Steven Spielberg picked 'Breaking Bad's' Aaron Paul for 'Need For Speed'

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Aaron Paul had a pretty solid reason for choosing "Need For Speed" as his first movie after "Breaking Bad" ended: Steven Spielberg wanted it for him. The DreamWorks head and "Breaking Bad" fan watched a reel of Paul and decided he was the perfect man to take the lead role in the video-game adaptation.

The story of how Spielberg landed on Paul depends on whom from the "Need For Speed" team you ask. According to writers George and John Gatins, Spielberg realized Paul was the right person for the part of Tobey Marshall after his 2012 Emmy Awards win for best supporting actor in a drama series.

"He won the Emmy, and Steven had seen him win the Emmy and was like, 'He's your guy.' And he saw him do the speech, and he was like, 'That's the guy,'" George tells Zap2it and some other reporters during an edit bay visit in October.

Director Scott Waugh -- a man who had never seen "Breaking Bad" before meeting with Paul -- tells a different tale. Waugh says he originally wanted Paul for the lead role, but the casting department said the man best known as Jesse Pinkman would have to be the villain.

"I spent four months casting, really trying to get the best unique actors that I could and the most unexpected people that we think would be in this movie," Waugh recalls. "I really wanted Aaron to play the lead because I thought it was unexpected."

The casting department took the tapes for the auditions for the villain role to Spielberg, and he had the same reaction Waugh had been having. "He saw Aaron's tape and he goes, 'I love this kid. Why don't we consider him for the lead?' I got a call like five minutes later," Waugh says. "We immediately went out with Aaron, like that day. It was so exciting." Dominic Cooper ended up getting the part of villain Dino.

Waugh adds, "Steven and I have seen eye to eye on the movie the whole time, which is kind of the most humbling experiences."

Paul himself doesn't know which story is the true one, but he is happy just knowing Spielberg watched "Breaking Bad."

"It's so surreal having anyone say, 'I am a fan of your work,' but then having Spielberg call you up and say, 'Hey, it's Spielberg,' and you're trying to not panic; yeah, it's great," he says.

"Need for Speed" is due in theaters on March 14.

Photo/Video credit: DreamWorks Pictures
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