“I don’t think in terms of what I have or haven’t done. You just get obsessed with characters or a story, or why you are moved by something,” writer-director Richard Linklater told the packed house at Deadline’s recent The Contenders London event, reflecting on the preoccupations that led him to take on his first war film in Last Flag Flying. “It’s a mystery, but it’s a good litmus test.”

Starring Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston (also appearing before the BAFTA crowd), the film follows three Vietnam veterans who reunite decades later to bury one of their sons, killed in combat in Iraq. Co-written by novelist Darryl Ponican, whose The Last Detail was made into the 1973 film starring Jack Nicholson, the Amazon Studios production gave Cranston the opportunity to play the loud-mouthed Sal Nealon, a larger-than-life figure who felt familiar to the actor.

“It’s a really interesting buddy movie, but it’s also a road movie,” the actor explained. “They have a task to do, and it’s also steeped in a foundation of, What is friendship? How far would you go to help a friend?”

Check out more of the conversation above.