There wasn't any red carpet welcoming Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul to town Saturday to promote his film, Smashed, but he nevertheless sauntered into the Regency Theatres in Laguna Niguel as if arriving at a Hollywood premiere.
Paul is the co-star of Breaking Bad, the AMC hit series that focuses on Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. White decides to turn to a life of crime by producing and selling methamphetamine with his former student Jesse Pinkman, played by Paul, hoping to provide a financial future for his family before he dies.
The New Film
Smashed is a comedy-drama directed by James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke, starring Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
It also has some other well-known co-stars in Octavia Spencer of The Help and Megan Mulally of Will and Grace. The 85-minute independent film focuses on Kate (Winstead) and Charlie Hannah (Paul) who both like to have a good time. Their marriage centers around music, laughter and getting smashed. When Kate’s partying spirals into atypical behavior, compromising her job as second-grade teacher, she makes the choice to sober up.
However, sobriety comes at the cost of 'fessing up to a web of lies she’s been telling at work, mending an estranged relationship with her mother, and being around Charlie, who still likes to have a good time despite her trying to change her life.
The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 22 and won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing. On Feb. 5, the film was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and on Aug. 8, a release date of Oct. 12 was set.
After the film, Paul, 33, stuck around to answer questions along with the film's producer, Jonathan Schwartz, and Ponsoldt. Moderating the Q&A was the president of the Orange County Screenwriters Association, Mark Sevi.
"The film started as an idea, a conversation between the stupid things myself and my co-writer [Suzanne Burke] did when we were younger," said Ponsoldt. "People have asked us why a film about alcohol addiction as opposed to drugs. We thought alcohol addiction would be better because it is so pedestrian, so mundane ... everybody drinks. The goal was to make alcohol the common denominator so the audience could relate."
The move took only 19 days to film, he said. By the time it was ready to show at Sundance, it had already been awarded a jury prize.
Paul was asked why he often plays the "damaged individual," like Pinkman in Breaking Bad, a role he has played for four seasons.
"This being the final season of Breaking Bad is bittersweet, because I have loved playing Jesse," he said. "Why am I always cast as a damaged person and do I mind? I have no idea, but I do love playing the bad guy. When I read a script, I tend to gravitate toward a more complicated person. My own personal life is very good and I am very happy. I like playing the darker characters, they are definitely more fun."
Speaking of his personal life, this rising star is engaged to Laguna Niguel native Lauren Parsekian, president and co-founder of the Kind Campaign, a nonprofit organization that addresses what she calls "girl-against-girl "crimes.
Although Paul has several upcoming roles in major feature films, one with actor Pierce Brosnan, he said he enjoys working on independent films because "everyone becomes a close-knit family."
"We had a small crew and cast, and we never had a chance to hang out in each others trailers because there were no trailers," he laughed. "We hung out on the set, which was the house and just had a great time."
The film also has some heavy hitters such as Spencer, who plays Jenny, a sponsor and confidante to Kate.
"She was so much fun to work with," Paul said. "She is incredible."
Mulally, former star of Will and Grace, plays the principal of the school where Kate teaches second grade.
In terms of his own acting, Paul said he gravitates more toward the "method" style versus technical.
"For this project, I just practiced drinking a lot," he laughed. "I filmed myself drinking, went out drinking ... I wanted to be a part of this film from the moment I heard about it and spent three hours with John when we first met. Then another three with James; I was sold and begged to be involved."
Another audience member asked Paul how he gets into character whether he is playing Breaking Bad's Pinkman or a Charlie Hughes role.
"I torture myself intensely," he laughed. "I try to live through that character's skin ... I immerse myself in their thoughts and draw on their past ... their experiences."
The son of a retired Baptist minister, Paul was also asked if his dad likes Breaking Bad and its violent content.
"He loves it," said the Idaho native.
In the end, there is no real agenda or answer to the movie Smashed, Ponsoldt said.
"There is no rhyme or reason to the movie--it means something different to everyone who sees it," he said. "We were blessed by being around a great crew and cast. Everyone we worked with was so wonderful, and so well-prepared. Aaron brings such professionalism and vulnerability to what he is doing when he acts. In this day and age when there are big blockbusters with a lot of money being thrown at them, this was an amazing experience because we couldn't really do take after take, and yet it still came out amazing."