Fresh from the success of "Breaking Bad," Aaron Paul has plunged into a very different role in high-octane action movie "Need for Speed," swapping crystal meth for straight adrenaline.
Adapted from the video game of the same name, the film is Paul's first since he shot to stardom alongside Bryan Cranston in the hit TV show about a chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.
"I literally started this film the day after I wrapped 'Breaking Bad,'" Paul -- who played Jesse Pinkman alongside Cranston's Walter White for five seasons -- said before the movie's US release Friday.
"They had a charter plane waiting for me, I got on the plane, flew to Mendocino and I started at 6:30 in the morning the next day," added the 34-year-old.
Paul already had a long list of big-screen supporting role credits. But it was "Breaking Bad," which ended in September, that almost certainly earned him the leading role in "Need for Speed."
In the film, directed by Scott Waugh and produced by Steven Spielberg, he plays Tobey Marshall, an honest mechanic who joins a cross-country race to avenge a friend's death and save his garage from bankruptcy.
The role is in stark contrast to that of Pinkman, who makes and deals in crystal meth in New Mexico.
"That was the goal, to try and do something as far away from Jesse Pinkman as possible. And then my next thing, I wanna do something far away from Tobey Marshall," he told reporters.
"Jesse never really found his footing until he was becoming really who he was toward the end of the series. But Tobey Marshall in 'Need for Speed' is a very strong guy, very grounded and very passionate."
- Stunt driving lessons -
The actor, who will be in Ridley Scott's "Exodus" later this year, said he hopes "Need for Speed" will lead to a sequel or sequels, to "dive deeper into the past of Tobey Marshall."
That would seem a distinct possibility, given the box office success of similar high-speed car films like the "Fast and Furious" franchise, which has made $2.3 billion over the six movies so far.
Waugh, an ex stuntman who made the powerful 2012 film "Act of Valor" about Navy SEALS, said "Need for Speed" was inspired by films from the late 60s and early 70s and from that era's icon, Steve McQueen.
And unlike an increasing number of films, he foregoes computer-generated effects in favor of old-school driving and stunt skills.
"I really wanted to make sure that everything was real. I'm a huge fan of the 60s and the 70s and the 80s car movies, 'Vanishing Point,' 'French Connection,' 'Grand Prix' (and) 'Bullitt,'" Waugh said.
"They did everything in camera, it was all real and the actors drove," he added. "In the last decade, we really relied on CG and a lot of time, I don't understand why because we can still do it practically.
"I understand if you have to deal with space or gravity, I get it. But not in a car movie."
To land the role, Paul therefore had to attend stunt driving school.
The actor didn't hesitate for a second.
"I jumped at the opportunity. We did a crash course, to learn how to drive these cars in a very aggressive way. By the end of first day, I was doing 360s. Anyone can do this crash course, it's so much fun," Paul said.
"Once you understand the mechanism of the emergency break, it's super simple. It's a lot easier than you would think."