‘Better Call Saul’ Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould Discuss That Desert Action Scene
The Better Call Saul episode “Bagman” showed Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) getting in over his head. He agreed to pick up $7 million in bail money for Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) in the desert. Things didn’t go according to plan and most of the episode featured Saul and Mike (Jonathan Banks) out in the desert. Vince Gilligan directed “Bagman.”
Gilligan joined his co-creator Peter Gould and Associate Producer Jenn Carroll on The Better Call Saul Insider Podcast to discuss the “Bagman” episode. Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
‘Bagman‘ was the first ‘Better Call Saul’ Vince Gilligan could direct after ‘El Camino’
“Bagman” was an epic episode of Better Call Saul for Gilligan to direct. However, he was busy filming El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, so he had little other choice.
“It had to do with you finishing editing the movie and about where your window was after the movie,” Gould said. “Pretty early on in the season, you had said, ‘What about episode eight?’ I personally had this picture of how you would direct this and what it would be like.”
When Gilligan realized how much this particular episode of Better Call Saul entailed, he tried to beg off. Gould wouldn’t let him off the hook.
“You probably don’t remember this, there was a moment long before you saw the script where you said, ‘Maybe I should do a different one.’ There was a question of maybe switching out. I don’t usually think of myself as a producer first but I think this was one of my finest moments producorially for putting the right guy in the seat for the right episode.
Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan were waiting to get to this point in ‘Better Call Saul’
When Gilligan and Gould decided that Mike would be a character on Better Call Saul, they expected Jimmy and Mike to go on more adventures together.
“What I remember is just the image of Midnight Run which is personally one of my favorite movies,” Gould said. “Just the idea of those two guys together, possibly even for years we were pitching that they were handcuffed together. That’s what I thought the show was going to be when we started. Finally, the 48th episode of the show we finally got to what I thought we were going to do episode two.”
Vince Gilligan directed the flipping car
The big stunt at the end of the episode was the car flipping behind Odenkirk. Gilligan had several cameras running to capture the stunt.
“We had six or seven cameras going because you only want to do something like that once,” Gilligan said. “God forbid you gotta to do it twice. That’s a big reason you have six or seven cameras. Not because you necessarily intend to use them all in the edit but because God forbid one or two of them fails.”
Gilligan was also humble about his role directing the scene. He gave credit to Better Call Saul stunt driver Corey Eubanks for pulling it off.
“You set up the shot as the director as in your say this is what I want,” Gilligan said. “Then truly you realize how little a director does for some of the most memorable moments, the biggest shots that they get all the credit for. I literally just stood around while all these experts made it happen. My one responsibility was to call cut. I wanted to make sure we had long enough in the editing room to hold on this vehicle just on its side.”
The car flip could have gone any direction
There’s also only so much you can predict about a flipping car. The Better Call Saul crew had to be ready to capture whatever came next.
“We just didn’t know even where the truck was going to land,” Carroll said. “We thought it might go straight forward but depending which tires popped first, it might go off to the left, it might go off to the right. So we had to plan for all of these things to make sure we got it on film 100%.”
Safety came first on ‘Better Call Saul’
First of all, the star of Better Call Saul was not actually in front of the flipping car. That was movie magic.
“Bob Odenkirk was not actually in front of the vehicle when it did the flip,” Gould said. “As a producer on the show, there’s nothing more important to any of us than doing these things safely.”
Gould hopes all the aspiring filmmakers watching Better Call Saul and listening to the podcast understand how to achieve such shots safely.
A stunt like this takes literally weeks of preparation, 1000s of man hours. Also, these are professionals. With [stunt coordinator] Al Goto, nothing’s more important than to know when we’re in the writers room, we can come up with any kind of crazy sh*t and it’s really up to them sometimes to say, ‘Well, maybe we should do it this way or that way.’ For everybody out there, all you students who are thinking let me get that cool shot of the car driving over the camera, let me get this cool shot of someone hanging off a moving car or someone running through a crowd with a fake gun. There’s a lot that you don’t know that you have to learn before you do any of these things.Peter Gould, The Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, 4/7/2020