Starring Bob Odenkirk
● New today on DVD
● 92 minutes
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Today’s release of the movie Nobody on DVD means that a great deal of information — some of it startling — is coming out about the film itself, shot in Winnipeg in the late fall of 2019.
On the commentary track of the film, star Bob Odenkirk reveals that the premise of the film — which starts with his character’s non-response to a home invasion — was partly inspired by the fact that Odenkirk himself had experienced a couple of break-ins while his family was home.
His efforts to minimize damage or violence spawned personal anxiety about whether he should have taken a more aggressive posture (exacerbated by the fact a police officer insinuated that Odenkirk himself should have resorted to violence).
At the same time, director Ilya Naishuller offers a few revelations about the original vision of the film, compared to how it actually ended up.
In the movie, Odenkirk’s character, Hutch Mansell, escalates to a violent act that invokes the ire of Russian mobster Yulian Kuznetsov (Alexey Serebryakov), which takes the violence to outrageous levels. It turns out the screenplay by Derek Kolstad (John Wick) had originally written Hutch’s nemeses to be South Korean gangsters. Being Russian himself, Naishuller suggested making the gangsters Russian, a notion that gained traction when he arrived in Winnipeg and was driven to his hotel in a taxi driven by a Russian emigré.
"I asked: ‘Is there a (Russian) community?’ He said, ‘Yeah, there’s about a couple of thousand people.’
"So I asked if we could just get people to come out and screen-test," says Naishuller, speaking on a Zoom call from a location just outside Moscow.
"And I shot each one and I talked to each one and we played the same through combinations of them," he says of the two-day event, to which about 150 would-be actors turned up.
Ultimately, Naishuller chose three Russian-Canadians from Winnipeg for speaking roles playing Russian gangsters in the film opposite Serebryakov, the celebrated star of the 2012 Russian film Leviathan.
"I thought if I’m going to make a movie (set) in America, I want to make sure that it’s as respectful to whatever country the villains are going to be from," he says. "So I suggested to make them Russians, because there’s no time for me to go live in South Korea for a couple of months and soak up the culture and talk to gangsters. That’s not going to happen.
"So let’s make them Russians but let’s make them authentic Russians," he says. "Take actual Russian movie stars and put them in the film, and let them talk Russian to each other with subtitles."
Thankfully, the director says, everybody — the studio, the producers and Odenkirk — loved the idea.
Naishuller took a page from the hero’s book and travelled through Winnipeg by bus to get to know it "just to see what it was like.
"And I remember thinking: OK, we have everything we need," he says. "There’s a great downtown which we can shoot to make it feel bigger. There are areas that we can make it look seedier than they really are. With the right set design, we’re going to have absolutely everything we need."
Most importantly, he says, he found there was a tone, a certain tactile feel to the city that if shot correctly could really serve the story.
"I love the fact that we started shooting in October and there’s snow and rain on the streets. There were all these elements that helped elevate the feeling that Hutch, Bob’s character, was going through.
"It can be a colourful city when need be, but with the colour correction we can make it look dour at the beginning and then make it look very colourful by the end which was always the goal, to start de-saturated and then go (more colourful) as the character gets his mojo back. Again, Winnipeg had everything."
A fact not discussed on the DVD commentary, which was recorded months ago, is the fact that Nobody was an unlikely box office hit during pandemic conditions. The film has earned nearly US$62 million on a $16 million budget, and that’s before DVD sales have been factored in.
"The critics liked it, the audience liked it. Theatres liked it because it made money, and the studio obviously," Naishuller says. "So it is a success especially in the year of COVID where things are tough in a lot of places."
Is a sequel possible?
"Can there be more stories told in that world? Absolutely," he says. "Will there be? Time will tell.
Naishuller says he believes the demand is there for a followup but that from his perspective, it would have to be done right. And though he won’t deign to speak for Odenkirk, he suspects the actor feels the same way.
"Bob is very particular with how he approaches films. He trained for three years for this one because he wanted to make the best film possible.
"And this is the same thing, I’m guessing, for the sequel. There’s got to be a reason to make it other than people want to see it," he says. "We want to make sure it’s great."
The Hardcore Henry director is effusive when it comes to his time in the city.
"We are very thankful to the fine town and the people of Winnipeg," Naishuller says. "I don’t say that lightly. You know, at the end of the movies, they always say thank you to towns. Sometimes it’s because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes you say it because you’re just saying it.
"But I don’t think this movie would be possible if we shot anywhere else," he says. "Not the same degree of quality that we managed in your fine city.
"I loved the city and how we managed to have a good time there while we were making this movie. It was very important for me."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.
Starring Bob Odenkirk
● New today on DVD
● 92 minutes
Updated on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 9:08 AM CDT: Corrects reference to Hardcore Henry
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