At least, that's what we walked away thinking after listening to Paul discuss his new movie, "Need for Speed," at L.A. post-production house Bandito Brothers back in October. Based on the mega-popular Electronic Arts racing video game franchise, the racing flick centers on a framed street racer, Tobey Marshall (Paul), who races cross-country, hellbent on revenge. And all involved were hellbent on making sure the racing was as realistic as possible.
"[Director] Scott [Waugh] made it very evident before I attached myself to this that he wanted me to be driving," Paul said. "He wanted all of the things, all of the action sequences to be practical. He didn't want all of this to be done behind a computer after we shot it all. So he's like, 'You're going to have to be behind the wheel and doing all these crazy races.' I was like, 'That's fantastic. Let me do that.' It helped with me. It was a blast. Now I just drift around corners."
And do that he did. In "Need for Speed," Paul gets behind the wheel of a wide range of autos, from the instantly recognizable classics to blow-your-mind exotic cars familiar to gamers, but not really to the rest of us. Paul's favorite? "The Gran Torino was just a beast," he said. "I'm a huge fan of just classic cars; exotics are fun to drive as well. The Gran Torino was my baby."
And, in case you were wondering, the movie isn't all about exotic cars you'll never be able to afford, or the kind of crazy, mad-fast driving you daydream about while idling in a sea of slow-moving Priuses during rush hour -- there's a plot, something of particular interest when talking about a movie based on a wildly popular video-game franchise that has little-to-no story to speak of.
According to director (and stuntman) Scott Waugh, the game's lack of story was a blessing, not a curse. "...What we wanted to do was combine all of the games so that in the film we get to drive a huge variety of cars," he said. "You get to race them in a huge variety of places. And what really freed us up as filmmakers is, we were able to really bring a true heartfelt story to this crazy visceral world of 'Need for Speed.'"
While Waugh was driving the action, writing the movie is a screenwriter's job. Luckily, one half of the screenwriting team, John Gatins (his brother, George, was co-writer), was on-hand to give us the lowdown on how you turn a racing game into a character-filled, living, breathing, high-stakes, story-driven world. "Electronic Arts has been making this game for 17 years, and they approached me and said, 'Could you come up with an idea out of this video game?' I called my brother – we're both car junkies; kids who grew up as white trash, kind of, making fast cars out of junk – my brother really had an inspired idea that included revenge, a group of guys, and a blue collar hero."
Don't worry, "Need for Speed" isn't a total sausage fest. Where there are fast cars, there are beautiful women. Enter British actress Imogen Poots, whom you may remember from "28 Weeks Later," the "Fright Night" remake or this weekend's "That Awkward Moment." Anastasia Steele herself, Dakota Johnson, also costars. From what we've seen, Poots plays a larger role in the movie, sitting next to Paul's character in the passenger's seat during the movie's wild, trans-continental race.
But don't get the wrong idea: Their tandem trip is one spawned by necessity, not romance. Although that's not out of the question.
"Our characters despise each other, definitely at the beginning of the film," Paul revealed. "We're forced into this car together. Tobey does not want her there, so it's a constant butting-head sort of relationship. But throughout the film, her character continues to surprise Tobey. He starts to look at her in a different light. Maybe some romance happens..."
You can check out all of the fast cars, wild racing, and (possible) romance when "Need for Speed" crashes into theaters March 14, 2014.