be a “bloodbath” finale. (The original story, from the July 20, 2012 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, can be read here.)
1. AMC execs wanted John Cusack or Matthew Broderick to star.
Gilligan had been wowed by Cranston’s guest spot a year earlier on The X Files and wanted him for the part, but AMC pushed for Cusack or Broderick. (Both passed.) “We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle. We were like, ‘Really? Isn’t there anybody else?’ ” recalls one former exec whose mind was changed when he saw The X-Files episode Gilligan urged each of them to watch, in which Cranston plays a desperate man suffering from radiation exposure.
2. Baby Holly was named for Gilligan’s longtime girlfriend.
Who will live and who will die in the finale has been the subject of intense speculation among Bad fans. But many assume the youngest member of the White family is safe, simply because Gilligan wouldn’t kill the character he named for his girlfriend, Holly. The real-life Holly tells THR Gilligan “used to drop little Holly references into episodes of The X-Files, too, like, use my street address in some conversation between Mulder and Scully. My friends would call and say, ‘I caught the Holly moment!’ “
3. The finale will be a “bloodbath.”
Even while shooting last year’s batch of episodes, the cast knew the show would end with plenty of blood. “It’s not going to end pretty. It’s a bloodbath now, I’ll tell you that,” Aaron Paul says.
4. Walter White was originally conceived as a 40-year-old.
When Gilligan pitched the show, its protagonist was a 40-year-old living in Riverside. California was traded in for New Mexico because of tax incentives, and Walt’s age was bumped up to 50 because it made more sense for him to have his crisis at that age.
“We pushed for him to be 50 because at 40 he’s a little too young to have this crisis. It was just so much more impactful to have him a little bit older,” says former AMC vp production Vlad Wolynetz.
5. Aaron Paul was thought to be too “pretty boy” to play Jesse.
Paul was far from a unanimous choice to play Jesse Pinkman. The concern was that Paul was too old and too “pretty boy” to be believable in the role of a young meth dealer. “He’s too good-looking? I had never gotten that in my entire life,” the actor says laughing.
6. Gilligan doesn’t care for blood.
His show may feature a character getting his head smashed with an ATM and countless others being dissolved in barrels of acid, but the man behind the show admits to having a weak stomach.
“I have the weakest stomach of anyone I know. I used to give blood at the Red Cross just to cure myself of fainting from watching bloody things,” Gilligan says. “The fact that I put this stuff on the air is, admittedly, ironic.”
7. The premise came from Gilligan hearing about a man cooking meth in an RV.
The idea for Breaking Bad was born out of a phone call from fellow X-Files scribe Tom Schnauz, who had read an article about a guy cooking meth out of an RV.
“I said, ‘That sounds like a good way to see America.’ It literally started as a joke,” Gilligan says, recalling his post-X-Files career uncertainty. (He spent seven seasons on the series.) “The idea of it suddenly struck me as wonderful for a TV show because who would do such a thing? And if he were indeed someone like us — meaning a couple of dopey middle-aged white guys — what would that look like?”
8. The famously nice Gilligan says there’s a bit of darkness in him.
“I like being nice, but this darkness within me allows me to write these kinds of characters. And I surprise myself sometimes with some of the images or thoughts that I come up with,” he confesses, adding, “There is a difference between thinking and doing. And writers very often think a lot more than they do.”
9. Almost every cable network in town said “no” to Breaking Bad.
After winning over Sony TV’s Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Sony TV began setting up meetings with cable networks. Showtime passed because it already had Weeds, about a pot-dealing suburban mom, in development. TNT and HBO passed as well; the former because a more mainstream network couldn’t center a series on a meth dealer, the latter because the execs in place at the time didn’t envision it as a series. (“They wouldn’t even grace us with a ‘no.’ They were basically like, ‘Just get out of the office, please,’ ” says Gilligan.) FX bit in 2005 and started developing Bad around the same time as Courteney Cox‘s L.A. tabloid drama Dirt, but they went with Dirt instead in a bid to lure female viewers.
10. Many involved with Breaking Bad call the 2007-2008 writers strike a blessing.
Breaking Bad‘s original 13-episode first season was cut to seven because of the writers strike. While it seemed like bad luck at the time, the pause allowed Gilligan and his writers time to gather their thoughts. (Early plans for the series included killing off Paul’s character.)
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