“My heart truly lies with independent filmmaking,” says the now former Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, whose next project is decidedly not indie: 20th Century Fox’s Ridley Scott-helmed Bible epic Exodus. “Jumping on to a big blockbuster like Exodus, yes we are all making the movie together and it is very exciting and Ridley Scott is a badass and the script was brilliant, but it doesn’t have that intimate feel for me that independent filmmaking has,” says Paul. To that end, Paul is putting his name where his mouth is: After having played a hellion as Jesse Pinkman for 5 seasons, he’s carving out a new role for himself as an executive producer with the world premiere of Hellion going on right now at the Sundance Film Festival. Paul also stars as a widowed father in the shattered family drama based on a 2012 Sundance short by director Kat Candler. “The moment I met her I knew I had to work with her. She just breathed excitement,” says Paul of Candler. The actor first became aware of her after his Smashed helmer James Ponsoldt passed along the Hellion script accompanied with a letter of recommendation of Candler. “I thought it was just a beautifully honest story of struggle and this family,” says Paul. “I got on the phone with Kat, she flew out to Georgia where I was making Need For Speed, and we just talked about the story over milkshakes.” Soon after Paul became attached to the project and came onboard as a co-executive producer to give the film “more legs” and attract cast mates like Juliette Lewis. It’s now competing in the U.S. Dramatic category here.
Hellion isn’t Paul’s first film at Sundance. Ponsoldt’s booze-drenched Smashed played at the 2012 festival and took home the U.S. Dramatic Jury Award. “What’s so great about Sundance is that they only accept such a small handful of films per year for dramatic competition so you know when you’re going to Sundance that you’re going to see top-quality projects. Man, to be one of those 16 is just incredible,” Paul says.
Not that Paul won’t be on a lot of non-Sundance screens in the near future. Disney’s cross-country racing pic Need For Speed comes out March 14 with him behind the wheel in the lead role. Late last year, the actor wrapped his Joshua role in Exodus opposite Christian Bale as Moses — the Biblical epic comes out December 2. Paul’s also in Long Way Down, the Paschal Chaumeil-directed adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, and the Gabriele Muccino-helmed Fathers & Daughters with Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried. And while Hellion is the first project Paul has executive produced, it’s not his only one this year. There’s the upcoming Neflix 12-episode animated series BoJack Horseman he’s EPing and voicing along with Will Arnett. That’s set to launch close to the midpoint of this year. Of course, there’s always the Breaking Bad prequel spinoff Better Call Saul, which Paul says he and Bryan Cranston are talking about finding ways to appear in.