There are four kinds of people who are going to see "Smashed" this weekend, when it opens in limited release: 12-steppers intrigued by the film's focus on alcoholism and recovery; film buffs who want to see for themselves if lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead really has a shot at an Oscar nomination (she does); people who have been crushing on Winstead since she starred in "Scott Pilgrim"; and "Breaking Bad" fans who adore Emmy-winning actor Aaron Paul and can't wait to see him do his thing on a 22-foot-tall screen.
Expressing love for Paul's "Breaking Bad" character, Jesse Pinkman, has long been something of a calling card for in-the-know fans of the award-winning AMC drama. You have to spend some time with the show to truly understand his appeal -- dipping in for an episode or two, or watching this amazing mashup of him saying "yo" -- isn't going to do it. Because the appeal of Jesse is that he's completely awesome -- despite being one of the most annoying people on Earth. You can't truly appreciate him until you've felt the impulse to fling something heavy at his face.
Paul's character in "Smashed" is pretty annoying too, as Paul himself admits. He's happy as long as he and his wife, Kate (Winstead), are careening through life trailed by an endless array of empties. But when she hits bottom and decides to get her act together, he can't muster the maturity to join her. HuffPost Entertainment had a brief phone chat with Paul, who's in London shooting "A Long Way Down" with former 007 (and apparent Radiohead fan) Pierce Brosnan.
Michael Hogan: You told GQ you didn't want to accept any more roles as "the drug addict with a heart of gold" -- so what was it about this role that made you say yes?
Aaron Paul: This one was is just so honest. And I could relate to these characters in a a very personal way. I was in a relationship years ago that -- when we first started seeing each other I was super young, early 20s, and her and I just we were drinking a lot and running around, not a care in the world. But then I kind of realized, "Oh, wow, I can't go out again. No, I don't want to drink anymore. No, I don't want to open that bottle of wine." I noticed that she would and always did. And when I wasn't drinking, I noticed how hammered she would always get. If she opened a bottle of wine, she would finish it. And I brought it up: "Hey, do you think you might have a problem?" And she said, "Absolutely not." And she said she would kinda slow down, but she would start putting Jack & Coke in a Snapple bottle and she was hiding that. It was like, "Wow." And then some serious things started happening -- apartment catching on fire, her causing a serious car accident, and me trying to get her to go sober, desperately telling her, "I will stop drinking along with you, I will help you to stop."
You offered to quit drinking to help your girlfriend, which is something your character in "Smashed" never does for his wife. Were you annoyed by him?
Yes, I was very annoyed with Charlie. He just wasn't willing to grow up yet. He didn't really feel that he had a problem. You know, was his problem as intense as Kate's? No, it wasn't. Could it turn into that? Absolutely. He's not the one waking up in an alley in Downtown L.A. after smoking crack with a stranger. He's not down that path just yet. But I was annoyed that he didn't stand by his wife's side in it. If she wanted to go sober, and she asked him, "Hey, would you do this with me?" then he should, absolutely. I was annoyed with him, but he's not me. [Laughs.]
Do you know guys like him in L.A.?
Absolutely. Especially after doing this film, it really did open my eyes. You know, you go to the same bar, you see a couple friends of yours there. You go a month later and, "Oh, wow, those same friends, they're here as well." But the sad fact of the matter is, they're there all the time. So in your head, you just ran into the same people. Alcohol is a serious thing, and it can do damage. And it's incredible to me that pot is illegal and alcohol is not. Because alcohol is so much more dangerous than marijuana. What is someone going to do if they smoke too much weed? They're going to go to sleep after eating a box of Twinkies. What is someone going to do if they drank too much? They're going to get in their car and possibly kill themselves after killing someone else. Alcohol is a very vicious thing. And it's not like I'm sober. I drink, but I know my limits.
Did you do any other research for this role?
No, I didn't. I lived it. I didn't talk to anyone else. I did film myself drinking quite a bit. And I watched people online who were drunk. On YouTube, I'd just type in, "people drunk" or "people acting drunk." And I found everything I was looking for.
You make yourself very available to your fans on Twitter, going so far as to take calls from them on pay phones. Have you ever had any scary run-ins?
Honestly, never. That's why I think I'm so open with people on Twitter. Without fans, this business wouldn't exist. And obviously our show wouldn't be here. I look at them as my friends. I'm so happy that they're there. And so thankful. When I started doing the phone thing, it was because I couldn't respond to everybody, so I figured if I just did the phone thing it would be quicker and easier than typing back. I could just answer the phone and answer quickly. "Do you have questions? Want to tell me something about yourself? Want to yell at me?" I'll just Tweet out random phone numbers and have them call me -- it's great, and I definitely plan to do it again once I'm back in the States. I tried to find pay phones in London, but honestly, all the big red boxes, they don't take incoming calls. I want to do a Web series with different celebs doing phone calls on different pay phones around the world.