Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter listens to the star and director of one of 2021’s best action films.
2021 has been an odd year, albeit one a bit more manageable than 2020, but highlights remain when it comes to movies. One of them is a new action gem called Nobody. The film stars Bob Odenkirk — yes, that Bob Odenkirk — as a seemingly mild-mannered family man whose descent into violence reveals a past soaked in it. It’s a bloody ride with some highly entertaining action sequences, and we really can’t recommend it enough.
The film is new to home video and included among the extras is a commentary track, so of course we gave it a listen. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Nobody.
Commentators: Bob Odenkirk (actor, producer), Ilya Naishuller (director)
1. They shot a non-cigarette version of the police station interrogation room in case of any locales where such imagery might hurt their distribution.
2. It was apparently pretty difficult to find a kitten that would sit quietly inside Odenkirk’s jacket.
3. Writer Derek Kolstad came up with the story and script, but when he first met Naishuller he told the director “best idea wins.” The filmmaker was “blown away” by the writer’s openness to making the story a collaborative effort.
4. The story originally started with the break-in, but they added the opening montage early on to help set Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) as a man feeling trapped in the mundane cycle of suburban family life.
5. Odenkirk himself has had two break-ins occur at his own home, “one of which was extremely traumatic for my family.” He had his own complicated and difficult feelings on the subject and brought those into the conversation regarding the shaping of this story and character. “You always wish you’d done more.”
6. He sees movies and video games as both outlets for rage and as inducers of rage as well.
7. It was Billy MacLellan’s (he plays Charlie Williams) idea to give Hutch a little slap after giving him the gun, but he was afraid to suggest it to Odenkirk and instead sought approval from Naishuller.
8. The commentary was recorded a full six months before the film hit theaters.
9. It was Odenkirk’s idea to cast Christopher Lloyd as his father, and Naishuller loved the idea as everyone loves the man. “Someone with positive baggage wielding a shotgun and killing people is gonna be more fun to see than someone we’ve seen do that.”
10. The speech that Hutch gives at the tattoo shop, one meant in part to antagonize thugs into giving him a fight, was inspired in part by Abby Hoffman’s inability to stay out of activism even when in hiding from the FBI.
11. The original plan was to have Schubert’s “Ave Maria” playing as the five Russian thugs approach and board the bus as they really are a gift from god as far as Hutch is concerned. They went with Steve Lawrence covering “I Gotta Be Me” instead.
12. Daniel Bernhardt plays one of the bus goons, but he’s also the one who helped train Odenkirk to fight. “You might know him from the TV show Barry. And you might know him from the big fight in Atomic Blonde. And you would know him from the John Wick movies. And…”
13. Odenkirk’s physical training lasted two years in the lead-up to making Nobody, and he recalls sharing his intentions with an actor (whom he likes but won’t name) only to have the man reply “Why are you training? They have guys who do the fighting for you.” He’s understandably proud of his work here adding that “I had so much fun doing the fight sequences.”
14. Naishuller ran some of the script ideas by a Russian mobster “friend” including the Russian gangsters and their Obshak, and he confirmed how authentic and close to reality it all was.
15. Naishuller mentions that he doesn’t speak English very well, and I gotta say, he speaks it quite well and far better than many, many Americans.
16. Odenkirk suggested his character should wear lots of blue because his mother saw and enjoyed his work in The Post (2017) but added that she didn’t believe his eyes are as blue as they look in the film. He says his eyes pop while wearing blue and wanted that same effect for Nobody.
17. The biggest argument they had on set was regarding the addition of parmesan atop the lasagna. Connie Nielsen was adamantly opposed.
18. Pavel (Araya Mengesha) is an amalgamation of Black Russians that Naishuller knows. The character’s given backstory is accurate as the Moscow Olympics did see an influx of non-white babies in a predominantly white Russia. “People came over, had sex, and they left.”
19. Naishuller cameos as the younger of the two Russians sent to kill David (Lloyd) at the retirement home. “My first Hollywood part.”
20. The camerawork for the table face-off between Hutch and Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov) was modeled on the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino meeting in Heat (1995).
21. They only had RZA for four days including rehearsal, but he slipped easily into the action sequences. “He’s seen more action movies than I have,” says Naishuller, “which is rare.”
22. The very last sequence — Hutch and Becca (Nielsen) looking at a new house — was shot on the first day of filming.
23. Odenkirk wonders about the possibility of a sequel — again, this was recorded well before it made over $60 million on a $16m budget — and whether they’d keep the same tone. “Anyway, that’s a worry that I hope to get to have.”
24. He points out that his comedy career has seen him make fun of action movies, characters, and the swagger associated with it all. “I knew this would be a challenge, I knew I’d be out of my wheelhouse, I knew I wanted it to be non-ironic.” Playing this without the safety net of comedy has given him a new appreciation.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“This little opening is just the best thing ever.”
“He’s not even gonna eat his friggin’ eggs.”
“Yay, Michael Ironside!”
“Has anyone ever been that mad about a kitty cat bracelet.”
“I wanna do the action movie. I don’t want to just be in one.”
“Holy shit, RZA was great.”
“He’s off singing, and I’m burning down his whole fucking everything that he has.”
“I love this movie.”
Nobody remains a blast with big action beats, small laughs, and real personality. You have to respect Odenkirk’s commitment to both the character and the film, and its benefit to the action scenes is clearly evident. His enthusiasm comes through in the commentary (sometimes to the point of cutting off Naishuller), and he’s happy to spread his appreciation across the entire cast and crew. It’s a good listen.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.