Bob Odenkirk on entering Brad Bird’s ‘Incredibles’ world
It’s been a long wait — nearly a decade and a half — but the Incredibles are back on the big screen this Friday with an all-new adventure from writer and director Brad Bird. While the cast of “Incredibles 2” boasts some familiar returning talent, the new film also introduces several new characters, including Bob Odenkirk’s Winston Deavor. A slick salesman type, Deavor, along with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), have a plan to make Supers legal again.
Where did “Incredibles 2” begin for you?
Brad Bird asked me to do it. I think he wanted me as this guy. That’s what he knew. He asked me to do it, and of course I’m going to say yes to that. Pixar? Disney? Brad Bird? Forget it.
What was the first step in figuring out who Winston Deavor should be?
Well, he’s a salesman, and I’ve played a number of salesmen — guys who are pushing themselves and a scheme. There’s a give-and-take with this project where it’s is developing over time. What you’re first presented with is not what you end up with. Brad rewrites. He works with you in the studio, and then he goes back and redoes the movie and comes back to you with a new script and new scenes. It was really neat to play it and see it develop. In our second session, which was a few months after our first session, the character became more upbeat and more genuine. Really, kind of, a positive character and less sneaky. I love that journey. I love that he became more of a kid than he was when he started. So I guess my answer is that I didn’t play the character the first time; I played some approximation. But as Brad gets closer to what he wants from the story, you get closer to the character too.
As far as building a character, is it a different process for an animated film compared to live action?
I don’t think so. It felt the same to me. It still comes from the script. It’s all about the words and how the person speaks. I try to ascertain their motivations. Maybe because I’m a writer, it comes out of the script. I get a lot of cues from that.
Do you actually rewrite anything?
No, but I do pitch ideas, and just last night Brad Bird told me that he used a lot of my stuff. I don’t know what specifically, but he told me, “Yeah, I used a lot of the things you did.”
You’ve been a beloved talent for some time, but it certainly feels like “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” have made you a household name. From your perspective, has your life changed because of Saul Goodman?
Yeah, very much so. Ten or 15 years ago, I was “Mr. Show” guy. In a room full of people, I could pick out the one or two people that knew who I was because they would have a “Mr. Show” tattoo. But now it’s kind of a bigger audience. “Breaking Bad” is certainly worldwide and “Better Call Saul” too. So it’s a lot more people, but I think I pretty much behave the same way. I maybe move through a crowd a bit faster, but outside of that I go wherever I want.
Do you find that other acting opportunities come your way easier?
Oh, absolutely. No question about it. “The Post” last year and “Incredibles 2” are two films that I think are owed to “Better Call Saul.” I got to have a lot more range on that and, thankfully, it has made other filmmakers want to give me a shot.
Because Winston is a new character, he immediately becomes a suspect in the whodunnit side of the narrative. Do you just play the character and let the audience make its own decisions, or is there a level where you’re actively trying to hint and/or misdirect the audience?
I think that’s good, and I think that’s definitely what you see when you come to see this story. You’re not sure if Winston Deavor is just going to use the superheroes for his own monetary gain or in search of fame or something. It’s very easy to see him as a huckster and a user.
“Incredibles 2” is filled with nods to very specific properties that clearly had an influence on Brad Bird, such as “The Outer Limits” and “Jonny Quest.” Do you have your own personal fandom?
I remember watching “Jonny Quest.” It’s so funny when it comes onscreen. It’s so flat, visually. There’s this dynamic, visual film all around it that’s still animated. But I grew up on the “Batman” TV show. I remember watching “Spider-Man.” I loved that cartoon. “Mighty Mouse,” I thought was awesome. I remember loving it. Oh, and “Popeye”! I don’t know what “Popeye” has to do with anything, but it was an animated show that I loved watching.
Do you remember the first experience that made you fall in love with movies?
“American Graffiti.” That was the first movie I saw twice in the theater. That movie really changed how I looked at movies.
Do you have any personal traditions when you go to the theater?
Popcorn. The biggest one they got, no extra butter, and a diet Coke. My body still handles it pretty well.
Is there a dream role that you hope one day to play?
I’m working on two projects right now. One is about David Carr, the journalist. He wrote for the New York Times. “The Carpetbagger” was his column. He’s a great writer and he passed away a year and a half ago. He wrote a great book called “The Night of the Gun.” We’re working on that and it’s a movie that I really want to do.
“Incredibles 2” opens in theaters everywhere June 15.